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Where should we expect to see the most improvements in 2020? It better come from the outfield.
For the Baltimore Orioles, there’s really nowhere to go but up. Their 47 wins in 2018 marked the fewest number of wins in a single season, breaking the franchise record by seven (54 wins in 1954 and 1988 set the previous record for fewest wins). Much of the roster was shipped away, new leadership was brought in, and fans are now hoping their patience through a complete rebuild pays off with a World Series, sooner rather than later.

We saw a number of improvements in 2019, but what can we expect to see in 2020? More specifically, which position group will make the biggest improvement from 2019 to 2020? It could end up being in the outfield, where the Orioles struggled to replace Adam Jones after his 11-year career in Birdland and saw some of the worst defense in the major leagues from the left field spot.

Let’s take a look at where each positional group ranked this season and see why we’re most excited about the potential improvements in the outfield above all other positions.

A look at the Baltimore Orioles infield in 2019.
Using data from Fangraphs, Orioles catchers ranked 24th in combined fWAR at -0.2 and ranked 21st in wRC+ at 82. Pedro Severino surprised with his offensive production, but struggled with his highly-touted defense for much of the season. Unless Chance Sisco can flip a switch, not much will change behind the plate in 2020, but that’s ok with Adley Rutschman coming soon.

First base could end up featuring a rotating group of players that include Trey Mancini, Renato Nunez, Ryan Mountcastle, and Chris Davis (if he survives spring training). Mancini had a big year at the plate, a performance that will be difficult to top. It would be great if Nunez could maintain his power output and develop a little more consistency at the plate, but a .244/.311/.460 with 31 HR and 90 RBI Nunez may be peak Nunez.

I don’t think even the optimistic Orioles fan has any hope Davis can turn things around and how much can we really expect from Mountcastle in his debut season? He’s only 22, owns an extremely low walk rate, and routinely falls behind in counts, which can’t continue against major league pitching. He’s going to need some to settle in and adjust. Looking squarely at 2020, there could be improvements, but the ceiling isn’t as high as it is in the outfield.

Jonathan Villar had a career-year this season and it will be hard for him to top it, should he remain with the Orioles, and we largely know what to expect from fellow projected infield starters Hanser Alberto and Rio Ruiz.

Fangraphs classifies Mancini as a first baseman, pushing the Orioles up to 15th in combined fWAR at 2.2. They rank among the upper half of the league at second base (5.9 fWAR) and shortstop (3.0 fWAR), but in the bottom-third of the league at third base (2.1 fWAR). Unless Richie Martin or Ruiz has an elite breakout season in 2020, we’re likely to see much of the same production totals by the end of next season.

Will the Baltimore Orioles see big improvements from their outfield?
It’s going to be in the outfield where we see the real improvements next year. There’s no other choice but to improve.

With Trey Mancini playing out of position in right field, Stevie Wilkerson logging the highest number of innings in center despite never having played the position, and one of the worst defensive outfielders in Dwight Smith Jr.seeing significant time in left field, the Orioles ranked 24th in combined fWAR at 2.4.

Baltimore ranked 29th in left and center field production, two specific positions where things look much brighter in 2020.

Cedric Mullins, Stevie Wilkerson, Mason Williams, Joey Rickard, and Keon Broxton were all significantly below league-average at the plate, and all but Broxton were worth below-replacement level in center field.

Enter Austin Hays. Hays appeared in just 21 games, making 75 plate appearances, but he did record a 146 wRC+ and was worth 0.9 fWAR in his extremely small sample size. Only Alberto, Mancini, and Villar were worth more in 2019.

Of course, health is a major concern when it comes to Hays. But after witnessing a full season of a healthy Hunter Harvey and nowhere to go but up in Birdland, it’s hard not to be optimistic. What do we have if we don’t have hope?

A healthy Hays in center and Mancini in right field means no need for Wilkerson or Smith in the starting lineup. It also allows Anthony Santander to slide in as the everyday left fielder.

Santander wasn’t great in left field, but his -1 Defensive Runs Saved and -1.6 Defensive Rating in 287 innings are extreme improvements over Smith’s -12 DRS and -11.7 Defensive Rating in 695 innings. Maybe working primarily at one position and entering next season with a bit more job security leads to bigger defensive improvements for Santander. No pressure, but the International Anthony Santander Fan Club will be watching.

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Hanser Alberto is an enigma for the Orioles. A good enigma, but he’s still a mystery in many ways.

Alberto, who shocked everyone by not only making the club but at one point challenging for the American League batting championship, is 27, so he’s not exactly part of the youth movement.

But he’s accrued enough service time to be eligible for arbitration. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Alberto could make $1.9 million, which is quite affordable for a player who hit .305 and .398 against left-handers. Alberto hit just .238 against right-handers.

Alberto had a .948 OPS against left-handers and just .609 when facing right-handers.

Unlike Jonathan Villar, who’s just a season away from free agency and could earn as much as $10.4 million in arbitration according to TradeRumors, Alberto isn’t a likely trade chip this winter.

But is he good enough to be a piece for when the Orioles improve?

There were certainly questions about his defense. He played second and third base, and at second often played recklessly. Alberto was lampooned by Sports Illustrated as committing what “may be the worst play in MLB history” on May 16.

With the bases loaded, Alberto fielded a grounder at second base and could have gotten an out at any base. Instead of starting a double play, he attempted to start a rundown with Francisco Lindor, the oncoming runner from first, missed the tag, flipped the ball to first baseman Chris Davis, who threw home as a run scored.

Alberto somehow wasn’t charged with an error, and the Cleveland Indians scored five runs in a sloppy inning that caused MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick to bemoan, “this is hard to watch.”

