Shorebird of the Year – a 2011 season wrapup

Ooooooooh, did it get ugly at the end.

You know, when the Shorebirds began the season 16-9 I figured we’d have at least one half of playoff contention. But the Orioles minor league geniuses decided to promote most of our best players to Frederick, allowing them to have a playoff squad and, well, as you can see by a 55-85 final record we got the crumbs. It was even worse than last year’s 59-81 mark, which we managed in much the same fashion: a poor second half.

At one point, we had a reasonably good offensive team, but in the end the batting was offensive.

  • Our overall team average was dead last in the league at .242, a full six points behind the next-worst team.
  • We scored 582 runs, which was 12th of 14. Bear in mind that the two teams behind us played one and three fewer games, respectively.
  • We had just 217 doubles – again, last in the league by 12.
  • We also had just 20 triples, which trailed the 13th place team by one.
  • Our 60 home runs were – surprise! – last in the league. The next worst team had 63.
  • One bright spot was drawing 500 walks, third best in the loop.
  • Our 1,051 strikeouts were sixth most in the SAL.
  • We stole 108 bases, good for 11th place.
  • Given the poor power numbers it’s no shock that our OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was dead last at .659 – next worst was a .682 mark.

It goes without saying our offense was one of the most punchless in memory – remember, when the season started we had Kipp Schutz (who hit .381 with Delmarva,) Jonathan Schoop (.316) and Manny Machado (who was hitting .333 before injuring his knee) to anchor the lineup. By the end of August, the team as a whole barely exceeded the Mendoza line for the month.

Likewise, the pitching was in shambles too. Our 4.74 team ERA was second-to-last in the loop, topping only Asheville (which plays in a hitter’s park.)

  • Our five shutouts tied us for 12th place.
  • We tied for fourth-best with 38 saves.
  • We allowed the second most hits with 1,318 (Asheville allowed the most.)
  • It follows that we tied for second with Rome in allowing the most runs, 760 (Asheville gave up the most.) We had second all to ourselves with 648 earned runs, though.
  • We were 7th out of 14 in allowing 106 home runs.
  • Allowing 516 walks was fourth most in the league.
  • On the flip side, striking out 988 batters was second-fewest (Augusta fanned 962 as a staff.)
  • Leading only Asheville, our 1.49 WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) was 13th.

On top of all that, our fielding percentage ranked just 10th of 14 teams and we committed the third-most errors. Add it all up and it’s not hard to see why we finished 30 games under break-even.

So will we get any help next year? It’s not too likely since Aberdeen finished at the bottom of the New York-Penn League with a 24-51 record. But the Gulf Coast League rookie affiliate won its division with a 38-22 record, which may help us for later in 2012 or even 2013 – they had exceptionally good pitching.

On the other hand, the aforementioned Frederick Keys made the playoffs with a league-best 80-59 record and AA Bowie just missed their playoffs with a 75-66 record. (Norfolk was like us, resting among the International League bottom feeders with a 56-87 mark.)

But the other purpose of this post is to provide the wrap on how the 22 players who were selected as Shorebird of the Week fared for the year and pick a Shorebird of the Year. We start way back on Opening Day in April.

April 7: Brian Conley

Brian, we hardly knew ya. After playing just four games for Delmarva this year and hitting .250 on 2-for-8 and 6 walks, the 2010 Shorebird of the Year was promoted to Frederick. Sadly, he played just 7 games for the Keys, going 2-for-15 (.133) before being released by the Orioles in late April. I couldn’t find any indication Brian tried the independent league route later in the summer, so it’s likely he’s called it a career.

April 14: Manny Machado

Most of the preseason buzz about the Shorebirds centered on the fact Machado was making his full-season debut here. Over the first month of the season Machado lived up to it, but an early May knee injury sidelined Manny for a month and robbed local fans of a number of chances to watch the Orioles’ newest sensation. After Manny hit .276/6/24/.859 OPS in 38 games with Delmarva (one of those six home runs being a memorable monster shot over the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium scoreboard) he was promoted to Frederick for the second half and hit .245/5/26/.692 with the Keys in 63 games – not exactly world-beating numbers but that and his prospect status are probably good enough to allow him to be on the cusp next spring of a promotion to Bowie.

Other honors: Manny was SAL Player of the Week on May 2, an SAL All-Star, and played in the Futures Game.

April 21: Jonathan Schoop

Lost in the preseason hype over Machado was another talented young player who outperformed Manny while he was here. Before being promoted in early June, Schoop was putting up a solid .316/8/34/.890 line in 51 games and he continued to outdo Machado with Frederick, hitting .271/5/37/.704 with the Keys in 77 contests. (It’s also worthy to note that in just 51 games Schoop ended up being our team home run leader with those 8.) I think he’s just as capable of having a sound major league career as Machado, so I’m selecting Jonathan as my Prospect of the Year. Like Manny, he could start in Frederick but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Schoop’s in Bowie’s opening day lineup.

