Everywhere I go, people and fans ask me "What's wrong with the O's?"
It's pretty hard these days to maintain an optimistic view about the club, and I can understand their frustration. I feel it too. You don't play on as many good teams as I have and not see the differences.
As a matter of fact, with all the experiences I've had, it's almost a daily occurrence that I find myself reflecting back to a time when I or someone on my team did the same thing I just saw happen. It seems that I've played through every scenario there ever was and you kind of anticipate and predict what is going to happen - and then it does.
For example, one night Simon came in to close out the ninth against Cleveland and one of the set directors said, "I'll bet you he strikes out the side."
I said, "Well that would be great, but not likely." The Indians had a chance in the seventh and Grudzielanek didn't get the job done. Then in the eighth, O's relief gave them another chance via a few walks to do it again and they failed once more.
Simon has a great fastball (97 mph), a great slider (ask Jeter), and a pretty good split finger, but controlling them most of the time is an issue, and when he started off ball one and ball two in the ninth, I couldn't help but feel that things were going to get ugly - and it did.
I'm not just focusing on Simon, but there are check points all through the game that tell me when things are going in the wrong direction - An error that changes the batting order for the next inning or gives the opposition another chance; a baserunning mistake that keeps one of our better hitters from coming up with runners in position. Every pitch, every step, every thought changes the result, and results have a hard effect on your evaluation of our team.
I still see a very talented young team that sputters through peaks and valleys with reckless abandon. We still have, in my mind, the best potential outfield in the game with Jones, Markakis, Reimold, and Pie; the best potential catcher in the game all the way around; a third baseman who is one of the most accomplished hitters in the game; a second baseman who is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball; a shortstop who is very capable and doesn't strike out much. A first baseman hasn't showed yet, but even that shouldn't account for the record being what it is.
I can't say enough about Wiggy and how he has filled in (he gets my All-Star vote). Starting pitching is so much better than last year. Matusz, Bergesen, Guthrie (better), Millwood, Hernandez and the bullpen are just plain under-achieving. In my evaluation, we have enough to succeed, but they just aren't seeing their value together.
As each person has to see his own role, what things could they possibly do to make themselves better?
1. Millwood obviously has very good stuff and great knowledge of pitching, but he needs help getting the ball down through stretches - seventh inning and later. Give him a much lower target around that time.
2. Hernandez has really good stuff but doesn't stay behind the ball enough to get deeper in games. Remind him over and over to square up his shoulder and drive to the target. (A few runs would also help.)
3. Bergesen needs to keep his arm up and he can be unhitable
4. With Matusz I wouldn't say anything, but maybe improve his durability and he'll get to the ninth easily.
5. Guthrie is headed in the right direction right now.
6. Simon and Albers, see the advice for Hernandez.
Those are just a few observations, but there are other things we could do in other areas that could help.
I would love to see those who can run draw the infield in with bunt attempts. It might add up to some more hits in time.
You as fans could probably add a few of your own, but we all know what we're talking about.
Injuries have put a huge hole in the boat, but they are definitely part of the game. Roberts alone has been devastating; Gonzalez has sent the bullpen into a tailspin; Pie was on the verge of stardom; Reimold's Achilles probably accounted for his slow start; little naggers with Bergesen's arm, Tejada's hip, Jones's hip.
The list goes on, but all these problems I can't help but guess would be non-existent if they started preparing on October fifth, the second day they are home from the season. Imagine if every pitcher could run a seven-minute mile: do you think they would have trouble getting to the ninth? It would sure make it easier. In fact, it would help all players to recover faster from night games to day games. Everything would improve to a point where we could all make a better evaluation.
See you at the Yard...