PTY Podcast 5/12/2013

This week, we decided to stick to our strengths. For the most part, the entire show is baseball talk. There has been too much going on in Birdland for the PTY guys to cover alone, so we decided to bring in Bert Rode from Section 336 Podcast.

0:00-11:00 The Rundown: Cal gushes over Tiger Woods, and Sal is still watching NBA games

11:00-18:00 Bert Rode Interview: Our fellow diehard O’s fan, Bert, lends his talents to the program. He even showcases his “Bert’s Story Time” segment.

18:00-38:00 O’s Talk: Joe Pa gives a statistical comparison between Machado, Harper and Trout.

38:00-42:00 PTY Fantasy Challenge: Joe “gets a lap dance” from Chris Davis.

42:00-52:00 Confessions: The three amigos give their confessions, plus Bert reveals one of his own!

As always, thanks for listening. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Be sure to follow us on twitter: @PTYApparel, @JoePappa, @S4LR1NAUD0.

Check out our friends at Section 336 Podcast. Follow them on twitter (@BertRode, @Section336 and @JoshSroka) for awesome Orioles commentary.

Baseball’s Finest

            It’s a warm evening at Camden Yards. Jason Hammel just made quick work of the Kansas City Royals, and now the Orioles are coming to bat in the bottom of the first. Music blasts out of the speakers, and Ryan Wagner leans into the microphone. “Now batting for the Baltimore Orioles, center fielder, Mike Trout!”

            Mike Trout was last season’s American League Rookie of the Year. It took the first Triple Crown in over forty seasons to keep him from winning MVP, also. The 21-year old New Jersey native is already in the discussion as the best player in baseball. There are 29 other general managers that would take years off their own lives, if it meant acquiring Trout.

            As poetic justice would have it, there is another young player making a large impact in the National League. Bryce Harper, the first pick in the 2010 draft, helped Washington host their first playoff series since 1933. So far in 2013, Harper is in the top three in both batting average and home runs.

            The national media has obsessed over these two superstars for the last year, arguing which is a better player. Many analysts and pundits are quick to take Trout, but others are just as willing to select Harper. Each of these players would be a lovely addition to any team in the league.

            While the debate raged on, another rookie made his MLB debut earlier than expected. After his team called him up to the big leagues, no team had a higher fielding percentage. By switching positions, he solidified a hole on the roster, and he propelled his team into the playoffs. Of course, the prospect’s name was Manny Machado.

            Often times when debating the best young player in baseball, Machado’s name is left out of the conversation. Despite his versatility, most people believe that Trout and Harper are head and shoulders above any other young player.

            Everyone has their own answer. Some love the base stealing ability of Mike Trout. Some love the bat speed and power of Bryce Harper. Some love the enormous arm strength of Manny Machado. In fact, when the PTY Podcast guys had their choice, each of them selected a different player.

            Imagine this: MLB breaks up its teams to promote parity among the league. Each owner is allowed to pick a new team in a snake draft format (team that picks last in the first round, would get first pick in the second round). Which of these star players would be selected first?

Draft Strategy

 The NFL Draft process is a lot like picking up girls at a bar with your buddies. A few days before the event, the anticipation begins to mount. Preparation is the key to success, so you spend your idle time locking in a fool-proof game plan. By the time the day arrives, you already know what clothes you are going to wear, which shoes you are going to rock and which of your closest friends you plan on arriving with. You are on a mission, and you are determined to overcome any obstacle standing in your path. It is show time. 

 You walk into the bar, buy a drink and head to the “war room”. Some people are dancing, while others are posted up on the sidelines. The scouting begins, and a group of several girls sticks out. The group contains some interesting characters. There’s the “Prototype”. She has all of the measurable and physical attributes that people look for. Be careful not to look too closely; you cannot let other people know you are interested in her. Next to the prospect is the guaranteed, “Safe Pick”. Built like an offensive lineman, she protects the Prototype’s blindside from blitzes. It is not the sexy pick that your friends would support, but the game is won and lost in the trenches. The “Playmaker” is all over the dance floor. She sings along to the songs, has not stopped dancing and by the looks of her moves, she is pretty drunk. Everyone loves the “Playmaker”, but is her behavior a little too crazy?

