A look at the trade, revisited 2017

November 16, 2017 · Posted in Sports · Comment 

Last year I did a five-part series that studied the legacy of Orioles general manager Dan Duquette. You have likely figured out I’m a baseball fan, and although my big league team of choice is my home region’s Detroit Tigers I follow the Orioles as well because that’s where a lot of my Delmarva Shorebirds end up – if Duquette doesn’t trade them away. At the end of last season fans were bitterly frustrated that the Orioles couldn’t get past the wild card game, and this season they really fumed as players they dealt away for guys who never panned out or simply dismissed in cash deals succeeded for other teams.

So I decided to go ahead after this season’s debacle and follow up on this series, which uses the statistic of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a way to compare player worth. (Of course, cash has no player worth.) But I have also added a new wrinkle in that I went through the Baseball America archives to find all the minor league deals Duquette completed as well, creating a spreadsheet of all the deals and who’s still involved – players involved in trades can make deals live on if they are traded again by the new team, and this has happened a few times.

But thanks to catcher Gabriel Lino signing a minor league pact with the Cardinals last offseason, I could close the book on the entire 2012 Duquette season. Lino was the last remaining piece the Phillies received when they sent us Jim Thome for the playoff push, and in four subsequent seasons Lino bounced around the Phillies’ system without making the big club.

2012 was, as you may expect, a winning year for Dan, but not overwhelmingly so: his nine deals netted a total of 5.1 WAR while the players he gave up realized a cumulative (-1.3) WAR for their teams. Oddly enough, in strictly WAR terms Duquette’s worst trade was his very first as he acquired backup catcher Taylor Teagarden for two minor leaguers, Randy Henry and Greg Miclat. Neither Henry nor Miclat ever made the Show, but Teagarden had a (-0.6) WAR in two sparsely-used Oriole seasons before leaving as a free agent after the 2013 season.

The best deal he made paid dividends for awhile: acquiring pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom from the Rockies for “ace” Jeremy Guthrie. Hammel provided 3 Wins Above Replacement in two seasons before leaving, while Lindstrom (0.7 WAR) was the bait to later bring in Arizona pitcher Joe Saunders (0.8 WAR as a 2012 rental.) That total of 4.5 WAR was most of Dan’s seasonal success; meanwhile, not only did the Rockies strike out with Guthrie’s (-0.7) WAR as a member of the Rockies, they flipped him to the Royals for Jonathan Sanchez and another (-0.5) WAR. That accounted for most of the overall failure among all teams. (Guthrie was far more successful with Kansas City, so the Rockies were really burned.)

I can’t close the book quite yet on 2013, although a significant part of the Duquette nightmare may soon stop haunting him. If, as most experts expect, Jake Arrieta decides to move on from the Cubs as a prized free agent, that meter of 21.3 WAR he’s accrued with them will stop running. While that’s by far the worst offense of the 29.3 WAR that Duquette gave up (compared to receiving just 2.4 WAR in a staggering 21 deals, mostly on a minor league level) there are still a number of players who are working both for and against him as a result.

The Arrieta deal also included relief pitcher Pedro Strop, who has put up 5.4 WAR of his own and remains Cubs property. Also working against Duquette is a player he could not have known about, but one who will be sporting a World Series ring. As part of the trade with Houston that brought pitcher Bud Norris, the Orioles sent the Astros their “Competitive Balance” draft pick, and the Astros used it in the 2014 Draft to select outfielder Derek Fisher and his 0.4 WAR as a raw rookie this season. Also adding 0.7 WAR to that total against Duquette is Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who was originally the property of the Milwaukee Brewers but came to Houston with another since-released player in a trade where the Brewers received (among others) then-minor league pitcher Josh Hader, who was also part of the Norris deal.

So if you assume all these players except Arrieta stay put, this will leave the Cubs’ Strop and the Astros’ Fiers and Fisher as active remnants of 2013 trades against Duquette. But Dan has three on his side as well.

In the Arrieta trade, Dan picked up the Pride of Pigtown, Steve Clevenger. While Steve only had a 0.3 WAR with Baltimore, his best asset was being part of the trade with Seattle to bring Mark Trumbo. Barring a trade, they will have two more seasons of Mark to add value to the 1.1 WAR he’s already brought on. (The best way to do so: play him strictly as a DH because his defensive WAR is horribly negative.)

A much lesser known trade is the other wildcard. In early 2013 the Orioles unloaded veteran pitcher Luis Ayala to Atlanta and got a minor league pitcher back in Chris Jones. There was a little talk about Jones as a prospect, but three fruitless seasons later he was shipped to the Angels for two minor leaguers, outfielder Natanael Delgado and infielder Erick Salcedo. Delgado was a fringe prospect who last played with Delmarva and missed all of 2017 with an injury, but Salcedo has moved up the system to Bowie.

When your most successful trade in terms of net WAR comes because the player you got never left Norfolk (Trayvon Robinson) but the guy you gave up was brutal – Robert Andino and a (-0.3) WAR in a few months with Seattle – that’s a year worth forgetting.

Analyzing the 2014 season is much simpler: just 11 trades, which Duquette has won by so far a count of 8.4 WAR to 2.6 WAR.

Perhaps the best trade of the Duquette era was the one that brought Brad Brach (6.4 WAR and counting) from San Diego for a minor league pitcher who returned here a season later to retire, Devin Jones. Devin never got past AA, but Brach piles on the WAR.

The only player remaining against Duquette from his deals that season is from the second-most reviled deal behind Arrieta – the trade with Boston where rental pitcher Andrew Miller came in exchange for Eduardo Rodriguez (4.7 WAR). Unless Rodriguez has a long Boston career, though, 2014 looks like it may be Duquette’s best showing as these trades were his best and worst, respectively.

2015 was another step backward for Duquette. It seems sometimes that the more trades he makes, the bigger hole he digs, and this was the case here. In the case of the 2015 season, 11 of the 16 deals were cash transactions one way or the other, including a new and unique transaction where pitcher Chris Lee was acquired from Houston for two international bonus slots, assigned piles of money granted by Major League Baseball for teams to use to sign international talent (or deal away, as the Orioles did.) Lee is still in the Orioles organization so this is a trade which could pan out (there’s really no way of knowing who Houston acquired with their money), but by and large most of these trades were made to bolster the minor leagues. Six of the eleven cash deals closed out with no WAR acquired as the player never made the big leagues.

