This unique 2020 season, a year without minor league games, is going to provide teams throughout baseball with challenges in handling their pitching prospects moving forward.
Some of these young arms will get some innings in at alternate camp sites around the major leagues or maybe even get some quality innings in while throwing to hitters on their own. But what will it mean toward their innings if we have a normal 2021 minor league season?
Look at O’s lefty DL Hall, for instance. He threw 94 innings at Single-A Delmarva in 2018. He missed a few starts for Single-A Frederick last season, throwing 81 innings. In a normal 2020 season, the club may have bumped him up to 110 or 120 innings, setting him up for around 150 in 2021. But what happens now for a pitcher like that?
As all clubs are doing, the Orioles are monitoring whatever innings their minor league pitchers do throw during this strange year and how what they do now, even without minor league games, will impact what they can do next season.
I recently talked with O’s director of player development Matt Blood about how two seasons - this one and next year - are greatly impacted by pandemic baseball in 2020.
” (O’s director of pitching) Chris Holt, he’s a mastermind at this type of stuff,” Blood said during a radio interview on my “Extra Innings” postgame show on 105.7 The Fan. “He’s got it all figured out in a spreadsheet. We are keeping very specific track of what everyone is throwing. Not just the guys in Bowie, but the guys across our entire system and the work they are doing wherever they happen to be. We’ll know at the end of this year how much everybody has thrown. We’ll put that into the calculator and figure out what we feel comfortable with for next year.”
At the Bowie alternate site, O’s players are able to play under game-like conditions, in game-like situations, and get in very targeted and specific work to make improvements. We may be seeing the benefits of some of that work with a guy like Ryan Mountcastle.
“We’re going to make the best of whatever the situation is and we’re going to get the most out of it,” Blood said. “I would say that with the time we were allowed to have with him, we maximized that time. To his credit, he was focused and he knew that his time in the big leagues was coming soon and he needed to be ready. So, yeah, he faced a lot of good arms and got probably more at-bats in a short amount of time that he would have.”
During our radio interview, I asked Blood how the Orioles were trying to blend old-school coaching methods and experience with new-school technology and analytics.
“I don’t like to call it old school/new school,” he said. “I think really, it’s just information. And our philosophy is one of growth mindset. We want to constantly be learning. We want information. We are constantly in school is the way you can put it. All of our coaches, whether they’ve got great feel for the technology and the data, whether they have great feel for the raw coaching of players, they are all trying to learn from each other. And use the information that they can to better serve the players.
“We want to provide the players with as good of information as we possibly can. We want to show them why we want to work on whatever we want to work on and why we want them to do it. We want our players to ask questions and we want to be transparent with them. When you hear the words new-school and technology and data, it’s just there so we can better show the players and better know the players. And ultimately just make better decisions.”
And while the Orioles are excited about what is happening with their Bowie camp, they are also working as an organization to help every minor league player that is not there and is home on their own trying to get better.
“We’re concerned about all of our players,” he said. “We have constant communication going on with them. Whether it’s with the strength and conditioning coaches who know their weekly individual player plans. Our hitting coaches have their call list. Our pitching coaches have their call list. And they’re staying in in touch with each player. And also the fundamentals coaches are doing the same. Some players are more fortunate than others with what they have access to in terms of live at-bats or live hitters to face. But they’re all being creative and finding ways to push the envelope and get better.”
That creativity, whatever it is for each individual, is an example of players making the best of a bad situation in this strange season.
“The only difference really is that they’re not in high-leverage, high-adrenaline pressure situations under the lights with stats that count,” said Blood. “So it’s a little different environment then what would be in the season. So we’re not exactly sure how things will translate to the actual games.”
O’s fall to New York: The Yankees are coming to town Friday, but the Orioles lost 9-5 to the New York Mets on Wednesday afternoon. They are 1-1 in a stretch of 12 straight games versus New York teams.
The Orioles began the year going 12-8, but they are 4-12 since then. They’ve played 36 games, which is 60 percent of a 60-game season, going 16-20.
When the Orioles score first, they are 10-5, but when their opponent scores first, they are just 6-15.
José Iglesias came up with a ninth-inning single in the loss to produce a two-hit game. That gives him seven consecutive multi-hit games during which he is batting .441 (15-for-34). That is the longest streak of consecutive multi-hit games by an Oriole since Vladimir Guerrero produced seven straight from May 14-21, 2011. That ties for the third-longest streak in Orioles history. The club record is 10 straight multi-hit games, done twice - by Rich Dauer in 1978 and by Bob Nieman in 1958.
RIP to “Tom Terrific”: Baseball mourns the passing of Mets great Tom Seaver. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who died Wednesday, was 75. Seaver’s family announced in March 2019 that he had been diagnosed with dementia and had retired from public life.
Seaver is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the best pitchers in major league history. A 12-time All-Star, Seaver finished his career with a record of 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts.
Seaver was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992.