Despite the embarrasing miscue, Alberto had a .8 defensive WAR and a healthy 3.1 WAR overall.

This is the same player who was claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees last November 2, claimed by the Orioles on January 11, and then claimed by the San Francisco Giants on February 22 and reclaimed by the Orioles a week later.

Surprisingly, Alberto made the Orioles and became a major contributor. Unlike the team’s other surprise, John Means, who had an undistinguished record in the minor leagues, Alberto hit .309 in parts of four seasons with the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate.

Alberto hit 12 home runs for the Orioles last season, his largest total in professional ball. Since home runs were so plentiful, and there was so much talk about a lively ball, Alberto’s power numbers can be unconvincing.

His offensive statistics don’t make him a fit in today’s game. Alberto walked just 16 times and had a .329 on-base percentage to go with the .305 average. Villar walked 61 times. On the other hand, 11 Orioles had more than his 50 strikeouts.

His ability to move between second and third made him valuable to manager Brandon Hyde, but if the Orioles decided to send last year’s Rule 5 pick, Richie Martin to the minors for more seasoning, Alberto hasn’t shown an ability to play shortstop.

The Orioles don’t have any middle infield prospects that are close to being major league ready, so there’s a likelihood he’ll return to the team next season.

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For now, it looks like more of the same for Alberto in 2020, some second base, some third and the hope that he can duplicate his 2019 success.

If that happens, then the Orioles will have a pleasant problem and perhaps a valuable commodity to trade.

Arizona Fall League championship: The Surprise Saguaros, which is comprised of the Orioles as well as four other teams, will play for the Arizona Fall League title against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.

Seven players in the Orioles’ organization — right-handers Cody Carroll, Dean Kremer and David Lebron, left-hander Alex Wells, infielders Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy and outfielder T.J. Nichting play for Surprise.

Kyle Moore, who managed Low-A Delmarva, is a Saguaros coach.

The game can be seen on MLB.com.

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Pennant-Winning Home Runs by the Visiting Team
On Monday we looked at the six pennant-winning home runs hit in the 100 League Championship Series and five pre-divisional tiebreakers. Those hits were immortal, special, and rare. There are five other home runs, however, that are just as immortal and special. People often overlook these, however, since they weren’t walk-offs. These are go-ahead home runs hit by the visiting team that turned out to be pennant-winning home runs.

With walk-offs, the player hits the homer, the fans go nuts, the player runs the bases, and everyone goes home. These home runs are different. After the visiting player hits the home run, the home fans typically gasp and then fall silent before trying in desperation to rally their team to victory. The home team must regroup, get out of the inning, and then try to come back in their final at-bat. All five times that a visitor hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later of a deciding game of the LCS, the home team did not even score in the bottom half, let alone come back. These hits were daggers.

Inclusion Criteria
All home runs on this list meet the following criteria:

Hit by a player from the visiting team in the deciding game of the ALCS or NLCS
Hit in the ninth inning or later
The home run drove in the go-ahead run
The visiting team did not relinquish the lead in the bottom of the inning
Without further ado, here are the five “pennant-winning” home runs hit by a visiting player.

Rick Monday, Right Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, Blue Monday, to quote Fats Domino. The 1981 National League Championship Series was a classic between the Dodgers and the Montreal Expos. Game Five – the winner-take-all game – was originally supposed to happen on Sunday, October 18 in Olympic Stadium. However, since the roof was not finished yet, a winter storm postponed the game to Monday afternoon. Instead of there being 54,000 fans in attendance, there were 36,491, making crowd noise less of a factor. It was cold – temperature in the low 40s – and, although there was no rain falling, the field was damp.

Dodgers left-hander Fernando Valenzuela and Expos right-hander Ray Burriss pitched a dandy of a game. It entered the ninth as a 1-1 tie. The Expos brought in Steve Rogers – typically a starter – to pitch the ninth. Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey hit a popup to second for the first out, then third baseman Ron Cey ripped a drive down the left field line. What initially looked like a sure home run died, however, and Tim Raines caught it in front of the warning track for a loud second out.

Blue Monday

That brought up Monday. On a 3-1 count, he swung, hitting a towering fly ball to center. Monday, who had pulled his helmet visor down low due to the cold, lost sight of the ball as soon as he hit it. He had to watch center fielder Andre Dawson’s path to the ball to determine whether to keep running. Dawson drifted to the warning track, then the 12-foot-high wall, and ran out of room. The ball carried over the fence for a home run.

Monday picked up the ball just soon enough to see it go over the wall. He jumped and pumped his fist, nearly slipping as he landed. As he ran the bases, Olympic Stadium went deathly quiet except for the celebrations of the Dodgers. In the bottom of the inning, the Expos got the tying and winning runs on second and first, respectively, with two out. However, Bob Welch came into the game and got Expos right fielder Jerry White to ground to second for the pennant-winning final out. This game has been known as Blue Monday (or, in French, Lundi Bleu) ever since.

Tito Landrum, Right Fielder, Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles led the Chicago White Sox, two games to one, heading into Game Four in Comiskey Park. White Sox starting pitcher Britt Burns scattered five hits across nine innings while not allowing any runs. However, Orioles starter Storm Davis and reliever Tippy Martinez, who relieved Davis in the seventh, matched him zero for zero. With one out in the top of the tenth, Burns faced Landrum, who sent an 0-1 pitch into the second deck in left field for a back-breaking home run.

It took three White Sox relievers to get out of the inning. In the process, the Orioles plated two more runs, giving Martinez a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 10th. Martinez first retired catcher Carlton Fisk on a fly to left for the first out. After right fielder Harold Baines singled to left, Martinez struck out designated hitter Greg Luzinski for the second out. He then struck out left fielder Tom Paciorek on a dropped third strike. When Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey threw to first baseman Eddie Murray in time, the Orioles won the pennant.