The only way to find out more is to conduct some interviews. Your friend group is not the only crew to notice these prospects. The bar is full of potential suitors offering drinks, dances and promises of something more. The interview with the “Prototype” is not what you had hoped. She has all the physical tools, but her mental capacity has left a lot to be desired. The “Safe Pick” has a great sense of humor, the friendliest demeanor and proved she can be responsible by being the designated driver. The “Playmaker” is a human highlight reel. However, she mentioned her ex-boyfriend three different times. That pick is going to come with baggage.

An hour passes, and after working out each of the prospects, it is time to make a choice. The bartender has signaled for last call, and it is now or never. You talk to your friends to try and get a feel for their opinions. “Hey, how did you feel about that ‘Playmaker’? I think I could see myself with her. Oh, and the ‘Safe Pick’, she seems really cool. My mom would love to meet her! The jury is out on that ‘Prototype’; she may be the dumbest person I have ever talked to”.

While you are deliberating, one of your friends starts to walk over. He has an extra drink in his hand, and he is walking out onto the stage.

With the first pick, your buddy has selected the “Prototype”. She was the top rated prospect on your board, but your friend picked in front of you. Before you have a chance to get frustrated, a new wrinkle unfolds: she has a boyfriend. The pick is a huge bust, and his chances are blown.

At this point, you are content with either of the remaining choices. Your other friend is closing out his tab, so it is your turn. Sure, you could pick now, leave your friend with what is left and take your chances. There is one other option, though. You walk over to your friend, and you offer to flag down the bartender for him. You have offered him a last minute trade. Relieved by the turn of events, he promises to cover your bar tab, the cab fare and first pick next weekend. Before you have a chance to change your mind, he makes his pick.

With the second overall pick, your friend has selected “The Playmaker”. At first, she holds out, but reluctantly hands over her number.

Without a tab to pay, or a care in the world, you smile. You did not get the prospect you came for, but you still got a solid prospect. Plus, you were able to save cash and accumulate a favor from your friend moving forward. Sometimes the best picks are not the flashiest faces or the notorious names. Sometimes, you just have to take the best prospect available.

PTY Podcast April 21, 2013

A lot has happened since our last podcast. After a week full of negative news and heavy hearts, we used our weekly baseball talk as an escape. Some things have not changed; Cal rode Chris Davis en route to a decisive Fantasy Challenge victory. We briefly acknowledge the Ravens’ schedule, NBA playoffs and finish with the ORIGINAL “Confessions” segment.

0:00-2:00 Rundown

2:00-6:00 Ravens Schedule: The guys circle the Patriots and Steelers home games. Also, Sal speaks on behalf of Calvert Hall vs. Loyola and the Turkey Bowl’s displacement.

6:00-12:00 O’s Recap: Since the last podcast, the O’s took on the Yankees, Rays and Dodgers

12:00-21:00 O’s Moving Forward: Cal, Sal and Joe offer their thoughts on Arrieta, the bullpen and the bottom of the lineup.

21:00-30:00 PTY Fantasy Challenge: Joe and Sal bow down to Cal and Chris Davis. Joe Pa gives the stats on Davis, and Cal gives away a FREE PTY Apparel shirt.

30:00-34:00 RIP Earl Weaver: The guys were at Camden Yards for the Earl Weaver tribute and offer their final thoughts on the “Earl of Baltimore”

34:00-47:00 Confessions: Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Listen to the latest installment to the most revealing confessions segment around.

 

As always, thanks for your support. We welcome any feedback.

Tweet Us: Sal @s4lr1naud0, Cal @PTYApparel, Joe @JoePappa

 

Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round 1

Yes, there are seven other teams that do not play home games in South Beach. The Eastern Conference Playoffs strategy for those teams is simple: avoid Miami as long as possible, and hope that someone else beats them before you have to play them. The Heat ran wild, amassing a 41-11 record against their conference foes. Is there anyone that can slow down El Heat, or will LeBron and Co dunk their way to the finals?

