Well, it sure helped that the Orioles kicked Jeff Samardzija's butt in that game. It was bizarre all around, though, from all the shots of empty seats to everything being so quiet. You could hear the pop of the mitt for every pitch, camera shutters with every pitch, and all of the media at the game said they could hear Orioles TV guy Gary Thorne yelling from the TV booth right above the press box for every exciting play. You could even hear Thorne in the background of the White Sox broadcast when Chris Davis hit a home run.
The reason why that game had to happen the way it did was not good, but I feel like it took its place in baseball legend and it lived up to that kind of legacy. "The game without fans" - that'll be one people always talk about and it can only mean one thing. Baseball is cool because you never know when you'll see something you've never seen before.
Last year, Ubaldo Jimenez was pretty terrible, but this year he's been terrific. What's he doing different? Can he keep this up?
Supposedly, Jimenez made some adjustments to his mechanics that have borne fruit early on. It's tough to say how much of it is that and how much of it is luck. A BABIP of .194 certainly isn't going to last for long. Where will he be when that evens out? If he keeps having improved fastball command and a walk rate below his career levels, that will help his cause even once his luck turns.
On the flip side, Bud Norris was very good last year, and this year....well he has an ERA over 9 (I'll admit I really enjoyed the two games he pitched against the Jays) ? What's going on with him? Are you hopeful he can turn things around?
After watching the latest Norris disaster against the Yankees on Sunday, I don't have much hope that he's going to get better this year, I don't know what his problem is, but he's been pitching poorly since spring training opened up and things haven't gotten any better since. We are approaching the point where the Orioles are going to have to make a tough decision on what to do about him. A couple more starts like he's been doing and you have to figure he's not suitable for the starting rotation any more.
Caleb Joseph has great numbers (.311/.407/.500). Is he as good as his numbers look? And how far off is Matt Wieters' return? What happens to Joseph when Wieters comes back? Does Wieters necessarily just slide back into his starters job?
I think it's safe to say that Caleb Joseph isn't a .300/.400/.500 player. He was, however, known more for his offense than his defense in his long minor league tenure, so I think he'll have respectable numbers even once his good fortune (.385 BABIP) comes back down to earth. No one really knows when Wieters will be returning. As far as I know, there's not a target date yet. He's only just this week going to be catching full games in extended spring training, and I have to imagine he'll take the full rehab period to get his timing back when facing live pitching - he was hitless in spring training even just trying to serve as the DH while he rehabbed the elbow.
If Joseph is still turning in a solid performance, I figure the O's won't just dump him down to "day game after a night game" catcher.
Are there any Orioles prospects likely to come up as reinforcements at some point this season?
6. Some of the next crop of young pitchers might turn up, especially if Kevin Gausman stays on the DL for a little while and Norris gets bounced from the rotation. Names like Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and Zach Davies are in that category. There's also Dylan Bundy, limited to short outings in Double-A because the team is saving him for some unknown purpose. I think if the Orioles desperately need any of these guys, their season is probably beyond saving as far as postseason potential.
The AL East is still quite tight, a month into the season. What's the feeling in Baltimore, are people confident that the Orioles can make the playoffs again? How do you see the division shaking out.
People, including me, are not feeling very confident about the team's chances to repeat the division title right now. I feel better than I did with J.J. Hardy back and replacing Everth Cabrera, but there are other problems to contend with, like an enigmatic starting rotation. Of course, the rest of the division has that same problem, so maybe the O's can sort it out enough to do something. Last year, they didn't really break out from the .500 range until June, so if they can just tread water near that point and then heat up in the summer again, that could work.
At this moment, it looks like the Yankees have renewed their contract with Satan. With so many old players, things could still fall apart for them. There's a lot of baseball left. They've earned their early advantage, though.
Thanks again Mark.