Jack Clark, First Baseman, St. Louis Cardinals
Do not bring up this game to a Dodger fan. This came in Game Six of the 1985 National League Championship Series. 1985 was the first season that the League Championship Series was best of seven – before then, it was best of five. Game Five in St. Louis ended in the cruelest fashion for the Dodgers. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied at two, Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer faced light-hitting shortstop Ozzie Smith with one out and nobody on. Smith was a switch hitter who was batting left-handed against the right-handed Niedenfuer.

On a 1-2 count, Smith hit a deep drive to right that squeaked over the fence for an unlikely walk-off home run. This is the home run that led to Jack Buck’s famous “Go crazy, folks!” call. To rub salt in the wound for the Dodgers, Smith had hit six home runs that year. None, however, came while batting left-handed.

Fast forward to Game Six. The Dodgers led 5-4 in the top of the ninth. Niedenfuer, who had entered the game in the seventh, took the mound to close out the game. He struck out pinch hitter Cesar Cedeño for the first out. Center fielder Willie McGee then lined a single to left and stole second on the second pitch to Smith, who ultimately walked. That brought up second baseman Tom Herr. On an 0-1 count, Herr ripped a one-hopper to third baseman Dave Anderson, who straddled the bag as he fielded it. He stepped on the bag and fired to first, getting the fans excited, but the ball was foul. Two pitches later, Herr hit a slow grounder to first baseman Greg Brock, who flipped to Niedenfuer covering for the second out.

The Dodgers Pitch to Clark
With the runners on second and third, Clark, a feared slugger, stepped to the plate. With first base open and two out, many managers would have walked Clark to face the on-deck hitter. Not Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, however. He had Niedenfuer pitch to Clark. Big mistake.

Clark belted the first pitch halfway to Burbank. The deep fly landed more than halfway up the left field bleachers for a three-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 7-5 lead. The stunned crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing. Niedenfuer retired the on-deck hitter – center fielder Andy Van Slyke – on a popup to the catcher, angering Dodger fans even further.

Cardinals reliever Ken Dayley pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. When Dodgers left fielder Pedro Guerrero’s fly ball settled in Van Slyke’s glove, the Cardinals won the pennant.

Tony Fernandez, Shortstop, Cleveland Indians
This home run is one example of how cruel a game baseball can be. The Indians faced the Baltimore Orioles in Game Six of the 1997 ALCS. Orioles starter Mike Mussina pitched eight innings of one-hit ball, striking out 10 while only walking two. However, the Orioles, despite racking up nine hits off Charles Nagy, Paul Assenmacher, and Michael Jackson, could not score, so the game went to extra innings.

In the top of the 11th, Orioles reliever Armando Benitez struck out the first hitter, center fielder Marquis Grissom. Shortstop Omar Vizquel then tried to bunt his way on but failed, making two out in the inning. That brought up Fernandez, who smoked the first pitch over the high right field wall for a home run. Benitez then struck out right fielder Manny Ramirez for the third out.

Jose Mesa took the mound in the bottom of the inning to close the game. He gave up a two-out single to right by center fielder Brady Anderson, bringing up second baseman Roberto Alomar as the winning run. However, Mesa struck Alomar out on a called third strike to give the Indians the pennant despite them only getting three hits.

Yadier Molina, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals
The 2006 National League Championship Series featured the 97-win New York Mets and the 83-win Cardinals. In Game Seven, a single in the bottom of the first by Mets third baseman David Wright drove in the first run of the game. The Cardinals tied it in the top of the second on a squeeze play by second baseman Ronnie Belliard.

It remained 1-1 into the top of the sixth, when a one-out walk by Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds brought up third baseman Scott Rolen. On the first pitch, Rolen sent a deep drive to left. It cleared the wall, but Mets left fielder Endy Chavez jumped high into the air and snatched the ball out of home run territory. He then made a perfect throw to the relay man, second baseman Jose Valentin, who fired the ball to first baseman Carlos Delgado in time to double up Edmonds.

The Ninth
(Mets fans might want to skip to the next section now.) The score remained 1-1 into the top of the ninth. A one-out single to left by Rolen off Aaron Heilman brought up Molina, who hit the first pitch into the seats in left for a stadium-silencing home run. Heilman then retired Belliard on a grounder to short for the second out. Pinch hitter John Rodriguez followed with a groundout to first with the pitcher covering, sending the 3-1 game into the bottom of the ninth.

Adam Wainwright entered the game to pitch the ninth for the Cardinals. He gave up consecutive singles to Valentin and Chavez to start the inning. Cliff Floyd then pinch hit for Heilman and struck out looking. Shortstop Jose Reyes followed with a lineout to center, bringing up catcher Paul Lo Duca as the Mets’ last hope. He walked, loading the bases for center fielder Carlos Beltran. On 0-2, a breaking ball fooled Beltran. He watched it float over the heart of the plate for a called third strike, giving the Cardinals the pennant.

Oddities
Of the five pennant-winning home runs by the visiting team, only the one by Clark came with his team behind. With pennant-winning walk-off home runs, only one of the five hit before this season came from a team that ultimately won the World Series. However, with the home runs listed in this writing, three of the five came from a team who ultimately won the Series – Monday, Landrum, and Molina. The home runs by Monday, Landrum, and Molina also came in the final postseason games played in those stadiums.

Pennant-winning home runs go down in memory because they’re the last play of the game. These home runs by the visitors, while not pennant-winners by pure definition, are just as memorable. Even if they didn’t end the game immediately, they still put each player’s team onto the greatest baseball stage of them all – the World Series.