 

₁Miami vs. Milwaukee₈

 

The Bucks have been awful on the road this season. Miami set a franchise record for wins at home. This does not look good for our friends in Wisconsin. It is important to remember, that Miami won more than anyone else during the regular season. Milwaukee won fewer games than they lost. Uh oh.

Lineups

Bucks: PG Brandon Jennings, SG Monta Ellis, SF Mike Dunleavy, PF Ersan Ilyasova, C Larry Sanders

Heat: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, SF LeBron James, PF Udonis Haslem, C Chris Bosh

Best Case Scenario, MIL: Wade and Bosh are more injured than Miami is leading on. Drained from the streak, Miami rolls into town underestimating their competition. Reddick shoots unconscious, and Monta Ellis makes 50% of his shots. FEAR THE DEER. The Bucks grab two home wins. HEAT IN 6.

Best Case Scenario, MIA: Miami borrows brooms from local janitors. Juwan Howard gets some playing time. The team films a sequel to the Harlem Shake video at halftime.

Prediction: HEAT IN 4. Miami is just too powerful.

Player to Watch, MIL: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SF. Someone has to try to slow down LeBron. Mbah a Moute is one of the better defenders and rebounders at the position.

Player to Watch, MIA: Chris “Birdman” Anderson, C: He has played himself into an increasing number of minutes down the stretch. He has the size to beat on Milwaukee’s bigs.

 

₂New York vs. ₇Boston

 

Two veteran teams, two cities with a passionate rivalry and two coaches that need this series; this has all the makings of a classic battle. When Rondo went down, people buried the Celtics. The injury allowed for Avery Bradley to move to point guard, Jeff Green slid into the lineup and opened up more playing time for Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Meanwhile, the Knicks have been blowing teams out. Carmelo Anthony has been crowned scoring king, and if they Knicks can stay healthy, they are primed for a long run.

Lineups

Celtics: PG Avery Bradley, SG Paul Pierce, SF Jeff Green, PF Brandon Bass, C Kevin Garnett

Knicks: PG Raymon Felton, SG Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, PF Carmelo Anthony, C Tyson Chandler

Best Case Scenario, BOS: The Celtics channel “Ubuntu”, and they play with the intensity we have come to expect from Doc Rivers and his team. The series is physical, and the Celtics veterans force game 7. CELTICS IN 7.

Best Case Scenario, NYK: JR Smith averages 20+ PPG off the bench, Carmelo dominates his mismatch against Bass and Tyson Chandler shows why he is the second best center in all of basketball. KNICKS IN 5.

Prediction: KNICKS IN 6. Despite a breakout series for Avery Bradley, the Celtics will not be able to generate enough scoring to keep up with Anthony and Smith.

Player to Watch, BOS: Jason Terry, SG. Is there any fuel left in The Jet? Can he summon his magic from 2010?

Player to Watch, NYK: Steve Novak, PF. When a guy that big is hitting 43% from behind the arc, it creates matchup nightmares for the opposition.

 

₃Indiana vs. ₆Atlanta

 

Atlanta has beaten up on bad teams all season, but they have a poor record against winning teams. Now the Hawks, who decided against trading Josh Smith at the deadline, will run that same roster out once again. Despite previous regular season success, this team is historically bad in the playoffs. Indiana looked like the best competition to Miami, before fading down the stretch.

Lineups

Hawks: PG Jeff Teague, SG Devin Harris, SF Kyle Korver, PF Josh Smith, C Al Horford

Pacers: PG George Hill, SG Lance Stephenson, SF Paul George, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert

Best Case Scenario, ATL: Al Horford’s range allows him to put up big numbers on Hibbert. Josh Smith plays with a chip on his shoulder, knowing that he could cost himself millions in free agency with a bad performance. PACERS IN 7

Best Case Sceanrio, IND: David West continues to dominate his Eastern Conference opponents, and Paul George shows he is the go-to guy in Indy. PACERS IN 5.

Prediction: PACERS IN 5. Despite a strong showing from Smith, the Pacers cruise into the second round.

