David Hess debut
Watching the debut last Saturday of RHP David Hess, I was struck by the number of fly balls (both fair and foul) off Tampa Bay bats. Overall, Hess went six innings and gave up three runs on six hits. Nine of his 18 outs – per Baseball Reference– were fly balls, but it seemed like a lot more.
Hess is the 16th ranked Orioles prospect on MLB.com. Analyzed earlier this week by John Sickels at SB Nation Minor League Ball– “(Hess) has a full arsenal of secondaries with a slider, curve, and change-up. None of his pitches are spectacular, but none of them are bad, either; his stuff is average across the board with the slider showing the most potential for improvement. He is primarily a fly ball pitcher and can show some vulnerability to home runs if he makes a location mistake.”
Hess’s vulnerability to home runs was clear in the first inning as he surrendered a three-run shot, but he kept his poise and recovered nicely retiring 17 of the final 19 hitters faced. It will be interesting to see how his style of pitching plays over the long term at Camden Yards given the propensity of the ballpark to yield home runs, particularly in muggy and humid summer air.
Veterans’ good vibes
In a typical MLB season, I attend an average of 50-60 games at Camden Yards and Nationals Park. Suffice it to say, I’m fortunate to see a lot of baseball. At the single-admission doubleheader in Baltimore last Saturday and the game Sunday, I was repeatedly struck – as I have been many times before – by the fun nature, spirit and vibe between Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado. In particular, Jones and Schoop, who smile, interact and play a game tossing the ball back and forth after every inning, no matter the score, pressure or situation.
It is obvious the three of them get along extremely well. I’ve never seen a group of players seemingly enjoy themselves so much playing professional baseball. The positive energy, professionalism and leadership will undoubtedly be missed on the field and in the clubhouse in the future when trades come this summer, which they surely will.
Speaking of trades, it’s been well documented at Camden Chat and elsewhere that Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are the most likely candidates to move if there is a “re-load.” An interesting related question is how deep should the trade knife go? Is it a complete teardown, ala the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, or more of a re-build on the fly like the New York Yankees did a few years ago?
In either scenario, I’d propose that barring a surprise change of events, Machado, Britton and Brach are 100% gone at some point in the next two months, and Jones is likely not far behind depending on Baltimore’s analysis of their leadership needs moving forward and Adam’s desire to win soon and/or be on the west coast.
A more dramatic approach brings names such as Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, Darren O’Day, Andrew Cashner and Jonathan Schoop into play. A full re-build seems a bit over the top and given the O’s fan base, not something that would go over well. The prospect cupboard for the Orioles is far from barren, but imagine how full it would be if some of the non-obvious trade candidates were actually dealt?
Don’t look now, but through Thursday, the Birds 6th-ranked prospect – LHP Tanner Scott – has appeared in six games, over nine innings pitched, with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. His ERA is 3.00 and WHIP is 1.11. Richard Bleier is another lefty out of the bullpen off to a great start with 23.2 innings pitched over 19 games, four earned runs, 11 strikeouts and only four walks. Bleier’s ERA is 1.52.
Conventional wisdom throughout baseball is that quality bullpen arms are the easiest thing to find out of nowhere (except for the super elite closers, such as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman) and year-to-year results can vary dramatically. Hopefully these unexpected surprises continue. They could bode well for the future in Baltimore or bring prospects back to the O’s – once Britton comes back, how many lefties does the bullpen need? – when contending teams get desperate for arms in July.
The Orioles started an 11-game road trip Thursday with visits to play the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. And they don’t have a day off until Monday, June 4. That is a tough stretch for a team that is 3-17 on the road this season.
Combine this with the fact that the Birds were 2-13 in their last 15 road games in 2017. That is a total of five road wins in over two and a half months of regular season baseball. How is that possible?
Short spring causes chaos
Players routinely say spring training is too long among a host of other complaints about pre-regular season baseball. Looking at the late signees from this off-season, including Alex Cobb of the Orioles, along with Lance Lynn, Jason Vargas, Yu Darvish, Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta, only the latter two are off to good starts.
Cobb (0-5, 7.06), Lynn (1-4, 7.47), Vargas (0-3, 13.86) and Darvish (0-3, 5.56) are stunningly bad. How much of this is attributable to their shortened spring? In Cobb’s case, I’m sure we’ll never get a straight answer from anyone involved, but it does make me wonder. As May rolls on, Camden Chat’s Harrison Jozwiak believes Cobb is turning the corner. Let’s hope he’s right.
Davey Johnson book
Ex-Orioles player and manager Davey Johnson has a new book out this week called My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond. The reviews on Amazon are good and the book looks at his journey through MLB, including no shortage of memorable events (and run-ins) in Baltimore. If the promotional interviews on sports radio serve as any indication, talking about his time in Baltimore is a significant part of the book.
As the description teases: “Davey Johnson is best known for managing the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, and Baltimore Orioles—and taking all three clubs to their respective league championship series during his time at the helm. When teams needed to improve, they hired Johnson, and he delivered, memorably leading the Mets to the 1986 World Series title. Yet even as he raised the bar of their success, all three clubs parted ways with Johnson, a pattern that puzzles him to this day.”
I’m looking forward to reading it over the next few weeks.