As the time period is more recent, several of these deals are still open and the Orioles have a combined 0.3 WAR on their side against 10.0 WAR for their opponents. The bad news is that the prospects for improvement on Baltimore’s side are relatively slim, and could decline further as three players in question – catchers Chris O’Brien and Audry Perez (neither of whom have played for the Orioles) and pitcher Richard Rodriguez [lit up for a (-0.3) WAR this season] are all minor league free agents. Besides the aforementioned Lee, the only player who could add value to Baltimore is pitcher Daniel Rodriguez, who has been loaned to the Mexican League for the last three seasons.

On the other hand, the list of players Duquette parted with (and were acquired in subsequent trades by the new teams) may give fans even more heartburn in coming seasons. In order of their departure, they include Stephen Tarpley, a pitcher who the Pirates later flipped to the Yankees for pitcher Ivan Nova (3.5 WAR) and pitcher Steven Brault and his (-0.3) WAR for Pittsburgh. Tarpley and Brault were the price for the Travis Snider (1 WAR) outfield experiment that lasted less than a season.

Another player who has a chance to hurt the Orioles someday is a minor league pitcher for the Dodgers named Josh Sborz – yet another “Competitive Balance” draft pick Duquette dealt away for 2015 (in this case for Chris O’Brien and another departed player.)

When once again the best trade you make is offloading a player [in this case, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and (-0.3) WAR to the Pirates for cash] you know it’s a bad year. The worst trade from 2015 could get a whole lot more bad before it’s finished as the long-departed rental outfielder from Milwaukee Gerardo Parra [(-1.1) WAR] cost the Orioles promising pitcher Zach Davies (6 WAR and counting – he’s under team control until 2022.) It could be another Arrieta in the making.

A more subdued Duquette limited the damage in 2016, making only 13 trades and just 4 for cash. He also picked up pitcher Edgar Olmos from the Cubs for nothing – originally this was for a player to be named later, but no one was ever named. Olmos filled a minor league slot for a season before leaving.

Surprisingly few players are still active from the 2016 deals. I told you earlier about Mark Trumbo, who is adding to the 2016 composite WAR of 0.3, as well as Natanael Delgado and Erick Salcedo. The other player who could add to the Orioles meager total is minor league pitcher Brandon Barker, who the Orioles received as part of a salary (pitcher Brian Matusz) and 2016 “Competitive Balance” draft choice (minor league catcher Brett Cumberland, who is still active) dump deal with the Braves. Cumberland could add to the 2.0 WAR so far compiled by opponents, but it’s more likely short-term that pitcher Ariel Miranda [1.8 WAR, sent to Seattle for pitcher Wade Miley and his (-0.6) WAR] will stockpile Wins Above Replacement. Others who could haunt the Orioles are farmhand pitcher Jean Cosme [sent to San Diego for pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (-0.2) WAR before being waived at the tail end of 2016] and a rental of utility man and repeat Oriole Steve Pearce (0.1 WAR) that netted Tampa Bay minor league catcher Jonah Heim.

So going forward it’s Trumbo, Delgado, Salcedo, and Barker against Cumberland, Miranda, Cosme, and Heim. Only two of them are currently in the bigs, so the totals may not move much in future seasons.

Adding up the first five seasons of Duquette’s legacy, he’s accrued a total WAR of 16.5, or about 3.3 per season. However, opponents have collectively gained a total of 42.6 WAR – roughly 8.5 per season.

This brings us to 2017, which was an extremely busy season for Duquette because he had a new weapon at his disposal.

Where teams could previously only trade international bonus slots, changes to the rules eliminated the slots and created a free pool of money teams could parcel out as they wished – and Duquette really wished! Eight different minor league players were acquired with the international bonus pool cash, and eight others were standard cash deals. I’ll pick up where I left off last season.

  • Trade 42 (November 30, 2016) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Logan Verrett from New York Mets.

The Orioles tried to get Verrett before as a Rule 5 pick in 2014 but ended up waiving him, losing him to the Texas Rangers before they returned him to the Mets a month into the season. When the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent, it made Verrett available and Baltimore jumped at the chance. But Verrett only made four appearances for the Orioles, compiling no WAR before being outrighted in September and allowed to become a free agent at season’s end.

  • Trade 43 (January 6, 2017) – Orioles trade P Yovani Gallardo and cash to Seattle Mariners for OF Seth Smith.

In an effort to shore up their outfield, the Orioles traded from what they thought was their strength as Gallardo was a sixth member of what was figured to be a five-man rotation of Tillman, Gausman, Bundy, Miley, and Jimenez. Instead, Smith (0.3 WAR) became a fourth outfielder with the ascension of Trey Mancini and figures to leave as a free agent. Gallardo, though, was even worse for Seattle as he put up a (-0.1) WAR and he’s a free agent, too.

  • Trade 44 (February 9, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Ryan Moseley to Los Angeles Dodgers for P Vidal Nuno.

Moseley spent the season in the low reaches of the Dodgers’ system, while Nuno made 12 relatively brutal appearances for the Orioles for a (-0.5) WAR. Outrighted in August, Nuno elected free agency at season’s end and was one of the first to sign elsewhere, inking a deal with the Rays.

  • Trade 45 (February 10, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Gabriel Ynoa from New York Mets.

A solid acquisition so far as Ynoa gave the Orioles a WAR of 0.5 in nine appearances and is under team control for several seasons to come. He’s being discussed as a rotation candidate for 2018.

  • Trade 46 (February 21, 2017) – Orioles trade cash or a player to be named later to New York Yankees for P Richard Bleier.

This turned out to be one of the best trades Duquette made in terms of net WAR as Bleier put up a 1.3 WAR for the season for cash. Again, Duquette snagged a controllable piece of his bullpen for very little cost after the Yankees designated him for assignment a few days earlier.

  • Trade 47 (March 28, 2017) – Orioles trade cash or a player to be named later to Philadelphia Phillies for P Alec Asher.

Asher fits the profile of the other pitchers acquired in this time period – controllable with a lot of potential and coming at little risk. He wasn’t as successful as the others since he put up a 0.0 WAR in 24 appearances for the Orioles.

  • Trade 48 (April 6, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of P Andrew Faulkner from Texas Rangers.