Player to Watch, ATL: DeShawn Stevenson, SF. If the Hawks are going to win, Stevenson (famous for his neck tats) is going to have to play shutdown defense on George.

Player To Watch, IND: Ian Mahinmi, C. HIbbert has struggled offensively this season, due to a wrist injury. Mahinmi can provide solid depth at that position, and he has championship experience.

 

₄Brooklyn vs. ₅Chicago

 

Just when it looked as if Deron Williams was on the decline, he put together a wonderful last month. Now Prokolov’s Nets will host a playoff series in their new arena. Chicago was able to extinguish Miami’s 27-game streak, and then they stopped New York from extending their win streak. While Bulls fans should be frustrated with the uncertainty of Derrick Rose, Chicagoans should take solace in their team’s effort and energy.

Lineups

Bulls: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah

Nets: PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Reggie Evans, C Brook Lopez

Best Case Scenario, CHI: The Bulls’ stingy defense is able to handicap the Nets. Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli are able to provide
scoring off the bench. Brooklyn turns on the struggling Nets, and Jay-Z rocks a retro Jordan jersey for game 5. BULLS IN 6.

Best Case Scenario, BKN: Reggie Evans dominates the boards and spends the entire series messing with Carlos Boozer. Joe Johnson leaves his lackluster playoff performances in Atlanta. NETS IN 5.

Prediction: BULLS IN 7. The Bulls advance, sparking rumors of a Derrick Rose comeback. Jealous of the attention, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan hint at a comeback as well.

Player to Watch, CHI: Nate Robinson, PG. Known for his ferocity and explosivness, Nasty Nate is going to have to play his best basketball in the postseason.

Player to Watch, BKN: Andray Blatche, C. He was a “rising star” for Washington, before burning out due to injuries. Amnestied by the Wizards, Blatche has eased into his role, and he has shown glimpses of his potential.

NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Round 1

Did you really think David Stern was going to let the Lakers miss the playoffs? No offense to the Utah Jazz, but they play without a point guard. Their four best players play two different positions. Even without Kobe, the Lakers are still a better team to watch.

These four series are an NBA fan’s dream. The basketball gods could not have arranged for a better way for these eight teams to be seeded. For once, every series has the potential to turn into a street fight. We will just have to hope that the play on the court lives up to the drama off of it.

 

₁Oklahoma vs. ₈Houston

           

To understand Oklahoma’s decision to trade James Harden, one would have to look ahead to 2014. The Thunder figured they would avoid the luxury tax by trading a player they did not want to pay top dollar. However, they did it a year too soon. Harden has continued to blossom into a superstar, worthy of the max deal Houston gave to him before the season. Now, the former teammate is returning to OKC with a vengeance. While the Thunder are undoubtedly the better team, the Rockets superior depth makes them a dangerous opponent.

Lineups

Rockets: PG Jeremy Lin, SG James Harden, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Donatas Motiejunas, C Omer Asik

Thunder: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha, SF Kevin Durant, PF Serge Ibaka, C Kendrick Perkins

Best Case Scenario HOU: James Harden is able to drive and get to the foul line, en route to averaging thirty points per game. Fear the Beard! Chandler Parsons continues to shoot lights out from behind the arc. The Rockets bench outlasts the Thunder in close games. THUNDER IN 7.

Best Case Scenario OKC: Harden struggles like he did in his first game vs. OKC. Durant and Westbrook combine for sixty points per game. THUNDER IN 4.

Prediction: THUNDER IN 5. Sefolosha will keep Harden at bay, and Serge Ibaka’s presence will allow the Thunder to dominate inside.

Player To Watch, HOU: Thomas Robinson, PF. The 5th pick in last June’s draft, Robinson will have to cut his teeth earlier than expected. The Kansas big man has a history of playing his best in big games.

Player To Watch, OKC: Kevin Martin, SG. When OKC traded Harden, Martin filled his void in the rotation. An effective shooting series by Martin could spell disaster for Houston.