Other honors: Jonathan also played in the Futures Game and was Carolina League Player of the Week August 15.

April 28: David Walters

The first pitcher I selected, David also had the distinction of playing the entire season here. At first glance, his numbers weren’t much to write home about (1-6 record, 3.93 ERA, 35 strikeouts vs. 12 walks in 50 1/3 innings) except for that 30 saves, which led the South Atlantic League. One concern was that he allowed 62 hits, giving him a rather high 1.47 WHIP. Still, he succeeded more often than not in nailing down the save and was thus involved in over half of our 55 wins. He’s probably on track to take the job to the next level.

Other honors: David was an SAL All-Star.

May 5: Scott Copeland

It was a tale of two seasons for Scott. He actually struggled with Delmarva, making 20 starts and compiling a 5-9 record with a lofty 6.58 ERA, fanning 55, walking 46, and allowing 136 hits in 108 innings. But given the opportunity at Frederick Scott seized it, making his last 6 starts there after an early August promotion, going 3-2, 2.14 in 33 2/3 innings and giving up just 25 hits. It balanced out his overall numbers and most likely makes Scott an early candidate for continuing in his role with the Keys next season.

May 12: Kipp Schutz

Kipp’s departure shortly after his SotW selection began the exodus of the heart of Delmarva’s batting lineup. In 38 games here, Schutz achieved the gaudy batting line of .381/4/36/.997, leading many to ask where the heck did this guy come from? Unfortunately, his season turned around in Frederick and not in the way one would want – Kipp hit just .212/7/36/.612 with the Keys in 87 games there. My best guess is that he’ll repeat at Frederick next season since he doesn’t have a lot to prove at this level.

May 19: Ty Kelly

In his second season with Delmarva, Ty had a better overall stint and eventually led the team in a number of offensive categories. Kelly paced the team in at-bats, runs, hits, and total bases, also being near the top in several other hitting areas. As a whole, his .274/4/46/.697 line is rather good, particularly when you note he walked 67 times and struck out only 63. But he did lose a lot in the power categories of doubles and triples, going from 40 extra-base hits in 2010 to just 17 this year – an alarming and precipitous drop for just 15 extra batting average points. Having repeated at the same level this season and played a relatively identical amount overall, that could portend a player who’s reached his ceiling.

Other honors: Kelly was named an SAL All-Star and selected by both Mountaire and the Shorebirds Fan Club as their Player of the Year.

May 26: Mike Flacco

Mike extended a solid finish to the 2010 season with Delmarva through the first 2/3 or so of the 2011 season before finally being promoted to Frederick in mid-July. With the Shorebirds Flacco hit .273/5/41/.790 and led the team in doubles with 20 despite only playing 72 games – or about a half-season – here. His Frederick numbers weren’t shameful either as he batted .250/5/22/.773 in 50 contests there. That’s probably enough to keep him playing there in 2012 as Mike slowly advances up the Orioles’ system.

Other honors: Mike was the SAL Player of the Week May 23.

June 2: Jacob Pettit

Like Scott Copeland, Jacob took full advantage of a promotion to vastly improve his numbers; however, on the surface Pettit was more deserving than Copeland. Jacob worked to a 5-4 record and 4.42 ERA in 15 starts here, with a 1.47 WHIP in 93 2/3 innings based on 108 hits and 30 walks (with 65 strikeouts.) Yet Pettit was unbeaten in 10 Frederick starts, compiling a 7-0 record and sparkling 1.62 ERA. The difference? Allowing nearly one fewer runner per two innings, with a Frederick WHIP of 1.02. It’s not outside the realm of thought that an exceptional spring couldn’t get him to Bowie, but my guess is that he begins 2012 in Frederick to begin another playoff run.

Other honors: Pettit was selected to the SAL All-Star Game.

June 9: Michael Ohlman

The primary backstop for the Shorebirds, Ohlman began the season well at the plate before fading down the stretch. Still, he ended up with a .224/4/51/.627 mark and led the team in RBI – a much better second act than a 2010 season where he began here but was demoted to Bluefield after hitting just .174 in 34 games. Given the dearth of pure hitting catchers in the Orioles system, Michael could make a move up to Frederick for 2012 but may be kept here to get another year of experience first.

Other honors: Michael was picked as the fifth representative to the All-Star Game.