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Happy Sunday, Camden Chatters! Did you stay up for last night’s game? If not, Paul Folkemer has the details of the back and forth 8-7 win. He stayed up so you didn’t have to!

The Orioles have actually been playing decent baseball on the west coast. They are 4-2 so far on the road trip and have won three straight from the Angels heading into today’s series finale. I have to say, it would be pretty strange if the O’s first series sweep was a four-game series on the west coast. Not that I’m counting any chickens.

With three games left in the month of July, the Orioles could actually capture a winning month if they can win two of the next three. That would be wild, man.

But what about that draft pick, you say? The Orioles are now a full three games better than the Detroit Tigers, who have lost five in a row. If you’re really hoping for that second #1 pick, you might be rooting against these so-called meaningless wins. I shall not join you. I like when they win.

Links

With ball and cap en route to Cooperstown, Orioles’ Stevie Wilkerson soaks up post-save stardom – Baltimore Sun
Stevie Wilkerson’s cap and ball are headed to Cooperstown after he became the only position player to earn a save. This makes Stevie wonder if his nickname as a pitcher should be Stevie Coop.

Baltimore Orioles Morning Rundown: So Many Pitching Moves – Birds Watcher
If you’re keeping track, John Means is on the IL, Nate Karns is gone, Tanner Scott is demoted, Evan Phillips is back, and Dillon Tate is on the MLB team for the first time.

In Aberdeen debut, Adley Rutschman gets another taste of being the face of the Orioles’ rebuild – BaltimoreBaseball.com
It was Adley day in Aberdeen, exciting even if he did go 0-for-5.

Mark Trumbo pauses rehab, John Means gets MRI – Steve Melewski
Brandon Hyde isn’t concerned about Means. The thought is that he’ll miss one start. As for Trumbo, you gotta feel bad for this guy.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You share a birthday with a former Oriole who was involved in the last no-hitter thrown by the Orioles. Bob Milacki, who was the starting pitcher on July 13, 1991 against the Oakland A’s. Six innings later he left the game having given up zero hits. Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson followed with one hitless inning apiece to seal the no-no. That was just one of 109 starts Milacki made for the Orioles from 1988-92. Today is his 55th birthday.

It’s also the 26th birthday of 2019 rule 5 pick Drew Jackson, who appeared in three games before the Orioles returned him to the Dodgers. Chad Paronto, who pitched in relief for the 2001 Orioles, turns 44 today.

On this date in 1971, Brooks Robinson committed three errrors. WHAT!? But his teammate Frank Robinson picked him up with a three-run walk off home run against the A’s, giving the Orioles a 3-2 win.

In 1978, Rich Dauer set a club record by having his 10th straight multi-hit game.

In 2000, the Orioles traded shortstop Mike Bordick to the Mets for Melvin Mora and a bunch of other players you don’t remember. Never fear, Bord-heads! Bordick was back with the Orioles as a free agent in 2001. Exactly one year from this trade, Mora’s wife gave birth to quintuplets. That means the quints are turning 18 today!

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BALTIMORE — When Mike Elias was pegged to lead the front office a year ago, it marked a new era of Orioles baseball. Elias soon unveiled his three-pronged approach to rebuilding the Orioles into a sustained winner, with plans to build an “elite talent pipeline” through scouting, analytics and player development. Coming off a franchise-worst 115-loss season, Elias did not run from how massive a task that seemed at the time, and has not since.

Flash forward one year, Elias admits there is still “a long ways to go as a team and as an organization.” But the warehouse offices at Camden Yards are a beehive. The Orioles are in the process of infusing more than two dozen new employees into the organization for the 2020 season, a wave of hiring that capped a year defined by transition.

When it’s complete, the entirety of the organization’s baseball operations will have been overhauled, the approximately 65 fresh faces in scouting, player development and analytics brought in with an eye toward modernizing the way Baltimore does business on each of these fronts. Under Elias, the Orioles’ previously bare analytics and international scouting departments have grown tenfold and fivefold, respectively. Their domestic scouting operations are in the process of drastic restructuring, and overhaul on the player development side, from philosophy to personnel, will soon be plain to see.

• O’s take major step forward in rebuilding effort

After it began in earnest with a round of dismissals in September, Elias framed the reshaping through the lens of a “very large wave of change going on around baseball” with regards to the data-driven processes organizations now adhere to. Keeping up with metaphor, the Orioles are an iceberg — rapidly changing but in ways mostly under-the-surface and out of public view.

“I’m proud of the organizational progress we’ve made in terms of setting up our staffing, infrastructure and capabilities for what we need them to be now and in the next couple of years,” Elias said. “Things are still moving in the right direction but it’s still relatively early in my tenure, and we still have more than half the offseason left and a long ways to go as a team and as an organization.”

Elias on Orioles’ 2019 season
Elias on Orioles’ 2019 season
02:03
Sep. 22nd, 2019
So, let’s peek under the hood. What’s changed? What hasn’t? What will? What won’t? We’re using the anniversary of Elias’ hiring to take an organizational snapshot of where the Orioles’ rebuild stands, one year into his tenure:

BASEBALL OPERATIONS

• Added: EVP/GM Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde, entirely new Major League coaching staff

• Retained/Elevated: Kevin Buck

• Dismissed: Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Tripp Norton, Brady Anderson, Joe McIIvaine, Matt Haas, Lee Thomas, Jeremy Kapstein

The most visible changes came on the baseball side, where Elias and Hyde replaced Duquette and Showalter, and the Orioles cycled through 58 players in 2019. Nearly 40 percent of the current 40-man roster wasn’t with the organization a year ago.

