Veteran Scout Critiques Orioles
By Jim Henneman
If you're looking for an unbiased view to support overdosing on orange Kool-Aid, here's an early season assessment by a veteran scout, who has experience both on and off the field -- and also has long-ago ties to the Orioles.
When asked whether he could explain the club's rather remarkable early season success with a roster that has some holes, he said the team had solid core players, referring to center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy, catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis. He said veteran second baseman Brian Roberts could also give the team a boost, now that he has returned to the team after more than a year spent recovering from concussion-related symptoms.
"I like what I've seen of their pitching," said the scout, who asked to remain anonymous, "including some of the guys in the minor leagues. It used to be you'd come in and see the fourth or fifth starter and ask yourself, 'Is that as good as they can do?' It's not like that anymore."
Although many seemed more concerned with how the Orioles can add another starter to the rotation, this veteran observer said he thought the needed depth could come from within.
"[Jake] Arrieta's stuff is too good for him to keep struggling like he has," he said, "and [Brian] Matusz is a young guy, who only figures to get better."
Of course, like everybody else, the scout said he wanted to see what happened when Markakis rejoined the mix, and he wasn't ready to concede a playoff spot, but he seemed genuinely optimistic about the O's chances of being a factor, pointing to last year's late-season success as an indication the turnaround may actually be in its second season.
In the meantime, if anyone had suggested the Orioles would play .567 ball without Roberts, with Markakis missing the better part of a month and Nolan Reimold being a non-factor after April 30 … well, you get the picture.
I'm generally not much for sports books, but I've been reading R.A. Dickey's Wherever I Wind Up (Blue Rider Press, $26.95), and all I can say is the Orioles should have had my timing. A former first-round draft choice by the Rangers, Dickey has a life story with more subplots than a Tom Clancy novel, all of which are spelled out in detail. However, it is his successful conversion from conventional to knuckleballer at a time most pitchers are ready to retire that provides the impetus for a gripping tale.
I had reached the part of the book when Buck Showalter and Orel Hershiser, who were then the manager and pitching coach for the Rangers, convince Dickey that his only chance was to master the flutterball. It's too bad the Orioles didn't catch Dickey at the same point I was in the book -- because he's getting hammered right and left while bouncing between the majors in the minors.
Heretofore my only knowledge of Dickey was what I had read, not seen. Now that I've seen him stymie the O's with a second straight one-hit shutout, I could probably just fast-forward through a few chapters, skipping the mountain-climbing part among other things (at the age of 37, he obviously climbs to his own drummer). The book is a good read, but is probably going to need at least an additional chapter the way this season is going.
While on the subject of one-hitters, I don't think Mets manager Terry Collins impressed David Wright when he lobbied to have the third baseman charged with an error on the only Dickey hit allowed against the Tampa Bay Rays. The play happened in the first inning and it never entered anybody's mind again until about the eighth, when Collins determined the Mets would challenge the call, saying later, "What have we got to lose?"
While acknowledging that it seemed a little strange for a team to be lobbying for an error to be charged to one of its best defensive players, Wright was put in an awkward position, and didn't seem too happy when he said, "If they want to look at it and call it an error, that's OK."
It didn't get to that, but in reality it shouldn't have gotten that far.
For people focused on pitch counts, note that Matt Cain used 125 during his perfect game last week. That works out to 14 per inning -- FOR PERFECTION. This means he was 10 pitches under par for what would be an efficient and effective nine-inning complete game.
Note also that Johan Santana was one under pitcher's par (134 pitches) during his one-hitter, which became a no-hitter (and perhaps inspired Collins' challenge a week later) when the third-base umpire missed the call on a ball that landed on the fair/foul line.
So, note that when Wei-Yin Chen uses 101 pitches through seven innings, he's not about to collapse from exhaustion. He's actually four under pitcher's par. The same goes for Jason Hammel, who was ridiculously efficient during his shutout against the Braves the day before. Just saying … the magic number is 15 times the number of innings pitched.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
Posted June 20, 2012