₂San Antonio vs. ₇Los Angeles Lakers

                It wouldn’t be the Western Conference Playoffs, without Lakers/Spurs. These two veteran teams will duel it out for a chance to move on. While the Lakers have been hot (winners of eight of their last ten), San Antonio has coasted into the postseason (winners of three of their last ten). The Spurs feeble finish allowed the Thunder to seize the top seed in the West. Without Kobe, the Lakers will have to rely on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Does the original big three have anything left in the tank? Can the Lakers win without their prodigal son?

Lineups

Lakers: PG Steve Blake, SG Jodie Meeks, SF Metta World Peace, PF Pau Gasol, C Dwight Howard

Spurs: PG Tony Parker, SG Danny Green, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tim Duncan, C Tiago Splitter

Best Case Scenario, LAL: Howard dominates the low post, while Gasol picks apart Duncan in the high post. The Lakers find a way to stay healthy. Steve Nash provides a spark, in a limited bench role. San Antonio cannot “turn it on”, after a disastrous stretch. LAKERS IN 6

Best Case Scenario, SA: Ginobli, Parker and Duncan play the way they did early in the season. If injuries become a problem, the Spurs bench provides depth to outlast LA. Popovich coaches circles around D’Antoni. SPURS IN 5.

Prediction: LAKERS IN 7. It won’t be pretty, but San Antonio’s injuries will cancel out any advantage they may have had with Kobe being out. Dwight Howard wins the city over with a huge performance.

Player to Watch, LAL: Steve Nash, PG. If he can play, will he be the difference maker in this series? I wouldn’t bet against the Hall of Famer.

Player to Watch, SA: Cory Joseph/Patty Mills/Gary Neal, PG. If Parker is unable to play effectively, San Antonio will rely on these three players to run the offense.

₃Denver vs. ₆Golden State

If you’re a casual fan that loves scoring, this will be your favorite series of the entire tournament. Denver uses their fast-paced transitions to wear down opponents. Golden State shoots better than anyone else on three pointers (over 40%). Denver’s superior athleticism, especially at home (35-3 home record), has allowed them to run teams off the court. The Warriors will need a big series from David Lee if they expect to endure the Nuggets.

Lineups

Warriors: PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, SF Harrison Barnes, PF David Lee, C Andrew Bogut

Nuggets: PG Ty Lawson, SG Evan Fournier, SF Andre Iguodala, PF Kenneth Faried, C Kosta Koufos

Best Case Scenario, GS: Curry proves he is the best distance shooter in professional basketball, and his shooting rubs off on Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Jarrett Jack provides instant offense off the bench. The Warriors steal a win in Denver, and they take care of business in Oakland. WARRIORS IN 6.

Best Case Scenario, DEN: They win all of their home games. Faried’s injury does not limit his explosiveness, and the Warriors cannot find an answer for Andre Iguodala. NUGGETS IN 4.

Prediction: NUGGETS IN 6. Denver is just too athletic, and they are playing at a really high level. They are hot at the right time.

Player to Watch, GS: Carl Landry, PF. If Lee gets into foul trouble, it will be up to Landry to fend off Faried.

Player to Watch, DEN: JaVale McGee, C. Always, JaVale McGee. The man makes some of the best (and worst) plays you will ever see in a professional game. Love him, or hate him, he is the man to watch.

₄Los Angeles Clippers vs. ₅Memphis

In 2012, these two teams were in the exact same position. In a very physical, seven game series, Chris Paul’s Clippers were able to narrowly escape. “Lob City” plays with an up- tempo flair, and pizzazz. The Grizzlies slow down the game, and they beat up their opponents inside the paint. The matchup will go to the team that gets the most out of their bench. It was last year’s best series to watch, and this year should not be any different.

Lineups

Grizzlies: PG Mike Conley, SG Tony Allen, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol

Clippers: PG Chris Paul, SG Chauncey Billups, SF Caron Butler, PF Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan

Best Case Scenario, MEM: They are able to bully the Clips. Gasol and Z-Bo force the LA into foul trouble, and the Grizzlies are able to take advantage of their free throws. Tony Allen neutralizes Jamal Crawford and Billups. GRIZZLIES IN 6.