Hyde hired five new coaches, and three more in 2020 will replace the remaining holdovers from Showalter’s staff. The club also dismissed longtime executives Norton and Anderson and several special assistants. It could look to hire an assistant GM and/or at least a couple more director-level positions in the coming months.

Elias on organizational changes
Elias on organizational changes
01:25
Sep. 10th, 2019
ANALYTICS

• Added: Assistant GM Sig Mejdal, analysts James Martin III and Michael Weis, developers Peter Ash, James Daniels

• Retained/Elevated: Di Zou

• Dismissed: None

When Mejdal arrived with Elias from Houston, he inherited an analytics department with one full-time member. That number has since swelled to five. Five additional interns effectively give Mejdal a daily team of 10 people with quantitative backgrounds, making analytics the organization’s fastest growing department on the baseball side.

While the hiring focus will be in other areas this winter, analytics is looking to add an additional developer and one fellow. Mejdal also indicated there will be opportunities for interns to graduate to full-time status throughout 2020.

“It’s dramatically different than when we came here,” Mejdal said. “We progressed more quickly than I would have thought a year ago, and that goes to the credit to the persons we hired. The skills coming out of universities today are markedly improved compared to just a few years ago. They were able to hit the ground running.”

The manpower allowed the Orioles to build software infrastructure systems that Mejdal estimated are about a year away from matching those he left with the Astros – who famously feature one of the largest and most advanced analytics department in the sport. Next comes expanding those databases to service what is a growing list of interested parties, from the Major League staff down the player-development chain, to amateur scouts preparing the Draft board and other areas.

Mejdal’s team was also integral in the implementation of various technology tools – Edgertronic cameras, Blast motion bat sensors, Diamond Kinetic swing trackers and others. They recently entered a partnership with the 3-D biofeedback company K-Motion they hope further advances those goals.

“We’ve seen how analytics and technology can help and it helps throughout the organization, from international scouting to player development to in-game strategy,” Mejdal said. “The buy-in has been wonderful. The days of such extreme skepticism and pushback are gone. This is such a part of baseball now, if you are in an organization that didn’t prioritize this, you knew or must have suspected you were missing out on something.”

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

• Added: Director of PD Matt Blood, director of pitching Chris Holt, 20-25 Minor League instructors

• Retained/Elevated: Kent Qualls, Ramón Alarcón, Gary Kendall, Buck Britton, Kyle Moore, Kevin Bradshaw, Alan Mills, Mike Bordick

• Dismissed: Brian Graham, Don Werner, Dave Anderson, Ron Johnson, Nelson Norman, Ryan Minor, Justin Lord, Bobby Rose, Jeff Manto, Jack Graham, BJ Surhoff, Carlos Tosca, Ramon Martinez, Scott McGregor (reassigned), Milt May (retired), Dan Radison (retired), Len Johnston (retired)

The Orioles saw pitching improvement up and down their system under Holt, whom Elias brought over from Houston to be his Minor League pitching coordinator. Now as director of pitching, Holt will continue to oversee Minor League development while also contributing on the big league side. The Orioles spent much of 2019 without a farm director, until Elias hired Blood from the Rangers in September to replace Graham, and gave him an immediate task: wholesale hiring.

With Blood taking the lead, the Orioles are in the process of hiring more than a dozen new Minor League coaches (they added six last winter). They must replace the entire staff at Class-A Frederick, fill five newly created developmental coach positions (one at each affiliate), and are considering coordinators in fundamentals, strength and conditioning and player performance.

All told, between 15-20 new hires are being finalized on the player-development side as of this writing, many of whom were chosen via a collaborative interview process that effectively functioned as group tryouts. During these sessions, which sometimes numbered as many as nine individuals, candidates were asked to interact with players, coaches and analytics staffers to complete tasks that simulated real-life situations.

The focus will soon pivot to on-boarding new hires and creating a culture meant to “service and develop our players in a holistic and efficient way,” Blood said.

“We are looking for intrinsically motivated people with a demonstrated history of growth. People who like to work hard and have a growth mindset, humility, aptitude, willingness to collaborate,” Blood said. “Most of the people we’ve reached out to explain the vision, direction we are excited to go, have been excited about it and wanted to be involved. The people we are attracting are inspired by the challenge.”

Holt on O’s young pitchers
Holt on O’s young pitchers
01:43
Sep. 28th, 2019
INTERNATIONAL SCOUTING

• Added: Senior director Koby Perez, scouting assistant Michael Cruz, Dominican scouting supervisor Geraldo Cabrera, Dominican-area scouts Francisco Rosario and Rafael Belen, Venezuela-area scout Adel Granadillo

• Retained/Elevated: Luis Noel

• Dismissed: Cale Cox, Calvin Maduro

One of Elias’ first moves was recruiting Perez from the Indians to be his senior director of international scouting, giving the Orioles immediate credibility in a market they’d long eschewed. Perez inherited a skeletal operation: A year ago, the Orioles’ entire Latin American scouting presence consisted of one full-time international scout (Maduro) and one part-timer each in Panama and Venezuela.

They plan to head into 2020 with five full-timers on the ground in Latin America, including the recently hired Cabrera (DR), Rosario and Granadillo (Venezuela), plus another Venezuela hire to be made this month. The Orioles also are looking to bolster the development staff at their Dominican academy and are exploring infrastructure upgrades to the facilities there.

Given how the most highly coveted international prospects are often courted by teams years before they’re eligible to actually sign, the Orioles acknowledged from the start that it would take time before they played at the top of the market. They instead siphoned off much of their sizeable 2018-19 bonus pool in trades, then spent roughly $3 million of their 2019-20 pool on 27 players last July 2. Though the highest bonuses given out were between $400,000-$450,000, it still represented the largest international class in franchise history.

