"You always feel the momentum can change if we get one [win] under our belt," said Orioles Buck Showalter when asked about his feelings being down 3-0 in the series. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
KANSAS CITY, MO. — As the Orioles continue to lose in the American League Championship Series, I've been receiving more and more questions about how manager Buck Showalter is using – or should I say isn't using – Delmon Young off the bench.
In two consecutive tight games, Young, who has been extraordinary as a pinch-hitter in 2014, has remained on the bench. Some clamored for him to pinch hit for Steve Pearce in the ninth on Saturday and then for Ryan Flaherty or Nick Hundley in the seventh or Jonathan Schoop in the eighth Tuesday.
I understand the frustration, but the truth is in each situation the best Young could have done was tie those games with a swing, and that's not a typical outcome for him (he had seven homers in 255 plate appearances this year and one homer in 23 pinch-hit appearances).
So take away the potential for an instant tie and you have to figure out what to do after you use Young.
On Saturday, you use Young for Pearce then it's possible the game ends up on the shoulders of Flaherty two batters later. So basically you are, in a sense, choosing between Pearce and Flaherty, because you can only use Young once.
And that's where the real problem comes in. The Orioles' bench, even though it is expanded in the playoffs, doesn't have any other true offensive weapons. So if you burn Young in hopes of a tie in the seventh or eighth, you can't bring him up later when one hit gives you the lead. Of course, the flip side is that if he never gets to the plate he can't give you the tie either. Yes, I get that.
To me, this is a roster construction issue, not a "didn't-use-Delmon" issue. And that was evident Tuesday.
If Showalter pinch hits for Hundley in the seventh, he then can't pinch-hit for his only other catcher, Caleb Joseph, if needed later (Lenn Sakata isn't on the roster). If he pinch hits for Flaherty in the seventh or Schoop in the eighth, then Showalter has weakened his late-inning infield defense with either Kelly Johnson or Jimmy Paredes, both of whom are not slam-dunk offensive upgrades over Schoop and Flaherty.
You wonder why Johnson and Paredes are on this roster when Showalter clearly isn't confident in using them in late innings. The answer to that, I suppose, is that nobody in the player pool is a better choice to put on the playoff roster. By the way, Johnson, Paredes and Lough combined are 0-for-3 in six 2014 postseason games.
One more thing: You won't have to worry about when Young will be used to pinch hit today. He'll be in the starting lineup against lefty Jason Vargas.
** Adam Jones is the club's best player with its biggest contract and he is going to be scrutinized more than any other Oriole. That's part of the game. And part of his game is a lack of discipline at the plate.That only gets magnified in the playoffs; he's 5-for-20 (.200 average) this year and was 2-for-26 in 2012.
What's most frustrating is how many of those at-bats have gone down – with Jones flailing at pitches outside of the strike zone. According to ESPN Stats and Info, in Jones' postseason career he has seen 29 pitches thrown out of the zone with two strikes – and swung 23 times.
That's Jones. That shows an obvious lack of plate discipline. And, yet, he isn't going to change. It's what he has done in his career and he's 29. It's a problem. And pitchers are going to continue to attack that weakness, especially with two strikes, especially in the postseason.
The argument from Showalter, Jones and the Orioles has always been is if you take away his aggressiveness you may take away his strength. And, make no mistake, Jones is an offensive force. You don't put up the numbers he puts up every year without being a good hitter.
To me, this is also a roster construction problem. You can live with one guy swinging wildly if you have several players who have plate discipline and work counts and get on base at a .350 clip. But this team doesn't. It's primarily a group of free swingers. And that can kill you in the playoffs when the ball is not soaring out of the park.
Orioles fans obviously took offense to it and some tweeted angry comments back at Guthrie. The 35-year-old right-hander responded with this tweet: "My intention was not to anger O's fans or friends (with) my shirt 2night. I apologize to those offended. Did not consider this reaction. Go Royals."
I can't tell you what's in Guthrie's mind. I often didn't have a clue why he did some of the things he did or said some of the things he said when I covered him. But I will say this: More than almost any athlete I have ever dealt with, Guthrie carefully considers what he says and does and how it is perceived publicly. His public image, at least when I covered him, was particularly important to him. So perhaps he misjudged the reaction, I'll buy that. But it is exceptionally difficult for me to believe that he didn't consider the reaction or the stir that shirt would cause.