Well, at least the Shorebirds weren’t dead last in the league this year. Thanks to the Greenville Drive for holding our team up in the standings because of the Drive’s absolutely putrid first half.
Still, by finishing 54-82, the Shorebirds eclipsed the 80-loss mark overall for the fourth straight year – but they at least won 2 more games than they did in 2012, so there’s that. And once again, it seemed like the culprit was an offense which rarely fired on all cylinders despite a .248 team average which was eighth-best out of the 14-team league, to wit:
- 532 runs made them 12th in the league. Oddly enough, they were ninth in hits with 1126, but those hits didn’t always convert.
- They finished 11th in the loop with 209 doubles, but tied for third with 33 triples.
- Their 57 homers ranked 11th in the league. By comparison, Joey Gallo of Hickory hit 38 by himself, including five in the final rain-shortened three-game series against the Shorebirds.
- They finished tied for 11th in RBI with 484.
- Delmarva ranked 11th in total bases with 1572, over 300 behind league-leading Hickory.
- They drew the second-fewest walks in the league with 390, although adding a few rainouts back to our schedule would have bumped us up to our seemingly common 11th or 12th rank.
- One somewhat bright spot: the Shorebirds struck out 1,067 times and that was fifth-best.
- They were second to the bottom with 102 steals, and only Lakewood had a worse success rate than our 66.2% clip.
- In on-base percentage and slugging percentage, they were – you guessed it – 11th and 12th respectively.
In short, our hometown team was offensively challenged once again. Only one player finished with a batting average over .300 and Christian Walker was in Bowie by season’s end, having played in just 31 games here early on.
Throughout the year, the pitching seemed to decline in league ranking, and you’ll never guess where the team ended up in ERA. Their 4.27 collective mark was…12th of 14.
- Just six shutouts pitched was second-least in the league (Greensboro had five.)
- Greenville held the Shorebirds off the bottom in saves; they had just 24 to the Drive’s 23. Of course, that has a lot to do with winning only 54 games.
- They allowed the third-most hits in the loop, giving up 1,162 while getting only 1,126. That wasn’t as bad as being outscored 649-532. (Surprisingly, the Shorebirds were 10th in runs allowed but twelfth in earned runs, or third-most if you prefer.) They only allowed 95 unearned runs, which put them in the middle of the pack. Overall, fielding was around league average.
- Delmarva also allowed the fifth-fewest home runs, which seems to be a function of playing at Perdue Stadium. They were just four off the lead (Lexington gave up 62, we allowed 66.)
- Ranking eighth in hit batsmen belied finishing 11th in walks allowed. Had the Shorebirds played a full schedule they may have been worst, finishing with 494 in 136 games vs. Greenville’s 508 in 138 games. There were a couple guys who could have easily put the team over the top.
- The Shorebirds were one of just three teams to not strike out 1,000 batters, finishing 12th with 995, just 8 ahead of Lakewood. If not for Parker Bridwell and his 144 punchouts (second in the SAL) they would have been deep in last.
- Lastly, and predictably, the team’s WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) total was 12th best.
It all fits a team which really didn’t have a lot going for it this season – few really hot prospects or high draft choices, and for the first time in my memory no June draft pick made it to Delmarva.
But there is help on the way, hopefully. After enduring a similarly wretched string of last-place finishes over the last half-dozen years, Aberdeen secured only its second winning season in twelve seasons of existence, clinching its first-ever division title in the process. Seeing how mediocre IronBird teams tend to become equally pathetic Shorebird squads in many cases, the hope for the reverse being true for Delmarva in 2014 is there. Even the Gulf Coast League Orioles were decent, finishing a square 30-30 on the season.
On the other hand, the next level up is suffering from our ills. Frederick also finished second-to-last in the Carolina League at 61-78; however, Bowie wrapped up a level season at 71-71 while Norfolk just missed the International League playoffs with a 77-67 mark, losing the tiebreaker to Rochester. It appears the Orioles’ system may be beginning to stabilize after a number of down years and hopefully it will reflect in an improved record next season.