The hope is to be able to make seven-figure signings by 2021.

“We are on pace with where we thought we’d be. There are definitely improvements on what we had,” Perez said. “We are going to be in a much better spot this year than last year, as far as the higher-end talent.”

DOMESTIC SCOUTING

• Added: Trent Friedrich, Logan Schuemann, Alex Tarandek

• Retained/Elevated: Brad Ciolek, Mike Synder, Hendrik Herz, Chad Tatum, Doug Witt, Rich Amaral, Jim Richardson, Dave Blume, Rich Morales, Arthur McConnehead, Scott Walter, Scott Thomas, Brandon Verley, Dave Jennings, Thom Dreier, Ken Guthrie

• Dismissed: Gary Rajsich, Patrick Di Gregory, Kirk Fredriksson, Wayne Britton, Dana Duquette, Dean Albany, Nathan Showalter, John Stockstill, Ron Schueler, Jim Howard, Dave Engle, Adrian Dorsey, John Gillette, Dave Machemer, Mark Ralston, Dan Durst, Frankie Thon

It’s been a transformative year for the scouting department, and more change is imminent. Rajsich, the former director, left upon Elias’ arrival. Elias played a hands-on role in this year’s Draft, while tabbing Ciolek to handle day-to-day preparation duties on an interim basis. He then promoted Ciolek (amateur) and Snyder (pro scouting) to managerial and director positions, respectively, shortly after letting go 10 veteran scouts in August.

At the time, Elias said baseball ops and scouting would eventually see an overall increase in headcount by the end of the hiring cycle, and promised “more cross-pollination of amateur and pro scouting” to catch the Orioles up amid the sport’s shifting scouting landscape. Less than three months later, progress can be seen on both fronts. Herz and Tatum were promoted to newly created scouting analyst positions; Tarandek was brought in from Detroit to fill the same role.

The Orioles are also looking to make three to four more analysts hires and recruited Friedrich (Great Lakes/Ohio Valley region) and Schuemann (Four corner region) to bolster their number of field scouts to 14. There may be space to add two more scouts on the pro side before the winter is over.

“We’ve really beefed up the analytics and tech, there has been transformation here in that regard, in terms of our data infrastructure,” Ciolek said. “Also the culture – during my tenure here, I haven’t been part of a group that is more close-knit than the group here now. Everyone is on the same page and hungry to build upon the foundation.”

Added Elias: “Next year is going to be a big year. So much of what we’re doing and have done, unfortunately, is getting up to speed on all of the basics. Our hope is we’ll look up very soon and think this is a franchise that is set up well and run well and among the better equipped franchises for the type of market we’re in.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

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Bright spots for the 2019 Orioles were few and far between. One player who was, without question, a positive surprise for the team this season was rookie lefty John Means. The BBWAA voters for AL Rookie of the Year agreed, as Means was named among the top three vote-getters when award finalists were announced on Monday night.

The others announced as being in the top three were Houston’s Yordan Alvarez and Tampa’s Brandon Lowe. The winner and full results will be announced on November 11 starting at 6pm on MLB Network.

One thing to keep in mind is that the process of voting is over and has been over since before the postseason. There is not a second round of voting among the three finalists. The BBWAA could have announced the winner tonight if they wanted to. They just try to get an extra week of people talking about the possible winners by dragging this process out.

There are two ballots per league city for a total of 30 ballots per award. For Rookie of the Year, voters have to name three players on their ballots, with five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.

One thing that could work in Means’s favor is that he was the only one of these players who actually played the full season at the MLB level. He pitched in 31 games, 27 of which were starts. Alvarez made headlines with 27 home runs in only 87 games. Lowe batted .270/.336/.514 in 82 games.

Means having the most successful full season shows up in his Baseball Reference WAR. His is the highest of this trio at 4.6. Alvarez slugged his way to a 3.7 WAR – impressive in 87 games, to be sure – while Lowe’s play comes in at 2.9 WAR.

That’s only bWAR, though. Fangraphs WAR gives Alvarez the edge at 3.8 WAR, with Means at 3.0 and Lowe at 2.6. For a pitcher like Means, whose ERA was an impressive 3.60 while his FIP was a less-impressive 4.41, fWAR penalizes him in a way that bWAR doesn’t.

We all know that a pitcher’s win-loss record doesn’t tell us everything, or sometimes even anything, about how he pitched. But for me, one easy to point to thing to show how Means had some success this year is the fact that he pulled off a 12-11 record, winning more games than he lost, on a baseball team that finished 54-108. This was not some run support-inflated fluke. Means won games because he pitched well.

Whether Means becomes the first Orioles Rookie of the Year winner since Gregg Olson in 1989 or not, it’s cool that he pitched well enough to get recognized in the top three. For as much as there was preseason hype for Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., when the time came for doing the ROY voting, Means came out ahead of him, along with several other talented rookies whose fans probably feel they got snubbed.

Means’s out-of-nowhere success was one fun thing about this 108-loss squad, and whatever else happens in the 26-year-old lefty’s career, he can always feel good about his first full season in MLB. Congratulations to him for being recognized in this way. Hopefully when the full results are announced, the voters will have respected his accomplishments over the full season.

Not surprisingly, the Orioles did not have anyone in the top three for Manager of the Year, Cy Young, or the Most Valuable Player Award, whose finalists were also announced on Monday night.

