This, that and the other

Orioles manager Buck Showalter remained in Baltimore Friday morning after attending Chris Davis’ press conference. He already was subjected to tornadoes in Dallas. Why not add a blizzard?

When do the locusts arrive?

Agent Scott Boras stayed in Baltimore following the presser. He was spotted downtown. No idea whether he flew out in the morning.

I’m trying to be a fountain of information, but it keeps freezing.

* Executive vice president Dan Duquette repeated on MLB Network’s “High Heat” that the club prefers to hold onto its first-round pick, though he wasn’t offering any guarantees. He noted how the price of doing business tends to change.

Duquette also repeated how the Orioles need to restock the farm system with young arms after trading away a batch of them over the past few years in trades aimed to keep the team in contention. Also the price of doing business.

In a related story, look for the Orioles to select a pitcher in the first round if they hold onto their pick. I’ll vote for a college arm or six.

* ESPN ranked the best pitches in baseball and Zach Britton’s sinker was No. 1 on the list. Not the best sinker, the best pitch.

Let that ... wait for it ... sink in for a moment.

Zach Britton throwing gray.pngAlso, Darren O’Day’s fastball was eighth, which may surprise a few folks. If O’Day is bringing the heat, he’s probably running a fever. But an explanation is included in the release:

“O’Day’s rising 87 mph four-seam fastball had the highest whiff rate of any four-seamer in baseball last year. That’s probably because hitters probably expect more sink from the ‘submariner.’ “

I’ll also cut-and-paste a portion of the ESPN press release which explains how the rankings are determined:

“Swinging-strike rate is obviously an important part in determining the best pitches in baseball. Stack up three swinging strikes and you have an out that requires no help from your defenders, an automatic out.

Then you have the ground ball, an ideal result for a pitcher because it can’t become a home run and can be defended easier, particularly if it’s hit in a predictable way. There’s evidence that pitchers with elite ground ball rates get more of an assist from their defense than the rest of the league, and that even having one good pitch that causes grounders can lead to better than league average batted-ball rates. So let’s look at ground ball rates per pitch type as well.

The sample for our study is every pitch thrown over 100 times last year. Z-scores add up the distance a stat is from the mean and give us a way to add up the value in grounders and swinging strikes.

But if we value grounders and swinging strikes equally, we’re giving too much credit to a ball in play that still needs help to become an out. By running a correlation between each pitch type’s swinging-strike rate and ground ball rate to the pitcher’s overall ERA, we find that swinging strikes are, on average, twice as important as ground balls.

So our final formula for the quality of each pitch (Pitch Z-score) is basically 2* (swinging-strikes z-score) + 1* (ground ball rate z-score), all judged against the other results in that pitch type (i.e. sliders against sliders, curves against curves).”

The top 10 pitches are thrown by relievers. Here’s more from ESPN:

“Go figure. But relievers do average over a mile per hour more on their fastballs than starters, as they have the advantage of going all out on every pitch. They also don’t have to see a lineup more than once; studies show that batters are 5-7 percent better the third time they see a pitcher on a given day compared with the first. And the final factor could be the most important: They usually face batters with platoon advantages. For instance, a manager will bring in a lefty to face a lefty. Every pitcher gains about a 10 percent advantage when they face a same-handed hitter.”

If you’re still with me, here are the top 10 pitches:

Zach Britton, sinker
Brett Cecil, curveball
Luke Gregerson, sinker
A.J. Ramon, changeup
Aroldis Chapman, fastball
Marc Rzepczynski, slider
Jeurys Familia, fastball
Darren O’Day, fastball
Sam Dyson, sinker
Hunter Strickland, fastball

What’s the best pitch among starters? Try Carlos Carrasco’s fastball.

No Orioles starters were listed in the top 25.

* Segue alert: Kevin Gausman will be in the Orioles’ rotation in 2016. He’s going to spring training as a starter and he’s breaking camp as a starter. No more drama over his role or whether he might be optioned before opening day.

Give the former first-round pick the ball every fifth day and see what he’s got. And make it an extra-long leash, the kind that can wrap around Canton Square twice.

“I think this is really the first year going into camp that I feel like I already have one of those spots,” Gausman said during his phone interview on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “But talking with Chris Tillman, when he came in after he was an All-Star and was out of options, there were a lot of questions going into that year. I know the first thing he said to me the next spring training was that he didn’t want his mentality to change at all, so that’s kind of something that I’ve been focusing on. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m comfortable, and obviously I don’t feel that way. Talking to some people, they say I have it locked, but that’s one of the things you can’t let affect you.

“Workout wise, I’m just focusing on getting back to being healthy. That was something that I struggled with a lot last year because that was really the first time in my career that ... I had never been on the disabled list before, so that was something that I struggled with. I pride myself on taking the ball every fifth day, so that’s something that I’m definitely looking forward to this upcoming season.”

Not only is Gausman being told that he’s a starter from the first day of camp, he’s also hearing how he’s expected to take the “next step.” That he’s ready to flourish. But no pressure, of course.

Gausman-Delivers-Black-Specs-Sidebar.jpg“I think I put more pressure on myself than anybody else, so I have very high expectations for myself,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of doing. I feel like I’ve really gotten better every year. I think last year toward the end of the year I was definitely pitching better than at the beginning of the year.

“I feel like I kind of had those sophomore struggles and I realized real quickly that the card was out on me. A lot of guys knew me and knew what they were going to get, so this offseason I really sat down and looked at everything that I’ve done in my career to this point, and there are definitely some things that I need to change and work on and get better. But I do feel like I’m ready for that next step. I’m ready to throw close to 200-plus innings every year.”

Riding that shuttle between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk was tough “both physically and mentally,” Gausman said.

“I thought I did a great job in 2014 of not really letting it get to me. Last year, I think I let it get to me a little bit more and at times took it personally, but that’s one of those things I completely understand why the club does it. I’m one of the only guys who has options. It’s one of those things where, it sucks, but if it can keep a guy in our bullpen from throwing two days in a row or throwing three days out of five, I’m fine with it.

“Those are the guys that we really need for the long haul and they’re the guys who really make a huge difference and get us wins. They shut the door for us, so keeping those guys healthy is a huge deal for us.

* Tickets for individual spring training games went on sale yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. Fans may purchase tickets online at or by calling 877-222-2802.

The Orioles’ first home exhibition game is March 2 against the Braves.

* The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation announced its honorees for its 12th annual Aspire Gala, which will include former Baltimore Raven and Super Bowl XLVII champion Ed Reed, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre.

The honorees will be recognized at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Friday, Feb. 12.

* The Baltimore Colts’ Super Bowl V trophy will be on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum through Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7.

The display also marks the kick off of a museum initiative to bring important objects from its Sports Legends collection to the public at appropriate times of the sports year.

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