Of course, the question for my 22 Shorebirds of the Week is how they will impact the organization going forward. It’s time to review their 2013 exploits.
April 4 – Mychal Givens
The grand experiment in placing Mychal on the mound seemed to work relatively well. After a very promising beginning, it looked bleak for a time as Mychal missed a month of the season early on and again on his return when Givens was hammered in Greensboro for 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning. But on the whole Mychal improved as the season went along, finishing 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA overall with a very respectable WHIP of 1.21 in 28 appearances. And after having a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio in the first half, Mychal cut down on the free passes to the extent that his ratio ended up 36 strikeouts to 19 walks in 43 2/3 innings. After three seasons as a shortstop who only hit .225 with Delmarva overall, his route up the Orioles ladder will be that of a bullpen mainstay.
April 11 – Adrian Marin
The 19 year old shortstop played well in his first full professional campaign, settling in at Delmarva and getting into 108 games. Marin put together a nice season, hitting .265/4/48/.667 OPS overall; however, Marin got off to a slow start (.214 in April) and tired out in the end (.205 in August and September.) In the middle he hit close to .300, giving Shorebird fans an exciting glimpse of what the Orioles thought they saw when he was drafted in the 3rd round. It’s pretty likely that Marin will be given every opportunity to win the starting shortstop job in Frederick next spring, and I decided he was my Prospect of the Year.
April 18 – Christian Walker
Of all the players who played at Delmarva this year, Walker did the best job of moving up the system. Until a late-season injury sidelined him, Christian was using his bat to speed through three stops on the docket, hitting .353/3/20/.894 OPS here with Delmarva in 31 early-season games before being promoted to Frederick and putting up .288/8/35/.822 OPS numbers there in 55 games. The move to Bowie was a little more difficult on Christian, as he hit only .242 with just one RBI in 17 games with a more pedestrian .641 OPS. While there’s a chance he could stick at AA, I think he’ll be sent back to Frederick to begin the 2014 season, particularly since he’s not a versatile player (all of his fielding appearances came at first base) and the Orioles are fairly set at that spot for a few years. In the end, Walker could be auditioning for other teams to give him the big break.
April 25 – Creede Simpson
For Creede, the 2013 season was a mixed bag, punctuated with a trip to the disabled list which cost him a month – not so good when you’re hitting well over .300 as he was. After a solid first half with a .295/4/21/.828 slash line, Simpson tailed off as the season went along to finish with marks of .248/9/49/.719 OPS – however, the home run and RBI numbers were still both good enough to be tops on the team. One asset Creede brought to the table, though, was the ability to play all around the diamond as he played 35 games at first base, two at second, three at third, 35 in left field, and 11 in right. That versatility will likely allow him to move up next year and perform many of the same roles at the next level.
May 2 – Torsten Boss
The .238/7/45/.690 OPS batting line is probably not what Boss was looking for as his 2013 showing with Delmarva, but he was really heading in the wrong direction at the end of July when his average was a puny .219. Returning after a few days out, Boss finished strong, hitting .305 in his last 23 contests to push his average back up. He was also quietly one of the top power producers on the team, finishing fourth in home runs and third in runs batted in. However, one drawback on Torsten’s record is that of being one of just two players to strike out over 100 times this season as he fanned 106 times in 106 games. Boss may move up for 2014, but thus far the Orioles can’t be all that pleased with a .244 career batting mark.
May 9 – Branden Kline
Shortly after Kline was selected as a SotW, his season was ended by a broken ankle. In seven starts, Branden went 1-2 with a fairly pedestrian 5.86 ERA which belied his second-round selection and attendant prospect status. However, there were a few encouraging signs such as the solid 32:14 strikeout:walk ratio in 35 1/3 innings and two quality starts he put together, one being his season debut against Hagerstown where Kline pitched six innings of two-hit shutout ball, and an amazing 13-strikeout performance he managed in just 5 2/3 innings in his final start against Hickory. Branden is healthy enough now, though, to be a representative for the Orioles in the Arizona Fall League, where he will make up some of the innings and experience he lost this season due to the injury. Branden will be the only current Shorebird on that roster, which is mainly made up of players from high-A and AA.