Faulkner, who spent parts of the previous two seasons with Texas, didn’t make it to the Orioles and was outrighted to the minors at season’s end, becoming a free agent shortly afterward.

  • Trade 49 (April 7, 2017) – Orioles acquire P Miguel Castro from Colorado Rockies for player to be named later. Minor league P Jon Keller was sent to Rockies to complete the trade on September 7.

Another refugee of being designated for assignment by his former team, Castro was a prized member of the Orioles bullpen during the season, making 39 appearances and compiling a 0.9 WAR. He has five seasons of team control left. Keller was once a prospect mentioned frequently by Orioles’ brass but he’s had back-to-back poor seasons and may have needed a change of scenery.

  • Trade 50 (April 10, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Joe Gunkel to Los Angeles Dodgers for cash.

This trade is noteworthy because it closed the book on a trade from 2015 (Trade 29) that sent Alejandro De Aza to Boston. Gunkel, who had been designated for assignment three days earlier, once was thought to have a chance to make the Orioles’ staff, but he never grabbed the brass ring. So that trade went down as a loss. As for the Dodgers, they tried to sneak Gunkel through waivers 2 1/2 weeks later but lost him to Miami, where he finished the season with a demotion to AA Jacksonville.

  • Trade 51 (April 13, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Milwaukee Brewers for P Damian Magnifico.

The first of several trades involving the Orioles’ bonus pool, Magnifico (another DFA) didn’t stay long in the Orioles’ minor league system as you’ll see.

  • Trade 52 (April 14, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Seattle Mariners for minor league P Paul Fry.

Fry managed to spend two days in April on the Orioles’ active roster but still awaits his major league debut. If you haven’t noticed a pattern, Fry was also a DFA by the Mariners. Dan Duquette was becoming adept at scouring the waiver wire.

  • Trade 53 (April 14, 2017) – Orioles trade P Oliver Drake to Milwaukee Brewers for cash.

Having designated Drake for assignment the day before, the Orioles got what they could for the longtime farmhand who worked his way up the system. Drake turned out to be a nice pickup for Milwaukee as he chipped in 0.2 WAR for them as a setup man.

  • Trade 54 (April 17, 2017) – Orioles trade P Parker Bridwell to Los Angeles Angels for cash.

Another player Dan Duquette had to DFA, shipping Bridwell off turned out to be the worst trade Duquette made as Bridwell came up with a WAR of 2.0 in part of a season.

  • Trade 55 (May 4, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of minor league C Armando Araiza from Atlanta Braves.

After making 13 trades in a row involving pitching, Dan worked on the other side of the battery in this minor league deal. Araiza spent most of his season with Frederick but also stopped with Bowie and Norfolk.

  • Trade 56 (May 6, 2017) – Orioles trade P Damian Magnifico to Los Angeles Angels for minor league P Jordan Kipper.

It turned out that Magnifico made one appearance for the Angels and put no WAR up, while Kipper started out with Norfolk and was demoted to Bowie.

  • Trade 57 (May 20, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Chicago White Sox for minor league P Alex Katz.

Katz spent the remaining season in Frederick, which was a promotion from where the White Sox had him – but the results were pedestrian at best.

  • Trade 58 (June 4, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of IF Ruben Tejada from the New York Yankees.

Looking for a backup infielder with experience, the acquisition came in handy for a time when J.J. Hardy broke his wrist a couple weeks later. But Tejada wasn’t the answer, putting up a WAR of 0.0 and eventually being outrighted in August. He was granted free agency in October.

  • Trade 59 (July 2, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to New York Yankees for minor league P Matt Wotherspoon.

Matt simply switched International League franchises in the deal and put up reasonably good numbers for Norfolk. With another couple seasons to go before he hits minor league free agency, he has an outside chance of making it to the Orioles’ bullpen in the next season or two as a late bloomer.

  • Trade 60 (July 2, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Los Angeles Dodgers for P Jason Wheeler.

For Wheeler this was his second cash deal in less than a month as the Dodgers had similarly acquired him from the Twins, for whom he had debuted and made 2 appearances in May. The Dodgers had already outrighted Jason to AAA, so the Orioles made a modest enough offer to them to take Wheeler off their hands. For the Orioles he never left Norfolk and was granted free agency in October.

  • Trade 61 (July 5, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to New York Mets for minor league IF Milton Ramos.

Local fans are quite familiar with this deal because Ramos went from the SAL’s Columbia Fireflies (who had played here in May) to the Shorebirds. While Milton was a top-30 prospect with the Mets his stock had fallen off in the previous year, making him expendable and perhaps in need of a scenery change. If this ever accrues to the Orioles’ side of the ledger it won’t likely be before the start of the next decade.

  • Trade 62 (July 7, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Milwaukee Brewers for minor league P Aaron Myers.

Another trade to help the Shorebirds, Myers was effective here albeit in limited time due to injuries. Like Ramos, it’s at least two to three seasons before Myers would even be considered big league help so this was another trade to bolster a weak area of the organization.

  • Trade 63 (July 29, 2017) – Orioles trade OF Hyun-Soo Kim, minor league P Garrett Cleavinger, and international bonus pool cash to Philadelphia Phillies for P Jeremy Hellickson and cash.

This was a trade that attempted to send a message that the Orioles weren’t sellers. Because Trey Mancini had taken so well to the outfield and Kim was never proven against left-handed pitching, the Korean import was glued to the bench. Moving to Philadelphia wasn’t a favor to Kim in that regard as he had a (-0.9) WAR and is now a free agent, having completed his initial two-year pact coming over from Korea. Cleavinger moved laterally at the AA level but wasn’t very good; however, he has a decent track record to build from and will likely be the last piece standing from this deal. Hellickson bombed with the Orioles as he also put up a (-0.9) WAR and is also a free agent.

  • Trade 64 (July 31, 2017) – Orioles purchase the contract of minor league P Yefry Ramirez from New York Yankees.

Originally an infielder in the Diamondbacks’ system, a position conversion and different organization saw Ramirez rocket from rookie league at the end of 2015 to AA to begin 2017. There are some who believe he may be a possible September callup in 2018, if not sooner, as their successful pilfering of the Yankee treasure trove of minor league pitching continues.

