What they're saying about the Orioles: July 14

Here's a look at what other media outlets have said about the Orioles in the past week:

As part of his weekly power rankings, Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire lists each club's most important figure. The Orioles come in at No. 29 with manager Buck Showalter being the individual to watch:


The Orioles have now played 145 games under Showalter, dating back to when he took over last August, and for the first 105 games were 58-47, a .552 winning percentage that included a 34-23 finish last year and a respectable 24-24 start to this season; for perspective's sake, .552 would be only .002 behind Texas for the third-best record in the AL this season. Since then, however, Baltimore has gone 12-28, with four distinct losing streaks of at least four games, including an active seven-game skid. The O's have won one of their last 13 games, and Showalter would do well to finish strong for the sake of the team's psyche.

Jason Turbow, author of The Baseball Codes, takes an in-depth look at last weekend's Orioles-Red Sox fight and how it exhibited some of the baseball's unwritten rules.

On Friday, Boston's Josh Reddick took this rule to an extreme. He was on third base when [David] Ortiz hit the ball, and tagged up. Once hostilities erupted, however, he headed for the mound rather than the plate. That was enough for the umpires to declare him to be the third out of the inning.

To take things a step further, Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro -- all 5-foot-10 of him -- was the first guy to reach [Kevin] Gregg (6-6, 230 pounds), and as such was tasked with trying to slow the big fella down. It can only be seen for a moment in the game footage, but Gregg offers an inadvertently impressive show of strength, tossing around a clinging Scutaro basically by waving his arm.

We could also get into the concept of waiting for retribution, as Sunday's series finale featured three HBPs and one near-HBP, most of which were likely unintentional. (It was Red Sox pitcher Kyle Weiland's first big league start, and neither of his hit batsmen bore any hallmarks of intention; also fitting that bill was Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who hit Kevin Youkilis with a change-up.) If there was a message pitch, it came from Mike Gonzalez, who in the sixth threw a fastball behind Ortiz.

After that, though, all remained quiet. Gregg had his say, Ortiz had his, each club followed up and everybody moved on. Wildness has its time, but so too does order. It's The Code at work, and it's a beautiful thing.

David Ginsburg of the Associated Press writes that the Orioles' lack of consistency on the mound is the principle reason for their recent struggles:


"It's still about our young starting pitching a lot," [manager Buck] Showalter said. "You constantly compare yourself to other clubs in our division, and that's something that we are going to have to get better at, get more consistent with. The conversation seems to always start and end there."


Here's something worth talking about: In the final 26 games before the break, Orioles starters completed seven innings only once and have a 7.76 ERA over that span. That includes unheralded performances by Chris Jakubauskas (2-2, 6.49 ERA) and Mitch Atkins (0-0, 8.22), neither of whom was expected to be thrust into the rotation.


"I think if you're able to get consistent starting pitching on a regular basis, that's where you start," said catcher Matt Wieters, Baltimore's lone All-Star representative. "Our starters have to be able to go six, seven innings to give us a chance to win."

• MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli writes that much of the Orioles' second-half success will depend on the health of the two Brians -- Roberts and Matusz.

The starting second baseman and leadoff hitter, Roberts' absence in the Orioles' lineup is felt on a daily occasion. While shortstop J.J. Hardy has been raking from the top spot, Roberts' substitutes -- in Blake Davis and Robert Andino -- can't match his productivity, weakening the overall lineup, and to some degree, resulting in the team's struggles with runners in scoring position.

Matusz, who missed two months of the season with a left intercostal muscle strain, showcased an alarming dip in velocity and ineffectiveness upon his return and was sent to Triple-A at the end of June. Projected to be the team's No. 2 starter, the 24-year-old lefty was thought to be a cornerstone of the organization. Having Matusz return to form after the break would help stabilize a depleted starting rotation that will determine much of the Orioles' future success.

MASN's Steve Melewski spoke with manager Buck Showalter about the Orioles' minor league system and the skipper's philosophy when it comes to player development:

"You have to be consistent," Showalter said. "You are not going from one level to the next and getting a whole different set of defined expectations of players. That is not the way we do things, that is not good enough and it starts from Day One.

"Shame on us if a guy comes through the system and we have to teach him how to hold runners and not be 1.7 (seconds) to the plate. Shame on us if a guy doesn't know where to be on cutoffs and relays or doesn't know how to take a lead properly.

"Guys might hit third and fourth their whole career then come up here and hit seventh or eighth. They are supposed to be able to play another game. Some of these guys come up and they haven't bunted since high school. That is our fault, not theirs. You have to simulate situations they are going to be faced with here."

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated thinks Adam Jones could be a defensive enigma a la Derek Jeter:

…I think that the next big defensive cat fight will be over Adam Jones. As you probably know, the defensive cat fight the last few years has been over Derek Jeter — with some people whipping up numbers that show him to be a dreadful shortstop and others throwing Gold Gloves at him the way women used to throw underwear at Tom Jones. And there was a mini-fight over Torii Hunter, who was beloved by the eye but not so much by the stats.

Now we have Jones. I spent the other day at the MLB Fan Cave, where two guys are watching every single baseball game all year. They seem like good guys. And they LOVE Adam Jones. I mean that with all capital letters. They believe him to be the "best-looking young center fielder since Ken Griffey Jr." and "probably the best defensive center fielder in the American League." And, as mentioned, they watch every game.

The stats tell a very different story. Jones’ defensive WAR this year is -2.1 (Baseball Reference). His Ultimate Zone Rating is minus-10.1 (Fangraphs … and it has been negative for three years). HisDewan Plus/Minus says that this year he has made 20 fewer plays — TWENTY — than the average center fielder, which is 35th in baseball, an astonishing feat considering that there are only 30 teams. Obviously, defensive stats are not black and white, and there’s a small sample size going with his defensive WAR. Still, the numbers point in the direction of “lousy.” And, in this case, there are a couple of scouts I have talked with who agree (though they say it’s about his “instincts”).

I don't want to take sides in the matter … it's bad enough being an Orioles fan these days without having one of your few positive vibes shattered by bloodless and vaguely incomprehensible stats. But the conflict is worth watching. Interesting side note: In the very game that I watched at the Fan Cave, Jones made one running catch and had another ball go over his head. In the narrative of the Adam Jones' lover, the first was a great play and the second was an impossible catch anyway. But it's not out of the question that in reality the first play was made harder than necessary by a bad route and that Jones should have caught the second ball. Defensive quality is not easy to lasso.

[Compiled by Robbie Levin. If you enjoy reading these posts about the Orioles, Ravens and other Baltimore sports, check out Vensel's Coffee Companion posts every morning, Monday-Friday.]

Recommended on Baltimore Sun