May 16 – Nik Balog
Serving mainly as the designated hitter, Nik hit well enough to have one of the better offensive seasons from a Shorebird player. His .266/3/32/.684 OPS was fairly solid and he paced the team with 29 doubles. There was a reason he served as the DH, though – 8 errors in just 24 games in the field, mostly at first base, led the Shorebirds to exclusively DH Balog after July 6. This was a definite regression considering Balog made just two errors in roughly the same number of chances in 2012 with the GCL Orioles. Unfortunately, Nik is one who could get caught up in a numbers game as a non-drafted free agent who will be 24 by the time next season rolls around. It will be interesting to see if Balog lands in instructional league this fall to work on his fielding, since the bat was at least league average and he could serve as an organizational player down the line.
May 23 – Matt Hobgood
One of the comeback stories this year was the return of Hobgood to a league where he struggled in his first full professional season three years ago. Several procedures later, the results for Matt were good enough (7-3, 3.71 in 63 innings, featuring a 1.41 WHIP) that he was promoted to Frederick for the first time in mid-July. Appearing almost exclusively in relief (one start and loss for Delmarva), Hobgood still managed to pitch 63 innings here and an additional 30 2/3 at Frederick. His numbers for the Keys weren’t quite as sound, as he went 2-1 but had an elevated 5.58 ERA despite a lower 1.30 WHIP in the Carolina League. Matt will probably begin next year at that same level; although he’s certainly fallen behind a number of brighter prospects in the Orioles’ organizational pitching ranks, there’s still a pretty good possibility he could make it all the way up someday.
May 30 – Josh Hader
One of those brighter prospects threatening to pass Matt Hobgood was Josh Hader, a mid-round draft pick from 2012 and local Maryland product who still managed to be the team’s lone All-Star selection this season. In 17 starts, Hader went just 3-6 but had a low 2.65 ERA in 85 innings. All three of his Shorebird victories easily came within the definition of a “quality start”: six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs. Perhaps the only two quibbles were an inordinately high number of unearned runs pushing down his ERA and the fact he walked 42 in 85 innings, which is on the high side. But those flaws didn’t stop the Houston Astros from taking Hader as part of their booty for the services of Bud Norris (along with Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame member L.J. Hoes), and Hader didn’t disappoint his new teammates on the Quad Cities River Bandits, pitching a one-hit gem over six innings in his debut. It’s likely Hader will have at least one more start as the River Bandits made the Midwest League playoffs.
June 6 – Tucker Nathans
One of two undrafted domestic free agents to make the ranks of Shorebird of the Week (the other being Nik Balog), Nathans took advantage of the opportunity presented to him after two seasons in the independent baseball ranks to first get a contract with a major league organization and then play well enough for a mid-season promotion to Frederick. Tucker’s 63-game stint with Delmarva featured a .271/9/38/.804 slash line, so when he advanced to Fredrick he kept the average over the last 45 games (hitting a robust .277) but only getting one homer, 18 knocked in, and a .699 OPS. Nathans was another player whose calling card was his versatility, as he played five different positions in a Delmarva uniform but went one batter at Frederick, adding center field to his repertoire for one game. Considering he’s a little older than his SAL peers – Nathans turns 25 in Novenber – it’s likely Frederick or bust next year.
June 13 – Lucas Herbst
Among those Shorebirds who would qualify for the league batting title, Lucas was the top hitter and put together a solid, consistent line of .276/5/41/.696 OPS for the Shorebirds. Aside from the anomaly of one September game where he was 0-for-5, the only “bad” month Lucas had was hitting .241 in July, and there are several of his peers who didn’t match that for the full season. While he slowed down some after a hot start, coming up May 4 and hitting .303 in that month, with 2 homers and 12 RBI, overall the season was a good positive step for Herbst and it should be enough to maintain his progress up the organizational ladder.