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Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Remember a couple months ago, when the Orioles let go of a bunch of their long-time scouts? Remember all the consternation and hand-wringing that followed from some media and fans? “Mike Elias has gone too far!” they exclaimed, furrowing their brows and adjusting their monocles. “Why, he intends to make human beings obsolete and simply replace them with robots and computers. That’s no way to run an organization, good sir! Nothing can replace the experienced eyes and road-weary musk of a living, breathing scout.”

Relax. Elias isn’t abandoning the scouting department. In fact, he’s already begun restaffing the organization with new — and very much human — faces.

Joe Trezza

@JoeTrezz
· Nov 8, 2019
When the Orioles cleaned house this summer, Mike Elias promised a ton of hiring on the horizon. It’s happening now across all departments, including scouting.

Per source, the O’s have added at least two area scouts and one analyst to their amateur staff. Names to come:

Joe Trezza

@JoeTrezz
- Area scout Trent Friedrich, formerly w/Indians, will cover Great Lakes/Ohio Valley region.

- Area scout Logan Schuemann, formerly w/Tigers, will cover the Four Corners (southwest) region.

- Analyst Alex Tarandek comes from Reds, will assist in evaluating as well. #Orioles

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So maybe there wasn’t an elaborate scheme to staff the entire front office with T-1000s. The simple truth is that Elias wanted to part ways with the scouts he’d inherited from a 115-loss team and bring in a fresh set of eyes of his own choosing. It’s hard to blame him for that.

Links
Elias on arbitration-eligibles, Mancini, Rule 5, coaches and more – School of Roch
Roch Kubatko drops some tidbits from Elias’ appearance on 105.7 The Fan. The GM was non-committal on whether the O’s will offer a contract to the arbitration-eligible Jonathan Villar. They can’t possibly non-tender their best player, can they? …Can they?

How the Orioles’ offseason moves so far can help their development goals in 2020 – Baltimore Sun
Aggravated O’s fans may wonder why the club keeps cycling through the likes of Chandler Shepherd, Ty Blach, and countless other waiver-claim washouts. But as Jon Meoli explains, the O’s need these kinds of guys, if for no other reason than to give their actual prospects more time to develop in the minors.

Orioles #6 Prospect Yusniel Diaz – RF – Orioles Hangout
Orioles Hangout is rolling out its yearly top prospects list, with Yusniel Diaz at No. 6. Luke Siler projects Diaz as a solid regular in the bigs, which might not be the most exciting outcome, but I’d take that any day of the week for a team whose current roster is mostly below average.

Chris Holt’s take on a few minor league pitchers – Steve Melewski
If you hoped Keegan Akin’s frightening walk totals at Norfolk this year were the result of him experimenting with new pitches, good news: they were. That doesn’t totally excuse a 4.9 walk rate, but it at least makes me feel a little better about his 2019 season.

Chris Davis and the Brutal Life of a Late-Career Slugger | FanGraphs Baseball
Justin Klugh looks at historical comparisons of 34-year-old sluggers to see if there’s any hope for Chris Davis. You probably know the answer.

Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have two Orioles birthday buddies: 2000 two-gamer Carlos Casimiro (43) and 1994 outfielder Dwight Smith (56), father of current O’s outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.

Nov. 8 is a good day for Orioles to win the MVP award. In 1966, Frank Robinson was unanimously voted the AL MVP after leading the O’s to their first World Series championship in his debut season. Robinson bagged the Triple Crown with a .316 average, 49 homers, and 122 RBIs, to go along with a league-leading .410 OBP, .637 SLG, and 1.047 OPS. Yeah, I’d say the voters got that one right. Frank became the first player in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues.

In 1991, Cal Ripken was named AL MVP for the second time after the best offensive season of his career, in which he batted .323/.374/.566 with 34 homers and 114 RBIs to complement his Gold Glove defense at shortstop. Another excellent choice by the voters, as Ripken led the majors in WAR (10.6), even though WAR wasn’t a thing yet. They didn’t fare as well in choosing their runner-up, Cecil Fielder, whose 3.8 WAR was tied for 66th place.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation $2.5 million for its Badges for Baseball, a youth program that pairs at-risk kids with military and law enforcement mentors in 21 states.

The funding comes through the federal agency’s Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative and will keep the program going next year locally in Baltimore City and Annapolis as well as Cecil, Charles and Harford counties. The more than decade-old program ran in 381 communities in more than 21 states in 2018. It involved more than 2,692 mentors and 40,000 kids.

Badges for Baseball uses sports-themed programs year-round to bring law enforcement and military mentors and kids ages nine to 14 literally together on a level playing field. The nonprofit says its goal is to use baseball to impart life lessons like teamwork, communication and respect.

The Cal RIpken Sr. Foundation was founded in 2001 to honor the legend and spirit of Cal Ripken Sr., an Orioles coach and father to Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother, Bill Ripken. The nonprofit is well known for building ballparks in underprivileged communities.

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Good morning, Birdland!

The Orioles have been really bad against just about every team they have played this season, but no opponent has caused more pain and suffering for the Birds than the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

Last night saw the O’s lose their 15th straight contest against the Bombers. It was ugly and yet very predictable. As Brandon Hyde has said so many times before, the Orioles simply aren’t as good as the Yankees. They have better players and likely will continue to for quite some time.

Today’s game against the Yankees will, mercifully, be the final time that these two sides face off in 2019. Like some sort of cruel joke, the Orioles will play the Yanks to open the 2020 season. Will the Yankees be coming off a World Series-winning campaign made possible by a bunch of no-name players that suddenly become Superman when they don the pinstripes? Almost certainly.