June 16: Mikey Planeta

Mikey spent his second full season with the Shorebirds this year, although he joined the team a little late thanks to an injury. Once he arrived in May, Mikey started out well but tailed off to a .220/2/23/.536 mark in 102 games. Unfortunately, those numbers are pretty close to his full 2010 season marks of .226/0/33/.545 in 117 games, so there wasn’t a lot of offensive progress made between the two seasons. With 29 assists over the last two seasons, though, the outfield arm may be what keeps Mikey in the system for a third tour with Delmarva.

June 23: Michael Rooney

Rooney was a player who went in the other direction this year, as he began in Frederick but got demoted to Delmarva for two months. Yet things worked out for him as he was back with the Keys at season’s end after a one-game detour to Bowie (where he went 0-for-2, striking out twice.) His 42 games at Delmarva were most successful, as he hit .253/0/9/.677 with the Shorebirds. Meanwhile, his two separate tours of duty with Frederick (40 games total) resulted in a .192/0/3/.496 line. But Michael filled a need with both squads as a versatile backup infielder, so he may well ride the shuttle between Delmarva and Frederick next season too.

June 30: Jarret Martin

There are two schools of thought when a pitcher leads the team in losses: either he’s not very talented or the manager has a lot of confidence in him to keep running the pitcher out there. Judging by the numbers and the fact Jarret was moved into the rotation in May, my guess is the latter. Martin was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA this season, and while he allowed only 107 hits in 110 2/3 innings the primary concern going forward has to be his walk rate – Martin walked 65 batters, which increased his WHIP to a 1.55 mark. However, his free pass rate improved from season to season (from Bluefield in 2010) which signifies progress in that area and he led the Shorebirds with 97 strikeouts. I think Jarret is one of those guys on the cusp between staying here and moving up in 2012.

Other honors: Jarret was the SAL Pitcher of the Week June 23.

July 7: Cameron Roth

Spending the full season with the Shorebirds, Roth provided effective long relief for Delmarva. His numbers weren’t overly special (going 3-2 with a 5.05 ERA, 57 strikeouts, 33 walks, and a WHIP of 1.51 in 82 innings) but he transitioned well between being a starter at Bluefield and pitching in relief with us this year. Like Jarret Martin, Roth is a pitcher who could find himself either at Frederick or Delmarva next year.

Other honors: Roth was selected by Mountaire for their Community Service Award.

July 14: Tim Berry

Tim was the one constant in Delmarva’s starting rotation, making 26 starts over the season. Set with a strict limit of 5 innings per start thanks to recent arm surgery, Berry managed to pitch through the five innings in the majority of his outings. Overall, he threw 116 2/3 innings, allowing 107 hits and 61 walks for a WHIP of 1.44. He only had a 3-7 record but was a very effective starter. Obviously the question is whether the Orioles will allow him to be stretched out more next season and let him go deeper into games – he could be a formidable starter if he’s retained here at Delmarva.

July 21: Brenden Webb

Brenden wasn’t one of the offensive stars of the team, hitting just .218/4/29/.632 in 400 at-bats. He led the team by playing in 121 games and had 16 outfield assists. He was the top Shorebird with 75 walks, but also had the most strikeouts (by far) with 152. In other words, nearly half of his 487 plate appearances ended in either a strikeout or walk. This may mean Webb is back here next year honing his pitch selection while trying to maintain his discerning batting eye.

July 28: Garabez Rosa

Another player demoted from Frederick at the season’s midpoint, Rosa came relatively close to the numbers he had in a full season here in 2010 (.262/3/32/.647 in 2011 vs. .251/5/44/.632 in 2010.) But the .212 start he had in 53 games with Frederick meant a return to Delmarva was likely, and he was the one moved aside for the progress of Manny Machado. There’s no doubt Rosa could return to the Keys next year and try to improve on his 2011 numbers, and that seems like the most likely course of action.

August 4: Joe Oliviera

Pinched for playing time in Frederick, where he gathered just 26 at-bats in a month’s time (hitting .308, though,) Joe was sent down for the second half and responded quite well. In 39 games Joe hit .252/2/20/.677, making him the best-hitting catcher on the roster. Because of that and a difference in age between him and fellow backstop Michael Ohlman he may be the one moved up to Frederick to begin 2012.

August 11: Jeremy Nowak

After spending a week with the Aberdeen IronBirds (a team he played for in 2010) Jeremy was promoted to Delmarva based on a .286 mark in 8 games (he hit just .179 there last year.) Nowak started out well here but faded down the stretch to a .234/3/21/.684 finish. Yet his promise seems to be in a gap-to-gap power hitter since he had 20 extra base hits out of 52 total. I could see him beginning next year here with a number 3, 4, or 5 spot in the batting order with his name on it because he’s a decent contact hitter with a little bit of speed (10 stolen bases in 62 games here.)