  • Trade 65 (July 31, 2017) – Orioles trade minor league P Tobias Myers to Tampa Bay Rays for IF Tim Beckham.

It will be awhile before we know the impact of Myers, who was traded off the short-season Aberdeen roster, but Beckham was an immediate hit after hit for the Orioles and compiled a WAR of 2.0 in just 2 months, making it the best trade Duquette has made to date for 2017. With the departure of J.J. Hardy the shortstop position is now Beckham’s.

  • Trade 66 (August 5, 2017) – Orioles trade international bonus pool cash to Texas Rangers for minor league IF Brallan Perez.

Another trade to boost the low minors, Perez moved laterally as he spent most of his season in the Carolina League with either the Rangers’ Down East Wood Ducks affiliate or the Frederick Keys. He had great numbers with Frederick so maybe the change did Perez good.

  • Trade 67 (August 9, 2017) – Orioles trade P Steve Johnson to Chicago White Sox for cash.

Johnson, who many fondly remember from his first go-round in the organization – he pitched for the Orioles from 2012-13 and again in 2015 – came back after spending time in the Texas and Seattle organizations but did not escape AAA this season. Once again he will be a free agent this winter – an anti-climactic trade to finish the trading season for Duquette, who so far is winning the WAR war 3.6 to 1.2 thanks to all those cash deals.

And Dan may have hit upon a winning strategy when it comes to his international bonus pool money because the Orioles’ Dominican program is terrible. Why spend thousands of dollars trying to develop two teams’ worth of players who rarely make it past the low minors and haven’t sent a player to the big leagues since 2010? Eduardo Rodriguez is the last DSL Oriole player to make the big leagues and that’s when he pitched there. This season they cut it down to one team and perhaps spent the money saved in selectively acquiring guys who already have a track record or could fill a need. Because the 2015 and 2016 draft classes seem weak in depth (meaning Delmarva and Frederick weren’t very good) Dan shored the teams up with a handful of players from other clubs. They may never make the major leagues but they stand a little better chance than a typical overseas player.

Time will tell whether these trades will pan out, but I think this will turn out to be Duquette’s best year because he doesn’t really have any scary good players out against him (except perhaps the mercurial Parker Bridwell.) Yet if a couple of these sleeper picks turn out to be good or if Beckham is a long-term solution at short, he will have some winners this time to brighten up an otherwise subpar season.

 

 

 

Odds and ends number 84

After resurrecting one long-dormant series over the weekend, today we make it two. It hasn’t quite been a year since I did an ‘odds and ends” and there’s not a year’s worth of stuff, but the creative juices are flowing anyway.

Let’s begin with some good news from our national pastime. If you recall, back in July the Shorebirds made headlines for playing the longest game in their 21-season history, spreading out the drama against the Lexington Legends over two days thanks to a storm that broke over the stadium after 20 innings were in the books. It took just one inning the next evening to settle Delmarva’s 7-6 defeat, but the contest was the Fans’ Choice for a MiLBY Award. It had (ironically enough) 21% of the vote among 10 contenders. (Alas, the actual MiLBY went to some other game.)

The other sad part about that story, besides the folks at the Minor League Baseball site misidentifying us as Frederick: it turned out that one inning of baseball would be all that was played that evening as another heavy storm blew through just at scheduled game time. (I remember it well because I was at work.)

The Shorebirds were also a MiLBY bridesmaid in the blooper department with their September “goose delay.

And while Astros-Dodgers didn’t have the same cachet as the Cubs finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat last season, the 28 million viewers of Game 7 completed a World Series where it again kicked the NFL’s ass (as it should, since football season doesn’t start until the World Series is over anyway.) And with the erosion of the NFL’s appeal thanks to the anthem protests and – frankly – rather boring games where fundamentals are ignored, the window of NFL dominance may be closing.

Speaking of things that are dominant, a few weeks back I detailed the effort to bring the sanity of right-to-work to Sussex County, Delaware. An update from the Daily Signal detailed some of Big Labor’s reaction when it came up again. And again I respond – having the choice to join the union is better than not having the job at all.

Delaware was also the subject of one of a series of pieces that ran over the summer and fall from my friends at Energy Tomorrow. They cleverly chose a theme for each of the 50 states and the First State’s July piece was on “the beach life in Delaware.” Now what I found most interesting was just how little energy they produce compared to how much they consume, given they have no coal mines and little prospect of fracking or offshore drilling. And I was surprised how little tourism contributes to their state economy given the beach traffic in the summer.

Maryland’s, which came out last month, is quite different, as it has a companion piece about prosthetics. It obviously made sense with Johns Hopkins in the state, but what struck me was the quote included from Governor Larry Hogan. He’s the guy who betrayed the energy industry by needlessly banning fracking in the state. Unfortunately, Larry seems to suffer from the perception that energy companies are solely interested in profit when the industry knows they have to be good neighbors and environmentally responsible, too.

That’s quite all right: he doesn’t need those 22,729 votes in Allegany and Garrett counties when he can have a million liberals around the state say, “oh, Hogan banned fracking” and vote for Ben Jealous or Rushern Baker anyway.

Regularly I receive updates from the good folks at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, which tends to look at state politics in a conservative manner. But I can’t say this particular case is totally conservative or for limited government:

If Maryland lawmakers want to get serious about combating climate change and reducing pollution, they can simply tax the emission of carbon and other pollutants, thereby encouraging lower emissions and greater efficiency. No one likes a new tax, but it is a much cheaper and more effective way to cut pollution and fight climate change than a byzantine policy like the renewables mandate. Besides, revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce other taxes and fund other environmental initiatives. Problem is, though a carbon tax would be good for the environment and human health, it wouldn’t funnel money to politicians’ friends in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

Maryland’s renewables standard isn’t about the environment and human health; it’s about money.

The last two sentences are the absolute truth, but the remainder of the excerpt is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” If the state indeed enacted a carbon tax, businesses and residents would waste no time fleeing the state for greener (pun intended) pastures. You can bet your bottom dollar that a carbon tax would be enacted on top of, not in place of, all the other taxes and fees we have.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz. Can you guess who said this?

Soon, our states will be redrawing their Congressional and state legislative district lines. It’s called redistricting, and it will take place in 2021, after the next Census takes place. That may seem far off, but the time to get started on this issue is now.