Links & Notes

MLB Should Threaten Tanking Teams With Relegation – SI.com
I really enjoy Premier League soccer. I like waking up on Saturday mornings and having some compelling professional sports while enjoying a bowl of cereal. But you know what happens in the Premier League? One of the same six teams wins the league every season with the (very) occasional Cinderella mixed in. If you institute promotion and relegation you would have the same thing in MLB, where the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers win most seasons because they have the budget to support annual playoff runs.

Despite The Rumors, Orioles Will Almost Assuredly Remain In Baltimore – Forbes
Yeah, no duh.

O’s bullpen veterans pitch in to make newcomers feel comfortable – Baltimore Baseball
I mean, most of the guys out in that bullpen are newcomers. But that does seem to be the nature of modern baseball. The pitching load is spread across more arms, and that usually means bring players up and down with more frequency. The life of a professional reliever is not an easy one.

Former Oriole Doug DeCinces gets time served for insider trading – Baltimore Sun
I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of this case. It sounds like DeCinces did some fishy stuff and he deserved some kind of punishment. Moving on!

Orioles birthdays and history

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Tommy Shields, an infielder for two games on the 1992 Orioles, turns 55 today. Also turning 55 is Mark Leonard, an Orioles outfielder for 10 games in 1993. And Mike Cook, an O’s pitcher for 10 games during the ‘93 season, is 56.

1973 – The Orioles beat the Texas Rangers 12-10. Don Baylor goes 5-for-5 at the plate and now has nine hits in his last two games.

1976 – Reggie Jackson and Lee May both hit grand slams as the O’s sweep a double-header against the White Sox.

2009 – Felix Pie becomes the fourth player in Orioles history to hit for the cycle. The Birds beat the Angels 16-6 while also setting team records with 12 extra-base hits and nine doubles in one game.

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MMO previously analyzed the 1973 Topps Tommie Agee card to determine the date, venue, and other players and umpire shown on that particular card as well as the unseen batter. Today, we’re going to turn the clock back just a bit further and see, armed with our trusty Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat, if we can’t solve the mysteries presented on the 1971 Topps Tommie Agee card #310 from the set.

1. When was the game played?

We see Agee sliding into second while Astros second baseman Joe Morgan and the shortstop, who has a “1” as the second number on his uniform attempt to retrieve the ball. From the grass outfield we know that the game must be at Shea as the Astrodome had astroturf. From the lighting, the game is a day game, and from the minimal shadows, we’re looking for a play relatively early during the game.

Turning to baseball-reference, the Mets hosted the Astros in three day games in 1970, on May 30, 31 and August 19th. Reviewing the box scores in reverse date order, Tommie Agee did not have a stolen base on August 19, nor in the first game of the doubleheader on the 31st which leaves the game on May 30 as a likely date. Indeed, in the bottom of the first Agee walked and promptly stole second. Therefore, the game this picture was taken was the May 30 game at Shea against the Houston Astros.

2. Who is the shortstop?

Denis Mennke played short that day for the Astros. While not having the Hall of Fame career that Joe Morgan had, Menke played 13 seasons in the majors between 1962 and 1974, accumulated 28.1 bWAR and was a two-time All Star, including 1970. In 1970, his uniform number was 11, consistent with the second “1” we can see on the card.

3. Now that we know the three players – Agee, Morgan and Menke, who is the umpire?

The second base umpire that day is Ken Burkhart. Both a pitcher and an umpire in MLB, as a pitcher, Burkhart had a lifetime 27–20 record with a 3.84 E.R.A. across 519.2 innings. As a rookie in 1945 with the Cardinals, Burkhart posted an 18–8 mark with 22 starts and 20 relief appearances; his 18 victories and .692 winning percentage each tied him for third in the National League, while his 2.90 ERA ranked him seventh. His promising playing career was derailed when his arm was injured, and he retired at the end of the 1949 season and started his umpiring career.

A well regarded umpire chosen to umpire 3 different World Series and multiple All Star games, the play shown here was before a rather controversial play in the 1970 World Series. In Game 1 of the World Series that year between the Reds and Orioles, Burkhart collided with Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks. With one out in the sixth inning and runners on the corners, pinch-hitter Ty Cline nubbed a pitch off Jim Palmer in front of the plate. Burkhart stepped forward to call a fair ball and found himself caught in the middle of a play when Hendricks – who initially intended to throw out Cline at first base – instead snatched up the ball and spun around in an attempt to tag out the runner Bernie Carbo coming home from third.

Hendricks tagged Carbo with his mitt while holding the ball in his other hand. Burkhart, who was knocked to the ground and had his back to the play, was in no position to make a correct call, called Carbo out.

Replays showed that Hendricks tagged Carbo with an empty glove and Carbo missed the plate, although he did touch the plate on his way back to the dugout. The score remained tied at 3–3, with the Orioles eventually winning he game 4–3, and the Series in 5 games.

4. Who was the Houston battery that surrendered the stolen base to Agee?

Larry Dierker was the pitcher and Johnny Edwards was the catcher making the throw that appears to have gotten away from Morgan and Menke.

5. Did Agee score that inning?

No, he didn’t. After stealing second, a wild pitch sent Agee to third. Despite having a man on third with no outs, the Mets failed to score as Harrelson struck out, Cleon Jones popped to second, and Shamsky grounded out to the pitcher.

6. Did the Mets win the game?

Yes, the Mets won the game 4 – 3 with a three-run rally in the 8th.

7. Were the pictures for any other 1971 Topps cards taken from that game?

As covered previously by MMO, the picture of the “Bud” Harrelson card from the 1971 Topps set was also taken from this game, and also was on a stolen base attempt at second. We are also researching another card from that set that seems likely was taken from this game.

Let’s put our collective Holmes deerstalker hat on the wall peg until next time when try to use our detective skills to determine the date and details of that card.