Best Case Scenario, LAC: Chris Paul is able to control the tempo of the game. Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom allow the team to continue to score, despite resting its starters. CLIPPERS IN 5.

Prediction:  GRIZZLIES IN 7. Revenge is sweet for Memphis.

Player to Watch, MEM: Ed Davis, PF. The return on the Rudy Gay deal, Davis will have to make the most of his limited role, and replicate his efficiency with Toronto.

Player To Watch, LAC: Matt Barnes, SF. Barnes was brought in to add defensive tenacity to this team. He’s their answer to Tony Allen.

The School of Base-Knocks: Week 1 (TB-MIN-BOS)

After their first nine games, the Orioles find themselves tied for first place in the American League East. Picking right up where they left off, it looks as if the 2013 O’s share 2012’s flare for dramatics. One thing is certain, win or lose, Orioles fans will be on the edge of their seats every night until October. Some things haven’t changed; Davis still hits home runs, Adam Jones still hits everything and Roberts and Reimold still struggle to stay healthy. However, this isn’t the same team as last year. The “Negative Pressure” has evaporated, leaving a city full of high expectations. If the O’s are going to repeat their playoff run, they’ll have to play even better than last season. Let’s jump into the grades, and see how the team has fared thus far.

 

Lineup, B+

The only teams that have scored more runs than the Orioles so far, are the A’s, Reds, Cardinals and Diamondbacks. The Orioles’ best hitter, Adam Jones, has hit in every game he’s played in this season, to the tune of a .462 batting average. Hold on, let me go find some wood to knock on. The team is in the top ten in batting average, on base percentage and home runs. I haven’t even covered Chris Davis yet. In addition to his six home runs and nineteen RBIs, Davis has a .500 OBP. Allow me to repeat: Chris Davis has gotten on base every other at bat in 2013. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. So why not give the Birds an “A”? The bottom of the order has been atrocious. Between Pearce (0-10), Flaherty (1-18), Casilla (1-8) and Teagarden (0-3), that part of the lineup has combined for a meager 2-39, or a .051 batting average. In the 9th inning comeback against Boston, Flaherty was able to extend the game with a clutch base hit. The top of the order has been our saving grace. However, it will be near impossible for Davis and Jones to carry on this torrid pace. The team needs the bottom of the order to hit their weight, or else this team will struggle offensively.

 

Fielding, A

Baltimore is spoiled rotten. Every night, they get to watch JJ Hardy and Manny Machado make some of the finest defensive plays in baseball. It was not long ago, O’s fans would cringe every time a ball was hit to third base. After months of watching balls bounce off of Betemit, or the awkward stabs by Reynolds, Showalter made one of his best coaching decisions in August 2012. By moving the super prospect to third base, Buck was able to create a spot for Manny on the roster. For the rest of the season, the O’s had the best fielding percentage in baseball. In 2013, the O’s are the 8th best team in fielding percentage, and a lot of that is credit to the left side of the infield. For some strange reason, teams still think they can run on Matt Wieters. Four times, runners have tried to swipe second, and four times, Wieters has gunned them down. Even Teagarden got in on the action, throwing out a runner in his only game of the season. Chris Davis has played a serviceable first base, and his bat has silenced any critics he might have had otherwise. The only thing that bothers me, is a lack of an everyday second basemen. When Roberts was healthy, the team turned five double plays in three games. Flaherty and Casilla, have combined for three double plays in twice as many games. Defense is definitely a very strong suit, but there will always be room for improvement.

 

Base Running, A-

Showalter is putting the team in motion so far. The O’s are top 10 in both steals, and stealing percentage in 2013. McLouth and Casilla each have a pair of swipes in the first nine games. In the 5th inning on Thursday night, with Machado on first, Buck put on a hit and run. Markakis swung, and drove the ball into the ground directly towards Dustin Pedroia. The Lasahhhh Show only had one play, and he threw Markakis out with ease. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but that allowed Manny to be in scoring position with Jones coming to the plate. Adam Jones stayed hot, and singled to left center field. Machado scored easily, and the Orioles had tied the game. For a team without that much speed, Showalter is getting the most out of what he has. If Reimold and Roberts were totally healthy, I think you would see this team run even more.

