Orioles Positives During Chaotic Weekend
Let’s start with the big negative before ending on a positive note…
Safety First? Doesn’t Look Like It
Quite honestly, I’m struggling to come up with any sort of logical reason why Major League Baseball should even be played right now. Sure, it was nice to watch Major Leaguers play a game, even with that terrible, non-responsive crown noise filling the background and with those awful cardboard cutouts filling some of the rows.
I’ll admit that it was nice to look up at a TV screen and see baseball both on the screen being played and summaries in the crawl below. But, just a weekend into this 60 game season, the predictable, inevitable chaos became a reality. The Miami Marlins had a COVID-19 outbreak, forcing them the cancel their games, forcing the Phillies to quarantine until their test results come back, forcing the Orioles to run out of Miami, and forcing the Yankees to wait for an opponent while staying in a Philadelphia hotel.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Ultimately, it forced MLB offices to make a schedule change on the fly, telling the Yankees to head to Baltimore to play the Orioles instead. For those familiar with Little League, the on the fly schedule changes are reminiscent of trying to make up rainout games with teams by simply trying to find a day and a field where they could meet up.
Major League Baseball can’t be faulted or ridiculed for this. They are trying to stage a season during a pandemic. Issues like this are going to happen and, unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Venue and scheduling adjustments are going to happen. The idea of schedule integrity was already out the window, but one weekend in, even the shred of integrity left is gone.
The League took some heat for not having contingency plans. That’s pretty laughable, actually. There is simply no predictability. Once the decision was made to move forward with the season, the League now has to react to each and every setback. No amount of planning by baseball people will be enough to combat a virus that has shutdown Nations.
None of that matters, especially after it has become increasingly more clear that the idea of player safety being paramount is a lie.
The Marlins’ outbreak might have gotten the headlines, but why, exactly, aren’t more players wearing masks? With a runner on first, first basemen and the the runner are not exactly six feet apart. There is still contact. The entire batter’s box is a risk as well. And, yes, one can say that they are being tested daily, but then answer why the Marlins were playing on Sunday?
And, perhaps, even more perplexing was the fact that Marlins Manager Don Mattingly was essentially the only front man for the Marlins outbreak. Where are Major League Baseball’s doctors? Why aren’t more questions being answered by the medical professionals charged with keeping the players healthy? That’s assuming, of course, that this is all a priority over getting whatever revenue the sport can take in.
All we can do is hope that the players, the staff, the stadium operation people, the umpires, and anyone else remotely involve can stay healthy. Hopefully, this recent outbreak is the outlier to the season and the beginning of this column is simply an overreaction. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Let’s hope that the people in charge of this game, both in the MLB office and the Players Union, actually care about health and safety over money.
Ok, now we’ll move on to the happenings on the field…
Opening Day was a disaster as the Orioles’ staff walked seven Red Sox hitters. But, during the next two games—both Orioles’ wins—the staff did not offer one free pass. Both Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc pitched into the sixth inning in their respective starts without issuing a walk while the rest of the bullpen combined for seven total innings with no walks, seven strikeouts and allowing just one run.
Overall, it was a nice couple of days for the pitching staff after the disastrous game one, especially seeing Miguel Castro make back to back appearances and seeing Mychal Givens make his way through five batters. If the Orioles are going to be somewhat competitive, their bullpen will be used quite a bit. The first weekend saw many good performances.
We could get a little crazy about lineup construction, a subject that I definitely think gets overblown. But, even I took a second look when the O’s rolled out with Jose Iglesias hitting in the three spot for series. Yes, Iglesias responded with a big weekend, getting 7 hits (3 for doubles) in 13 at bats. But, the one thing about this 60 game season is to get as many young Orioles experience. So, hitting the veteran Iglesias in front of younger players like Anthony Santander in game two or even Hanser Alberto in game three goes against that.
Again, it worked in terms of Iglesias’ performance as well as the Orioles winning the series, but with such limited games, the focus should be on providing as much opportunities as possible to give the younger players experience and evaluate them during those moments. It’s only the first series so, again, it’s not something to overreact about, but it’s something watch as this strange season moves forward.
Chris Davis Watch
The 1 for 11 does look like the same story from the past couple of years. But, Chris Davis’ weekend offered at least a glimmer of hope for his rebound season. He struck out just once over the weekend while swinging at 66.7 percent of pitches thrown in the strike zone. That’s an improvement over last season’s 59.9 percent rate and gives hope that he is, indeed, taking the more aggressive approach that he discussed in Spring Training and Summer Camp. And, perhaps more importantly, he seemed to be using the whole field, with 50 percent of his balls put in play going up the middle and 20 percent going the other way. Of course, all of this is way too little data to make any definite conclusions, but his process seems much more focused than year’s past.
It’s easy to forget just how solid of a pitcher Alex Cobb was with the Rays just a few seasons ago. Injuries have taken a toll on the the 32 year old right hander who has two years left on his 4 year, $57 million deal. His game two win was encouraging for a few reasons. Obviously, he came through with his health in tact. That will always be the primary concern for a pitcher who has never made 30 starts in a season. But, after a lost season, Cobb showed his normal velocity (91 MPH), his normal pitch usage, and similar contact rates. And, for the first time since joining the Orioles, he looked like the ground ball generating machine that he was in Tampa. That’s significant considering the Orioles defense seems to be upgraded with Iglesias at short and Alberto seemingly anchored at second base.
Cobb could be the one asset the Orioles have, either this season or during the winter that could bring them back some bulk players in return. They won’t get elite prospects for the soon to be 33 year old, but if he can show that he can make his starts, generate ground balls, and pitch into the sixth inning on a consistent basis, contending teams looking to win immediately and shore up the back of their rotation will be willing to part with some prospects for a pitcher who would be on a one year deal at $15 million.
Sure, Cobb hasn’t been completely healthy since 2014 and hasn’t put together a complete season since 2017 when he made a career high 29 starts, but now that his commitment is becoming minimal, contending teams will be watching.
As we know, the Orioles over/under for this season was set at 20.5. I did, for the record, take the over this season. Why? Yes, the schedule is tough and yes the club only won two games against the Yankees last season. But, given all unpredictability, given the Orioles’s power and improved defense, it doesn’t seem at all unrealistic that they can win 21 of 60 games.
Perhaps the only real, meaningful over/under is how many games will each team actually get to play this season.
First and foremost, a Father. After that, I am a writer and teacher who not only started my own company and published an i-magazine as well as a newsletter, but have been published by USA Today, Operation Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Digest, Gotham Baseball Magazine, and numerous other publications.
As an educator, I have 20 years of classroom experience and am utilizing that experience in my current position as department coordinator.
Wrote the book The Teacher And The Admin (https://theteacherandtheadmin.com/the-book/) and operate that website which is dedicated to making education better for kids.