“Backwash” – A Baltimore Orioles preview

It really wasn’t nice of the schedule-makers to do this, you know. It took everything I had to avoid collapsing from sadness while doing the Texas Rangers writeup. Now, I’m faced with typing up essentially the same dreadful outlook for the Baltimore Orioles. Weak farm system devoid of impact players. Major league roster at a severe competitive disadvantage against multiple division rivals. Franchise icon in the last year of his deal with the team. Maybe Jim won’t notice if I do the ol’ copy/paste and change a few names…

Okay, I guess that wouldn’t be fair. The Orioles’ terribleness is unique in some ways. They have one of the worst defenses in major league baseball. They somehow packed Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, Danny Valencia and Trey Mancini onto all the same roster. At least one of Trumbo and Mancini typically starts in the outfield every day, and neither should wear a glove. Sometimes, both of them start, and between them is Adam Jones, a guy who’s still playing center field for no other reason than his reputation. The Orioles sometime plug in the more competent Craig Gentry into one of the corners, but then they have to deal with his 49 OPS+ in the lineup.

A defense this shaky could be mitigated by having the offenders contribute some thunder to the lineup, but that hasn’t happened. Davis has been one of the worst regular hitters in the game this year, let alone one of the worst players. Alvarez offers thump, but not enough contact skills to get on base at a good clip. Jones and Trumbo no longer do enough at the plate to counteract their glaring lack of walks. Valencia has been successful this year, but he’s mostly been used in a platoon against lefties. The one guy out of this group that has provided consistent value on offense is Mancini, the eighth rounder out of Notre Dame. Still there’s a chance he’s been the worst defender of the bunch this year.

The Orioles’ woes also include losing third baseman Tim Beckham to abdominal surgery and a four-week absence of Jonathan Schoop, their power-hitting second baseman. Strong defensive catcher Caleb Joseph had been hitting terribly, so he’s been demoted, likely in favor of giving more time to prospect Chance Sisco. The scouting report on Sisco includes high marks for a line drive stroke, but poor grades on controlling the running game.

That about wraps up the role players on Baltimore. Now, we’ll get to the real reason you’re here, Manny Machado.

In terms of building value for his impending free agency, Machado couldn’t be doing a whole lot better than what he’s done so far this year. As of this writing, he leads the American League in hits and RBI and just relinquished the AL lead in homers this weekend to a pair of Red Sox (who had the unfair advantage of feasting on Orioles pitching). He’s boosted his OBP thanks to an AL-leading seven intentional walks, because why would you pitch to him in this lineup? He’s moved from third base to shortstop, which should only increase his asking price. If there’s one knock on his season, it’s that he hasn’t been very strong defensively at short, but despite that minor blip, Machado is the one thing keeping the Baltimore Orioles from plunging into the abyss.

On the other side of the ball, 2018 looks to be just another chapter in the sad history of Baltimore starting pitchers. Orioles starters have been allowing home runs at a prolific rate, and only Kevin Gausman has been giving them anything resembling even mid-rotation production. Gausman’s velocity has dipped by about 1-2 mph this season and hitters have been punishing his fourseam; an effective slider and a wipeout splitter have preserved a respectable season line. Dylan Bundy has a nasty low-80s slider that he’s used to build an impressive strikeout rate. Unfortunately, his other pitches have been launched over the fence 13 times, giving him a total that leads this homer-prone rotation.

The Orioles signed Alex Cobb over the offseason in hopes he could be a mid-rotation stalwart. However, Cobb’s strikeout rate was already dangerously low for someone with that label, and the control artist has found it even harder to find strike three this year. We’ll call it a noble effort to help solve baseball’s issue with plummeting batting averages. Andrew Cashner has long struggled with his control, but he’s often mitigated the problem by getting ground balls that could help eliminate the extra baserunners. This year, he’s using basically the same formula, only instead of inducing a lot of grounders at Petco Park or Marlins Park, he’s allowing lots of fly balls at Camden Yards. You can pretty much guess how that’s working out for him.

