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Orioles Notebook: The stretch run, trade deadline, and Kevin Gausman

In this week’s notebook, pondering what it will take to win the AL East, thoughts on the trade deadline, and Kevin Gausman’s last start.

What is it going to take to win the division?

As the final third of the season rapidly approaches scoreboard watching and staring at the standings will become a daily ritual for myself. The Orioles are in first place with two good teams on their heels with plenty of games left to play.

As July comes to a close I like to stare at the standings and come up with a number of wins that will guarantee the Orioles a playoff spot and a number that will get them the division. Also, simply to clarify, the division is all you should care about. A wildcard spot is nothing to get too excited about.

The Orioles are currently two games ahead in the division. Not a significant lead, but any lead is a good lead. Right now Fangraphs projects the AL East Division winner to be the Red Sox with 90 wins. The Blue Jays and Orioles are projected to finish with 89 wins and 88 wins respectively. That would mean the Orioles would be going to Toronto to play a in the wildcard game. As of this morning, according to Fangraphs, the Orioles have a 64.1% chance of getting a playoff spot.

It should be obvious to you all that this projection system, like all of the others, did not like the Orioles chances going into the season. They are slow to change and for good reason. So it predicts the Orioles will have a .489 rest of season winning percentage which is right on par with it how it predicts the Yankees will do the rest of this season. By the way if you were wondering what any of the other projection systems were thinking, Baseball Prospectus gives the Orioles even lower odds.

I am going to wait until August 1st to make my official prediction for how many wins it will take to get the division, however what do you all think? How many wins will the 2016 AL East winner need to get to?

Trade Deadline Thoughts

I wrote a lot of words about Melvin Upton Jr. that ended up not mattering. The deal apparently broke down over money. The twist is that he went to a direct competitor for the AL East crown. In the end, Upton would have been used as a platoon player at most. I thought he could have helped the Orioles, but not enough to move the needle too much.

Also, the prospects rumored to be going to the Padres are intriguing arms, to me at least. Left handed pitcher Garrett Cleavinger has a 2.33 ERA between Delmarva and Frederick this season with 75 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched.

He’s one of the Orioles relief prospects that they have used in multiple inning stints and has shown to be pretty effective. Could be an interesting piece down the road if he has learned to get both left handed hitters and right handed hitters out.

The other prospect was right handed Colombian pitcher Jhon Peluffo. Peluffo is only 19 and in the Gulf Coast Rookie league this season, basically the lowest level stateside a prospect can be in. However, he has pitched 28.0 innings striking out 31 and only walking 5. While little is known about him now, those numbers and his age certainly give him a prospect status. Especially because his name came up in this trade.

I think the Orioles will do something, be it before the deadline in a few days or the deadline at the end of August. Dan Duquette has shown his willingness to do something in years past. An outfielder still makes a little sense, as does a reliever, along with the obvious starting pitcher.

Gausman’s last start

In his last start against the Indians on Sunday Kevin Gausman was sensational. He threw 7.0 innings, struck out seven, walked three, and only gave up four hits while surrendering no runs. A base runner per inning will work. His start before that against the Yankees was also impressive only giving up two runs over 6.2 innings of work while striking out six and only walking one. So what was different?

Well one thing I noticed, especially in the last start, is that he has started to throw his splitter more often. Against both the Yankees and Indians Gausman threw 25 and 28 splitters, 28 is a season high and 25 is one off of his previous season high of 26. His splitter is his best swing and miss pitch. This season batters have whiffed on his splitter about 25 percent of the time.

However, I also think the reason that he has thrown more the past two starts is the preponderance of left handed hitters in the Indians and Yankees lineups. For whatever reason Gausman seems to shelve the splitters against right handed hitters only throwing it around 11 percent against them even though they whiff at nearly 30 percent of the time. I believe he needs to start throwing that pitch to right handed hitters more often. It could be the key to unlocking his full potential.