August 18: Matt Bywater

The first SotW to make his debut in 2011, Matt pitched 15 1/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League (no record but an 0.59 ERA and 0.91 WHIP) before jumping to Delmarva in late July. Yes, Matt is a little wild (32 walks in 45 1/3 innings) but he also has the sort of stuff which allowed him to strike out 68 batters in just over 60 total innings this season. His WHIP of 1.54 is pretty good considering his walk rate, and that tended to vary by start – when Matt was on he could be dominant and three times the bullpen lost his chance for that elusive first professional win. My bet would be that Matt gets that win early in 2012 as a member of the Shorebirds’ staff – since he was drafted in 2010 but didn’t debut until this season the Orioles may push him to a full-season team to start 2012, or perhaps hold him back for a few chilly April weeks. In either case, I think Bywater is ticketed here.

August 25: David Baker

To put it bluntly, had David been here all season we may have had a much better record. After 5 starts at Aberdeen (1-2, 2.45 with an 0.97 WHIP and 23/8 strikeout/walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings) it was clear Baker had earned a shot at the next level. He did well here, going 3-4 in nine starts. (From July 14 onward, that 3 wins tied him for the team lead with Luis Noel, who was pitching in relief at that point.) Baker had a 2.82 ERA for us, allowed only 40 hits in 54 1/3 innings, struck out 48 while walking just 19, and compiled a tidy 1.08 WHIP. To me, I think he deserves a chance at Frederick to begin next year as his first full-season team.

September 1: John Ruettiger

“Rudy” parlayed a 3-game, 6-for-13 stint in the Gulf Coast League into an assignment to Delmarva and became the first 2011 draftee to be selected as Shorebird of the Week. All told, for Delmarva John went 21-for-77 (.273) in 19 games, without a home run but knocking in 3. Generally he was the leadoff hitter but he only stole 1 base here, being caught 3 times. With just 90 professional at-bats, John will likely start here next season as he was an 8th round draft pick and the Orioles tend to move highly-drafted college players quickly. Don’t be surprised if he’s not moved along with a decent start to 2012.

I had a very difficult time picking a Shorebird of the Year because a number of players who excelled at this level didn’t stay long enough to really be considered part of the team. If early season SotW picks like Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kipp Schutz or a guy who I didn’t get a chance to select like Trent Mummey had stuck around into August and maintained their level of play this would be a no-brainer. The same goes for late-season arrival David Baker.

But I have to pick someone who played well and spent a significant amount of time here, and that trimmed the field to just two players: one pitcher and one position player.

To me, the top pitcher was David Walters. He didn’t have overpowering statistics, but one has to factor in that he saved 30 out of 55 victories. That’s 54.5% of our wins, and if you look at all-time save leaders for a single season they generally saved about 60 percent of a team’s wins – Walters isn’t all that far off and he was entrusted with a lot of leads.

On the other hand, the top position player was Ty Kelly. He was among the leaders in a number of offensive categories, and that’s what led him to get his player of the year honors from Mountaire and the Shorebirds Fan Club. (I voted for him in that balloting.)

But then I thought about expectations. On the one hand, Kelly is in his second year here and as I noted he regressed in some key areas. He was the real-life survivor of a number of player moves involving the names I mentioned above, meaning he’s not as highly regarded as those prospects. Kelly was a 19th round pick in 2009, so he was figured to have somewhat of an opportunity for advancement. Still, all told he had a pretty good year.

Yet David Walters was drafted – just not by the Orioles. Atlanta drafted him in the 47th round of the 2008 draft but Walters chose to return to school and was rewarded by not being picked in 2009. The Orioles signed a hometown product off the street that summer, so in essence Walters has been playing three seasons on an extended tryout. He’s found a role and seized it.

So it’s a tough call. I toyed for quite some time with the idea of having co-Shorebirds of the Year, but these intangibles finally led me to make a decision – you could say I changed my mind. Meet your 2011 Shorebird of the Year:

The 2011 Shorebird of the Year, David Walters.

Because he was usually placed in a situation where the game was on the line and did so well at it he led the league in saves (by a wide margin, I may add) I decided that David Walters is a worthy 2011 Shorebird of the Year.

I hope everyone involved with the Shorebirds organization (an award-winning one, by the way) has a great offseason. I’m already pining for 2012 to begin because we have some payback for the last two seasons to return.

And if I could give an award for best feature coverage, Ben Hill would get it for this article. I remember seeing him last Saturday night at the game doing the first pitch and being the Rally Banana. His tour saved the best for last, I guess.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

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