***

Other than possibly the Kansas City Royals, the Orioles might be in the worst situation of any American League team right now. This is the backwash of years of poor drafting, the absolutely horrendous Chris Davis contract, and the inability to scout or develop enough pitchers to build a credible major league staff. There’s a real chance the White Sox lose 100 games this season. Even if that happens, just thank your lucky stars that unlike the situation in Baltimore, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there’s at least a reasonable chance your team might move toward it.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Probable Lineup

  1. Trey Mancini – LF
  2. Adam Jones – CF
  3. Manny Machado – SS
  4. Jonathan Schoop – 2B
  5. Chris Davis – 1B
  6. Mark Trumbo – RF
  7. Danny Valencia – 3B
  8. Pedro Alvarez – DH
  9. Chance Sisco – C

Pitching

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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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Greg Nix

Pretty wild they have a “superstar middle infield” headstart on team-building, and are still this bad. 

Joist

Almost like having a “2 top-20 pitchers, a middle-of-the-lineup power hitter, and a 5-tool outfielder” headstart on team building and still being bad.

Josh Nelson
PauliePaulie

2018 White Sox- Move toward the light.

Smclean09

Machado’s BB and K rates (the knock on him aging outside of his early injuries) have both taken significant steps forward…. He is gonna get soo paid

Josh Nelson

I was thinking about this last night – I wonder if MLB teams play it slow with Machado hoping that it will help limit his asking price? Because while I don’t think 8 years, $300 million would be a crazy ask for Machado, I also don’t see any team giving him that. I could be wrong and Machado signs before Christmas, but I’m really intrigued how this is going to play out for both Machado and Bryce Harper.

Smclean09

They’re both so young too. The opt-outs are going to be something to follow too. See maybe age 28 and 31 seasons for their agents to shoot for potential outs.
I think there is a chance we see Machado (if he keeps this up and healthy) to end up with more years and or money than Harper.

Greg Nix

There are more natural big-market suitors for Harper though. Nats, Yankees, and Dodgers should all be in on him. None of them have a clear need for Machado (though obviously he could help any team).

Smclean09

I did read that in your write-up, but the 17/28 BB (excluding IBB) to K rate is still a big step forward compared to before. Mostly driven by cut in Ks though.

Jer-in-Az

Am I crazy, or does $30+ a year seem like to much for Machado?  He feels like is missing TWTW, Harper too.  Is it because of the aging curve?

PauliePaulie

It’s because Major League GM’s don’t base AAV on TWTW.

asinwreck

There was a time when starting pitching was the pride of Baltimore. But it’s been a long time since Earl Weaver managed Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Dobson, Boddicker, Flanagan, Martinez, and some guy named Stone.

lil jimmy

Nowhere in this preview do you note that the Manager is Buck Showalter. A smug, self important ass hat of the highest order.

So I thought I would bring it to the floor.

Josh Nelson

I like Buck Showalter.

lil jimmy

So he’s not smug and self important?

Josh Nelson

I’m not debating that. Just I like Buck Showalter as a manager and when he did TV work.

Amar

This

Amar

I’m taking the bait pnoles, are you using “Backwash” in reference to the Sox rebuild itself? 

Josh Nelson

I just assume if you’re ever writing or talking about Baltimore, it’s about The Wire.

Now – who is Manny Machado in all this? I have a feeling he’s Stringer in this episode.

Amar

C’mon, I knew it was pulled from the Wire. But read the context provided in the Wiki —> the context could be applied to the Sox rebuild

VAChisox

Machado is going to be a free agent—that means he’s Omar

gusguyman

Teams like the Orioles and Rangers are the reasons rebuilds are not going away anytime soon. Our last season showed a bad team with hope can be much more fun than a mediocre team with a bleak future.

dwjm3

White Sox sign Michael Saunders….Jim Margalus always gets his guy