Notes on the rotation, Machado and biomechanical analysis

I’ve heard this question a lot recently: Who will start for the Orioles on opening day? To me, who cares? The bigger issue is who will start and what will happen the other 161 days.

For some reason there is a bit of an obsession with the opening day assignment as if the club would have been a contender if Jeremy Guthrie was still here and everyone could pen him in now for that outing.

The Orioles don’t have a clear candidate right now for that start but they also don’t have a clear candidate right now for the games that follow that. It is pretty much wide open for the starting five but what’s wrong with that? These pitchers were signed to provide competition so let’s see that and where the chips will fall.

I guess the bigger question will be can the Orioles piece together a decent rotation from a bunch of guys that most would rank as third, fourth and fifth starters, and make it work? Will some guys emerge to pitch better than that? Will the young pitchers take a step forward and realize their potential?

If competition brings out the best in people, then we should see some of that over the next several weeks at Ed Smith Stadium. If you are going to worry about the Game One starter, then add Games Two, Three, Four and so on to your worry as well.

There will be a lot of excitement for Orioles fans this year as they track the progress of shortstop Manny Machado in his second full season in the organization. Machado ranks among the best prospects in the game and was rated the No. 4 prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, No. 6 by, No. 8 by Baseball Prospectus and yesterday was tabbed at No. 11 by Baseball America.

Machado, who turns 20 on July 6, got off to a blazing start last season at Single-A Delmarva. In the season’s first 25 games with the Shorebirds, Machado was batting .333 with six doubles, two triples, five homers, 21 RBIs and an OPS of 1.062.

But on May 5, he injured his left knee in a game at Asheville and missed the next month. Upon returning, he played more with Delmarva, started in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game and then moved up to Single-A Frederick in late June.

His final stats for the season between the two clubs were far from dominant, as he hit .257 with 20 doubles, five triples, 11 homers, 50 RBIs and a .756 OPS in 101 games.

Clearly those stats did not keep Machado from being recognized as one of the top talents and young prospects in the sport right now. I asked Baseball America’s Jim Callis about Machado’s stats from the 2011 season.

“He had that dislocated knee cap that knocked him out for a month,” Callis said. “Before he had that, he was just tearing it up in Low-A. You have to regain your timing and conditioning. I’m not worried about the stats. Stats do matter. I don’t think they matter a ton in your first full professional season, unless there is a glaring red flag.

“I don’t think they matter nearly as much in A-ball as they do at the upper levels of the minors. When you put everything into context with his age and experience, it was a tremendous performance in Low Class-A and a solid performance in High Class-A.”

Later today in Sarasota, the Orioles, under the watchful eye of new director of pitching development Rick Peterson, will complete a third day of testing pitchers using biomechanical analysis.

For more on what that is exactly, click here for some details from an earlier story with Peterson.

The Orioles will have put a total of 35 pitchers through this analysis of a pitcher’s delivery which is designed to both identify issues which could lead to an injury and improve a pitcher’s performance. Almost the entire spring training major league roster of pitchers took part and today, some minor league hurlers are expected to be analyzed, as well.

Peterson said the O’s pitchers have been receptive to the analysis.

“From what I’ve gathered, these guys think it is absolutely awesome,” he said. “They realize the Baltimore Orioles - Mr. Angelos and Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter from the top down - are making a commitment to the pitchers to offer them the best possible information and practices. As they say, best in class, right?”

“This is the foundation and the plan is to utilize this as a resource for our pitching program, our pitching system. This allows us to customize an individual program for each pitcher based on his analysis. Now we can make some adjustments on his delivery and pinpoint very specifically what those adjustments can be utilizing certain drills.”

Starting pitchers typically get analyzed during a session where they throw eight pitches from the windup and eight from the stretch while relievers that pitch exclusively from the stretch throw 10 pitches that way.

The Orioles will get results back on some of the pitchers this week but more complete analysis on every pitcher that took part will take a little longer than that.

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