This is our best chance to eliminate the partisan gerrymandering that has blocked progress on so many of the issues we all care about. Simply put, redistricting has the potential to be a major turning point for our democracy. But we need to be prepared.

Maybe if I give you the next line you’ll have the answer.

That’s where the National Democratic Redistricting Committee comes in. Led by Eric Holder, my former Attorney General, they’re the strategic hub for Democratic activity leading up to redistricting. In partnership with groups like OFA, the NDRC is building the infrastructure Democrats need to ensure a fair outcome.

Our former President is now involved in this fight for a “fair” outcome – “fair” being defined as gerrymandered like Maryland is, I suppose.

To be honest, we won’t ever have truly fair districts until the concept of “majority-minority” districts is eliminated and districts are drawn by a computer program that strictly pays attention to population and boundaries such as county, city, or township lines or even major highways. With the GIS mapping we have now it’s possible to peg population exactly by address.

And if you figure that most people with common interests tend to gather together anyway – particularly in an economic sense – simply paying attention to geography and creating “compact and contiguous” districts should ensure fair representation. To me it’s just as wrong to have an Ohio Ninth Congressional District (where I used to live) that runs like a shoestring along the southern shore of Lake Erie and was created so as to put incumbent Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur in the same district – Kaptur won that primary – as it is to have a Maryland Third Congressional District that looks like a pterodactyl. When I was growing up, the Ninth basically covered the city of Toledo and its suburbs where we then lived but as the city lost population they had to take territory from the Fifth District that surrounded it at the time. After the 1980 census they decided to follow us and take the eastern half of Fulton County, west of Toledo – much to my chagrin, since my first election was the one Kaptur beat a one-term Republican. (She’s been there that long.) Since then, the Ninth has been pulled dramatically eastward along the lakeshore to the outskirts of Cleveland, connected at one point by a bridge.

Finally, I guess I can go to what one might call the “light-hearted stack of stuff.” Again from MPPI, when it came to the Washington Metro and how to pay for it, this was a tax proposal I could really get behind. I’m just shocked that it would make $200 million a year.

On that scary note we’ll see how long it takes before I get to the next rendition of odds and ends.

Chalk talk

October 2, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, NFL News, Personal stuff, Politics, Sports · Comments Off on Chalk talk 

Over the summer in Salisbury, there has been a controversy over a plaque in front of the courthouse that honors a native of what would become Wicomico County after his death. Brigadier General John Henry Winder was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican-American War, but he also played a role in the War Between the States as a military prison commander in the Confederate army, and that trivial fact has enraged a certain segment of the community.

The plaque itself dates from the mid-1960s, as it was placed by a commission created to mark the centennial of the Civil War. Its original location along U.S. 13 made it a target for wayward drivers, so it was relocated in 1983 to its present location on the front yard of the old county courthouse, facing south along East Main Street. (The old courthouse itself fronts North Division Street, so the plaque is sort of off to the side. In truth, visitors to the courthouse seldom see the monument as it’s on the back side of the more recent addition to the county’s halls of justice, where most enter.)

Last week an incident at the courthouse reignited the uproar, as two men were charged with malicious destruction of property after chalking up the building and walks leading up to it with various slogans and phrases indicating their displeasure with the monument’s presence.

With that background in mind, know that I decided to drop by an event on Friday that I’ve been meaning to check out but hadn’t. The final edition of “Fridays at Five” for the year was this past Friday and even though I had a family function later that evening I decided to go scan the scene. As parties go, it was comparatively modest: a beer truck and team of two DJs surrounded by a host of games to amuse the partygoers. But there were also a couple of buckets of chalk there and I think these gentlemen weren’t through with their messaging.

Yes, these guys were just the life of the party, all right.

And not only were they being blowhards about a dead subject – the plaque’s not going anywhere fast unless another criminal act is perpetrated – but they’re not too bright, either. “Buget”? (He tried to fit a “d” in after it was pointed out to him.)

While he’s pretty close on the number, there’s a reason it’s so high: sequestration. It didn’t seem like anything else on the budget was subject to it, but something that’s Constitutionally mandated was. And the FY18 defense budget had bipartisan support.

Since the chalk was going to be used anyway, I had my own little message, set off to the side.

Because I’m not a professional chalker, this is what it says: “Let history be history, work to a better future.”

I say just leave the Winder plaque where it is, because it’s not hurting anyone and nary a complaint had been made about it for 33 years until a certain president was elected. Now if they want to commemorate other things that occurred there, let them go through the proper channels (since I believe these are state-sponsored monuments) and see if there can be monuments to the lynchings or slave trading that may have taken place in downtown Salisbury.

With so many more important issues and problems in our community, worrying about a plaque seems a waste of time. Notice I’ve been relatively quiet about the whole NFL kneeling for the National Anthem thing because there are more important things in life for me to obsess over – if NFL players want to cut their collective economic throats, people can do other things on Sunday. I don’t really worry about football season until the World Series is over, anyway.

And with the news of the Las Vegas massacre, it’s a reminder that we have serious issues which demand that we hug our loved ones a little tighter and not be as offended with things we don’t wish to read.

DLGWGTW: October 1, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

My argument regarding federal workers from last week went on:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

I’ll start the new stuff with some thoughts on infrastructure, in agreement with a trucker friend regarding the expansion of several highways across the bridge:

“You eliminate congestion by building more and separate roads. That is the only way.”

Very true. For example, imagine if the state had completed I-97 as envisioned to Richmond – then people may have used it as an alternate to I-95. The same would hold true if the feds, Maryland and Delaware would extend the current Delaware Route 1 corridor from I-95 to Dover as a badged spur of I-95 to Salisbury, providing a limited access, 70 mph link across Delaware,

Since many people consider U.S. 13 an alternate route to I-95 to avoid Baltmore and D.C. why not give them better options?

I’ve said this for years, and it still holds true: to succeed this area needs better infrastructure and access for goods to reach larger, more populated markets.

Yes, there was a big National Anthem controversy last Sunday. But my “boycott” of the NFL has been for the last several years because I agree the play has been awful (this coming from a coach.)

I’ve noticed that too. Obviously you can’t throw out the size and speed differences, but a team like the ’72 Dolphins or Lombardi-era Packers would mop up the floor with most of these teams because they played better fundamental football.