June 20 – Parker Bridwell
Parker was the typical Forrest Gump “box of chocolates” player, because you never knew what you would get. It could be the smooth 14-strikeout, no walk, two hit dismantling of Lakewood he put up August 16, which earned his SAL Pitcher of the Week honors a few days later, or it could be the bitter 10-hit, 9-run 3 2/3 inning outing against the same team May 21. But as the season went on the great performances became more prevalent – six of his eight quality starts occurred in the second half of the season, where he was 4-3, 4.07 compared to 4-6, 5.57 beforehand. The occasion of his SotW selection was immediately after his second-best start, when he eliminated Hickory from the first half title by giving up one run in eight innings, fanning 10. I would be surprised if he wasn’t a #1 or #2 starter for Frederick next season.
June 27 – Steel Russell
I thought we would see more of Steel in the second half, but instead he stuck to his usual diet of about 10 games a month in the lineup. Russell appeared in 42 games, hitting .236 in 140 at-bats with 14 RBI. While that doesn’t seem like much, it was a vest improvement from his 2012 season and showed he could hit a little bit. It may not get him much more than a backup role, either here or with Frederick, but Russell should be playing next year. Having Dad coaching at the big league level doesn’t hurt, either.
July 4 – Matt Taylor
Matt is the player one can point to and say that won-lost records for pitchers can be deceiving. While Matt was one of four pitchers in the SAL to have 13 losses (against only 4 wins) he was by far the best pitcher in the group in terms of ERA at 3.77 and WHIP at 1.41. Granted, he had a high number of unearned runs which held his ERA under 4 runs a game but a lot of those likely contributed to his record. In his second season with the Shorebirds, Matt improved on his ERA (3.77 vs. 4.33), his hits per 9 innings ratio (9.7 to 8.7) and pitched an eight-inning gem over Lexington on July 12, allowing but one hit. I can see Matt being placed in Frederick, although it was surprising a fifth-round pick repeated a level for a full year.
July 11 – Lex Rutledge
Given that Rutledge had a 4-3, 1.45 topline with a 45:16 strikeout:walk ratio in 43 1/3 innings (leading to a WHIP of 1.02) it was no surprise that he was promoted to Frederick shortly after being selected. What was surprising was the subpar numbers Lex turned in there, ballooning to a 7.82 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, allowing 18 hits and walking seven (although he fanned 15.) His Frederick WHIP was almost double that of Delmarva at 1.97. He went from being scored on in just six of 18 Delmarva appearances to giving up runs in five of nine at Frederick. But I don’t think Lex will be back; my inclination is to believe that he will stay with Frederick unless there’s a real numbers game among the staff there.
July 18 – George Barber
Aside from a brief two days at Bowie, Barber bounced between Aberdeen and Delmarva for the 2013 campaign – ironically, he was sent down immediately after I selected him and only played one more game with the Shorebirds the rest of the season. Unfortunately, his numbers were the opposite of what one might expect as Barber went 3-for-9 at Bowie (.333), 15-for-64 with Delmarva (.234), and 12-for-75 at Aberdeen (.160). As a composite, George hit .203/1/6/.531 with the one home run at Aberdeen. While George has a compelling comeback story, I suspect his playing days may be numbered based on age and performance. His 60-game trial I referred to ended up being 46 all told.
July 25 – Roderick Bernadina
As I pointed out in my feature about him, this season has seen Bernadina revert to more of his career means at the plate: the .238/2/29/.615 OPS was around the numbers he’s featured over his pro career. But this was a lost season in the sense that Roderick missed two significant portions of it and his injury at the end of July came at a time where he had hit .278 on the month – by far his best. Had that streak continued into and through August, Bernadina would have finished with a more respectable average in the .250 range; still, that would have been disappointing considering his splashy Shorebird debut month in August 2012 where he hit close to .300 for the period. He just might be one of those guys who repeats here to see if he reverses some other alarming trends, like a worse strikeout:walk ratio for 2013.