 

Starting Pitching, C

It’s hard to argue for anything higher at this point. Miguel Gonzalez pitched nicely in his only outing, but the other starters have all struggled to some degree. Chen threw a really decent game on Monday, in Boston. Even though he gave up the 3-run homer, he was able to keep his team in the game. Hammel was able to out-duel David Price on Opening Day, and he pitched well enough to win against Minnesota. Jones lost that fly ball in the sun, but it wasn’t technically an error, so it counted against Hammel’s ERA. Look, we know what we’ll get from those three starters. They’re not going to lead the league in strike outs, and they’re not going to lead the league in ERA. However, every time they pitch, they’ll keep Baltimore in the game. That being said, Arrieta and Tillman have left some things to be desired. I’m not going to crucify a guy for having a tough start in April. CC Sabathia walked five batters in five innings in his first start, and nobody was calling for his release. The fans need to have patience. Arrieta pitched poorly in the home opener, and after a shaky start in Boston, he was able to settle down. Rain shortened that outing, and he was under 70 pitches through five innings. Control seems to be his issue, and if he can cut down on the walks, he’s going to be fine. Look, he won the starting job for a reason. He outperformed everyone else in Spring Training. He’s earned the opportunity to start a few games. In 2012, Tillman was arguably the team’s best pitcher after August.His low WHIP and high strikeout rate made him one of the top starters in baseball. His first start off the DL was a brief one. He was absolutely rocked by the Twins, and he didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Once again, twitter turned on Tillman after a tough start to Thursday’s game. Besides an elevated pitch count, he allowed only two runs, cut his walks in half and was able to strike out more batters than his previous outing. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d like to see more out of this staff, but honestly, I’m not ready to quit on any of them just yet.

 

Bullpen, C+

This grade reflects the team through nine games, so that includes Luis Ayala and his 9.00 ERA. The lefties, Brian Matusz, TJ McFarland and Troy Patton, have allowed just a single run in nine combined innings pitched. Darren O’Day, one of last season’s heroes, has been filthy to start 2013. Jim Johnson led the league in saves last year, and he’s a perfect 4-4 after nine games. Those guys have all pitched masterfully. Obviously, Tommy Hunter is still susceptible to giving up monster dongs. The flamethrower has minimized the damage; all three home runs he’s allowed have been solo shots. That being said, if he’s going to last in the pen, he’ll have to learn to keep the ball down. If he continues to elevate his fastball, he’ll be in Norfolk by June. Now we get to Strop. I have a soft spot for the guy, I really do. People forget that he hasn’t been pitching very long. He’s got this big, powerful arm, and he’s still mastering his control. While erratic at times, he still possesses the stuff of a quality setup man. He certainly pitches better in low-pressured situations, so it’ll be interesting to see how Buck uses him down the stretch. I think there’s been more good than bad through three series, but the pen could certainly improve. Without Ayala, this grade would be a tad higher.

 

Overall, B

Losing a home series to a weaker team is frustrating, I get that. However, taking 4-6 from division rivals on the road, is pretty awesome. The O’s have had flashes of brilliance, proof that 2012 wasn’t a fluke. Fans have criticized Showalter for some of his decisions to leave starters in too long. In hindsight, it’s easy to say he could have taken Hammel or Chen out one batter sooner. People forget that it’s April, and these guys are still building up stamina. What kind of message would he be sending to his best pitchers if he pulled them at any sign of trouble? If the O’s are going to compete, these starters must learn to work out of jams. No manager is perfect, and these “Monday Morning Quarterback” fans need to remember what this team was before Buck got here. If you’re going to rip him in defeat, make sure to rave about his other decisions that have earned the team victories thus far. Pitching has to improve, and the bottom of the order needs to make serious adjustments, but overall, fans should be satisfied with a 5-4 start. It’s a long season, and if the first couple weeks are any indication, it’s going to be one wild ride.