Another friend of mine contends that we shouldn’t boycott the NFL for the actions of a few. But if the economic juggernaut that is the NFL went away, there would still be college football, right? I’m not so sure:

Maybe this year, and the next. But as the issues with long-term brain damage percolate more and more, and the big money is no longer to be found at the end of the rainbow for the players, you may find in a decade or so that the college game will begin to wither, too. You’ll lose the FCS and small FBS schools first, but eventually we may be down to a small number of programs.

But the big rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State would go on, right?

Being from Toledo I know the importance of that rivalry. But if parents aren’t letting their kids play football for fear of long-term injury, the pool of talent necessarily will shrink. Unlike other sports, football doesn’t seem to have a foreign pipeline of talent to choose from.

Turning to a more local protest, who knew that chalk could be so controversial?

It’s chalk. People chalk up the sidewalks at 3rd Friday and no one bats an eye. Unfortunately, since there’s no real chance of rain in the forecast some county employee had to take a half-hour to hose it off.

I have some photos that may make for a good post later this week, so stay tuned.

Yet the protests ignore larger local issues, such as job creation, as a letter to the local newspaper pointed out in a backhanded way. But I don’t.

Unfortunately, right now (gas station and convenience store jobs are) where the market is. And while we have a governor who seems to be interested in bringing good-paying jobs – jobs that add value to commodities, not just the same semi-skilled positions we already have too many of – our legislature seems uninterested in assisting him because they cater to the REAL state industry – serving the federal government.

But the best way to stay out of poverty is following rules in this order: finish school, find a job, get married, then have children, Too many people do these things in the wrong order (particularly the last one) and end up working low-wage dead-end jobs.

Now someone did note that the best way to stay out of poverty is for all to work and not have kids, but if everyone did that we’d be extinct in a century or less. So that’s not realistic.

In a similar vein, I had to help a gubernatorial candidate understand things, too.

So look at the map of Maryland. The area around Washington, D.C. is light blue and green while the western panhandle and Eastern Shore are varying shades of orange. But this is deceptive in a way because median income around Washington is so high that it pulls the average way up and makes this area look worse by comparison.

Then consider the current and previous sources of wealth for various regions of the state: in the western panhandle it used to be coal and could have been natural gas had Governor Hogan not been shortsighted enough to ban fracking, which could have increased their score.

As you get closer to Washington, the source of wealth is the American taxpayer, either directly via working for the federal government or indirectly as many companies headquarter there to be closer to that taxpayer-provided manna.

The Baltimore area used to be industrial, but those jobs went away and now they are heavily into services, Some jobs are good and some menial, but too many have no jobs.

Finally, in a crescent around from Carroll County through the Eastern Shore, agriculture is heavy and in our area chicken is king. We have a share of the tourist dollar in season, but the backbone is agriculture.

People who talk about one Maryland are all wet, in my humble opinion.

But it also makes things deceptive in terms of “prosperity.” One can live on the median salary rather well here because housing is inexpensive but struggle mightily in the urban areas where rent is twice as high.

I agree there should be more of a focus on vocational education, though. Not everyone is college material – and I don’t say that in a bad way. Many youth have abilities that won’t reflect on the ACT but will reflect in the real world.

See, I’m bipartisan and can find common ground with people like Alec Ross. It’s hard with some others though. Take tax reform for example.

You know, when I read Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (or pretty much any Democrat, for that matter) talking about taxes it bring to mind the old Beatles song:

“Should five percent appear too small/Be thankful I don’t take it all.”

I remember old Bill Clinton telling us he worked so hard but couldn’t give us a middle class tax cut. But Bush did.

Here, read this and educate yourselves. This is one I can’t claim.

Yet when Andy Harris discusses it, I find a lot of misinformed people who love taxes come out of the woodwork. This one whined about the 10% bracket becoming 12% as a tax on the poor, but leaving out one key fact:

What Ben Frey forgot to mention is that the standard deduction will practically double. So if you had a taxable income of $18,650 as a married couple (the top of the 10% bracket) would you rather pay 10% of that or 12% of $7,350 with the much larger standard deduction ($24,000 vs. $12,700)?

Wanna try again?

Then I added:

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Yes, it’s more vague than I would prefer but you need to have a starting point and you can make your own decision on it.

Admittedly, Cheryl Everman (a former candidate herself and longtime lefty in these parts) came up with the point that the individual exemption goes as well – and that the plan as presented doesn’t get specific about the child care credit. It’s true, but the plan could still result in savings.

The one weakness with this “family of 4” line of argument is that we don’t know what the child tax credit will be nor the changes to the EITC as they may apply. So your mileage may vary.

But to address the initial argument, the married couple would still benefit because the two individual exemptions only equal $8,100 while the additional standard deduction is $11,300. In other words, they could make more gross income. So instead of creeping into the low end of the 15% bracket, they would fall into the 12% bracket.

And when someone asked for taxpayer input on the new tax code, I gave her mine:

Okay, here’s my rewrite of the tax code:

Sixteenth Amendment: repealed.
Backup withholding: eliminated.
Consumption tax: enacted.
Federal government: rightsized.

Oh, did that lady whine! She got on this whole tangent about paying for stuff, so I had to play bad cop.

Spare me. You obviously have little understanding of the proper role of the various levels (federal, state, and local) of government.

Please avail yourself to two resources: the Constitution, which spells out the role and functions of the federal government, paying particular attention to Article 1, Section 8 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the FairTax book, which advocates for a consumption-based tax system as opposed to income-based.

If you get the concepts spelled out therein, you will understand perfectly my succinct answer to the “rewrite of the tax code” question.

The conversation also turned back to health care:

Employers pass the increases in premium along to their employees by increasing their share of the cost.

Those “subsidies” don’t come out of thin air either, because somewhere along the line our taxes will have to edge up to pay for them.

And that “sabotage” you pin on Republicans is thwarting a bailout to the insurance companies. The “risk corridor” concept was fatally flawed to begin with because it assumed the market would be a net equal when instead more and more people demand “free stuff.”

It sounds to me like you just want us to submit to having the government pay for everything, forgetting that the government gets its money from all of us. What was so wrong with fee-for-service anyway?

Give us single-payer and taxes will have to go so high that we will be in a real-life “Atlas Shrugged” although I fear we’re not far from there anyway. (You seem like the type that needs to broaden her horizons and read that book.)