August 2 – Dennis Torres
In what was essentially his professional debut, I just missed on my prediction that Torres would pitch between 45 and 50 innings because he closed with 44 2/3. Many of them were pretty good, as Dennis wrapped up 2013 with a 1-3, 3.22 topline and 1.55 WHIP based on 41 hits and 28 walks allowed. That’s the key thing for Torres to work on, particularly as he allowed at least one free pass in his last eight appearances (11 in 15 total innings.) Because of his low-round status and a pretty good crop of pitchers coming up behind him, I think the range of possibilities for 2014 ranges from a release at the end of spring training to a repeat performance in our bullpen.
August 9 – Wynston Sawyer
Behind the plate, Sawyer ended up being the first Shorebirds catcher to actually catch in 80 or more games since Luis Bernardo caught in 81 back in 2009. At the plate Sawyer has a career-high .238 average and set career standards in at-bats, hits, and hit more home runs this season (8) than his first three pro seasons combined (6). And unlike previous seasons, Wynston only played a handful of games at first, allowing him to concentrate on the backstop position basically full-time. He may not yet have the bat for higher levels – although there were promising signs of development there with the .238/8/38/.720 OPS line – but I think Wynston will replace Michael Ohlman as the Keys’ predominant catcher next year.
August 16 – Mark Blackmar
When you go from 1-5, 6.84 as a starter to 3-4, 3.58 as a reliever, it’s clear the trend is toward the bullpen. Declining from a 1.92 WHIP and .357 average against as a starter to a 1.14 WHIP and .241 average given up out of the bullpen is clue number 2. With the drastic splits, one may as well toss out the overall numbers of 4-9, 5.53 with 110 hits allowed in 86 1/3 innings and focus on the bullpen figures, for that’s where Mark figures to toil hereafter. My guess is that Mark will be a repeater here, most likely given the role of pitching 2 to 3 innings per appearance.
August 23 – Bennett Parry
Bennett came all the way from being a late addition to the staff from extended spring training to reliever to pretty solid starter. It was a nice evolution from the lefty, who turned in a 2-2, 3.49 season with a WHIP of 1.30 and a very solid 52:22 strikeout:walk ratio in 59 1/3 innings with Delmarva. You knew he arrived when he twirled back-to-back 6 1/3 inning shutout performances against Kannapolis and Lakewood August 11 and 17, respectively. Since he’s not pitched a full season yet, Parry may start here in April and move up by midseason if his results are similar to this year’s.
August 30 – Greg Lorenzo
The last Shorebird of the Week is often the hardest to pick out. When he set the bar by hitting over .300 across three levels last season, we expected a better season than the .241/2/41/.604 one we received from Greg. Aside from a worse mark as a raw 18-year-old rookie in the Dominican League in 2009, the OPS was by far the worst in Greg’s career. Imagine how many he could have added to the 40 stolen bases he attained with an OBP of .350 instead of .281. He may not have threatened the 68 total which led the league, but 50 would have been in sight. He might be here for another season, at least to start, because he didn’t seize the opportunity to gain on the players ahead of him at the next level.
As is often the case, I had a hard time deciding my Shorebird of the Year – the choice came down to three players. But I went with the one who had the lowest expectations coming into the season because he wasn’t even on the roster at that point.
This year’s Shorebird of the Year is outfielder Lucas Herbst, who beat out Adrian Marin and Parker Bridwell for the honor. It was the consistency I noted above that gave him the nod – Marin tailed off significantly in the last month of the season and Parker (who had some backing from readers of this site) had overall numbers which weren’t all that great. Yet Bridwell was second in the league in strikeouts, and I was fairly torn between giving it to him or Herbst before finally deciding on Lucas.
So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2013. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, in December will be an expanding Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame which should have a class of at least two players for 2013 (as Jonathan Schoop was called up for the September roster expansion) and sometime around the start of spring training I’m going to follow through on a suggestion from a comment and pick out 10 players I think may be new to Delmarva in 2014.
Just because it’s the off-season doesn’t mean the Shorebirds stuff is forgotten until April!