Our Senator Chris Van Hollen joined in the “tax cuts for the rich” budget fun, too.

Let me hit you with this then: if we had a corporate tax rate of zero we would only have a roughly $420 billion budget hole to fill. Why not cut the tax rate and see if it increases revenue because businesses may be inclined to expand if they could keep more of what they make?

Personally I couldn’t care less if the Waltons get a $52 billion tax break because their ancestors took the risk in starting a department store. (If you don’t think it’s a risk, consider how many have failed in the last 30 years.) So whether we have the highest business tax in the world or not, ask yourself how much risk is the government taking by sticking their hand into corporate pockets?

And as for those who argue over whether debt is a Republican or Democrat problem: look in the mirror. The fact is we couldn’t tax our way out of debt given current spending levels without significantly increasing taxes on everyone, and I mean everyone.

If you really want low taxes and a balanced budget, you pretty much have one option: sunset Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare. Just ask the CBO (page 10 here):

“Today, spending on Social Security and the major health care programs constitutes 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, more than the average of 37 percent over the past 50 years. If current laws generally stayed the same, that figure would increase to 67 percent by 2047.”

We already have a steeply progressive tax system, so the dirty little secret is that those like Chris Van Hollen are doing their best to make the middle class the lower class and certain elites even more prosperous.

Finally, I promised you last week I’d go into my interaction with a Congressional candidate. One of the Democrat opponents of Andy Harris, Allison Galbraith, was up in arms about the replacement of rules established by a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Now, I’m probably more in tune with the subject than 99% of the population because I’ve written about it several times in the Patriot Post, and the DeVos change was the most recent. So maybe she was sandbagged a bit, but someone has to set people straight.

There were a couple serious flaws in the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. First of all was lowering the standard of proof to preponderance of evidence from clear and convincing evidence. Second was the restriction in practice for the accused to be able to cross-examine witnesses and in some cases not even know what he was accused of until the time of hearing. (It was also based on a faulty premise of 1 in 5 campus females being victims of sexual assault, which simply doesn’t jibe with crime statistics. But as Betsy DeVos said, one victim is too many. So is one person denied due process.) This is why groups like the American Association of University Professors and American College of Trial Lawyers were urging the rules be revoked.

The biggest problem with the approach in place now is that the maximum punishment for someone who actually raped a co-ed would be expulsion from school, but he could still be loose to commit more rapes.

And while the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter was rescinded, the order specifically states we revert to the previous guidance as a temporary measure while new rules are formulated with input from multiple stakeholders.

When she disputed my dismissal of the “1 in 5” claim I came back.

This is for the education of those reading this thread then. These are the actual numbers as reported by the Justice Department. Bear in mind that 1 in 5 of 1,000 would be 200.

I agree the numbers should be zero, but I also contend that those who are accused should have due process that was missing under the Obama rules. That aspect was important enough that they had to be rescinded – which also should cut down on the hundreds of lawsuits falsely accused people have filed against these schools because of their shoddy practices as prescribed in 2011.

She alerted me to an appendix in the work – which I was aware of – so I had to add a little more.

I did look at that…again, we are talking a variation of 7x here between the reported numbers and “1 in 5” statement.. Biggest flaw in the NISVS is the low response rate, which would be affected by the bias of a person that’s affected being more likely to respond – this may account for a significant part of the difference.

I think Secretary DeVos will come up with fair rules that take all sides into account. It’s also worth noting that some school administrators have announced will continue with the 2011 rules despite the new guidance.

It sounds to me like Allison’s had some experience on this, and I have not – so my response is not as emotional. But the contention, to me, is this: the Obama-era rules gave credence to victims but not the accused and oftentimes those who determined the fate of the accused did so on the barest preponderance of evidence at a “trial” which was more of a one-sided affair. New rules should account for both, or perhaps move the venue to one that’s more proper: a court of law, where there are advocates for victims who are sensitive to their plight and protections for the accused.

A charge of rape is a serious charge, not to be taken lightly. Often at stake is the very continuance of a young man’s education (and let’s face it, the accused is almost always a man.) But if the person is an actual rapist, wouldn’t it be better to get him off the street than just off some college campus, enabling him to victimize someone else?

I had a busy week on the commenting front, so maybe I’ll slow down – or maybe not. As Walter E. Williams would say, I’m pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on social media.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2017 edition

September 21, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Personal stuff, Sports · 1 Comment 

If you remember last year, the big buzz around Perdue Stadium was the replacement of all the seats with brand new seats, which permitted an upgrade of the old bleachers to regular seats (and frankly made the ballpark look better.) While I was worried about the size of the seats, for the most part my fears went unrealized. I’m not sure about the “cushy” seats that make up the front rows and all the 300 “luxury” level, though. Maybe it’s the cupholders, but those seem slightly smaller.

But these new upper seats are priced at a reasonable $9 and the vantage point is good…considering you are maybe 12 feet farther and perhaps 4 to 5 feet higher at the closest point above the action for $4 less, that’s not a bad deal. (Not to mention a $2 Monday, where the difference is $11.) If you prefer shade or a high perspective, these seats are available for that, too, and they are way more comfortable than the bleachers were.

They also finally put in the new videoboard, as promised. It’s a great addition, and they were smart to place it where they did because more people sit on the third base side (so it’s straight in front of them.) It’s a good-sized board, and as the season went on they began to utilize it a little better. But it would be nice to have a couple more pieces of information like pitch count and more specific info on the batters (i.e. singled and scored in first, grounded out in third, flied out in fifth, etc.) Honestly, I don’t need to see for the tenth time that one player likes lobster or one of the other players was a black belt. I think as the video operators get more experience, we may see things like replays and more in-game highlights, too.

And please tell Pohanka to invest a little more in making their cheesy car race more interesting. (You know, it’s intriguing how much the local auto dealers spend on promoting themselves at Shorebirds games.) Same goes for Perdue, because the chicken needs to do something else.

So that was two of the three things I thought they had on the “to-do” list last offseason, but as it turned out the 360-degree concourse was pushed back to happen this off-season. One thing I found out about it was that it won’t be as high as I thought it would be because they will use the outfield fence as a railing. Now this could be good but it may be problematic because the better solution would be to have a fence where people can be seated and still see the game. Since the Shorebirds employ opaque sponsor advertising signs that idea goes away.

I’m also hearing that it will be a narrow concourse, more or less the width of the aisles which go around the space between the lower and upper reserved seats, which is maybe about 10 feet. That doesn’t seem like enough to employ the hot dog or dippin’ dots stands I suggested last season, let alone a beer seller. Hopefully I misunderstood the intent and the concourse will be more like 14 to 16 feet wide, at least in some spots.

Overall, though, I had my share of picks for the season. I suppose the one major pan that I have is in the food, which doesn’t seem to be all that great in either selection or quality. There needs to be a little more creativity, but then I’ve noticed that some of the stands that used to be there aren’t operated anymore. (For example, wasn’t there an angus stand along the first base side for about three seasons? Don’t recall that being there this year. Come to think of it, I believe they sold some other exotic thing there – nuts maybe? – for a couple seasons before that.)

Maybe it’s Delmarva and we just don’t have the sophisticated palate, but I think the reason some things don’t sell is that people don’t want to spend $8-10 on something they’re not sure they will like. Hot dogs, chicken, and pizza are reasonably safe choices. But why couldn’t we borrow an idea from other parts of the food service business and have homestand specials on the less mainstream items? For example, maybe instead of selling an Angus burger for $8, for one homestand they could make it a $5 deal. They do this with $2 hot dogs and Pepsi on Mondays, but why limit it there?

And now that they have the video people watching the games, it’s time to bring the feed into the restrooms so people can keep up with the action. At one time they had the audio feed of the broadcast in there but that’s gone by the wayside, too. You may try to go between innings, but sometimes nature calls when there’s only one out.

Out of an attendance of 207,131 – slightly less than last year, but based on one fewer opening so their average increased by 19 folks a game to 3,236 – my share is about 16 or 18. But having done this for so long I think I have a pretty decent idea of crowdthink, just like I have a reasonably good idea of the strike zone from my seat’s vantage point because I’ve sat there for so long.

There’s something that keeps the Shorebirds in an extremely narrow band of attendance year after year. (Since 2014, the range of average attendance has been within the 19-person difference from this year to last. Since 2010 it’s been in the 3,200 to 3,300 range in all but one year, 2011.) While we had a tiny bit of Tebow effect this season (for two games, with him only appearing in one) and benefited from the first rehab stints in three seasons, especially Chris Davis in July, that seemed to be offset by some less-attended fireworks nights and iffy weather all summer. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since we’ve had a consistently competitive team that it’s sort of an unknown how that would affect us. (Our last playoff appearance was in 2005, which is the longest losing streak in the SAL – in the meantime Augusta, Asheville, and the former Savannah Sand Gnats have made five trips, while Hickory, Greensboro, Lakewood, West Virginia, and Hagerstown have punched a playoff ticket four times. Lexington has a drought one season shorter than ours, but everyone else still in the league has participated at least twice.)

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the Shorebirds are going anywhere, as their attendance runs about the middle of the pack in the SAL despite being one of the small-market teams. But on a per-game basis, it’s actually the lowest among Oriole affiliates. I think we can do better, and maybe my suggestions will help a little.

So ends my Shorebirds coverage for the season. I’ve also updated my Shorebird of the Week tracker so that’s good until the Arizona Fall League season gets underway in the next few weeks. The next time you’ll see coverage unless something major breaks is when I induct my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in December. As of right now that class consists of Stefan Crichton, Michael Ohlman, Josh Hader, Jimmy Yacabonis, Nicky Delmonico, and Chance Sisco.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2017 season wrapup

September 14, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Year – a 2017 season wrapup 

Well, we had two good seasons in a row, anyway.

After a six-year run of losing, the Shorebirds reverted to their winning ways of old in 2015 and 2016, but that streak came crashing down this season thanks to one of the more mediocre squads the Orioles have sent us in some time. With the Orioles passing prospects like Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin, and Austin Hays – who recently made his Orioles debut – from Aberdeen straight to Frederick, we were left with a team that followed up a 29-39 first half with a nearly identical 30-39 second half. The shame of it was that Delmarva was in first place in the second half as late as July 29 with a 20-13 record after completing a perfect 7-0 road trip to Georgia. (It was their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years.) But the next day a doubleheader loss to Greensboro set the Shorebirds on a 12-game losing streak that plunged them out of contention and began an August where they went 9-20 – from the high point Delmarva lost 26 of their last 36 games.

So the 59-78 mark was their worst since a 54-82 mark in 2013 and it ended a run of improvement each year since. Overall, it was a team that wasn’t particularly great in any main category of offense, pitching, or defense.

  • A .240 team batting average was next to last in the league, with Columbia’s .234 the only team holding them up.
  • Consequently the team was only 11th in runs and hits, scoring just 544 times on 1,108 hits.
  • The 229 doubles was good for fifth in the loop, and they were eighth with 31 triples.
  • They were ninth in the league in home runs with 77.
  • We finished tied for 10th with 492 runs batted in.
  • Back to 11th we went in total bases with 1,630.
  • We drew 341 walks, which – you guessed it – ranked 11th in the SAL.
  • One dubious category was strikeouts, where their 1,243 was the most in the league by 33 over Lexington (who played one more game.)
  • In steals, we were 11th (as one might expect) with 91 stolen bases in 125 attempts. (This time, league-leading Asheville was caught more than we stole – 100 vs. 91.)
  • Our .304 on-base percentage was next-to-last in the league (Lakewood was .301) and the .353 slugging percentage was eleventh. With those numbers our OPS of .657 was only better than Columbia’s .649 mark.

Our pitching was only slightly better when compared to the rest of the league, as we finished ninth in ERA with a 3.79 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 9 shutouts was also ninth in the loop.
  • We tied for 12th in saves with 29, with Augusta last with 23.
  • We tied for seventh in innings pitched with 1,204 1/3.
  • 1,210 hits allowed was 11th. Matching the rank in ERA it follows the 613 runs and 507 earned runs we gave up were also ninth.
  • Allowing 94 home runs was tenth.
  • While we only had 71 hit batters (good for fourth) we were also fourth with 354 walks allowed.
  • While our staff had a nice, round number of 1,000 strikeouts it was the fewest in the league.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) was ninth in the league at 1.30.

With 136 errors and a .973 aggregate fielding percentage our defense was right at league average.

Help may be on the way, though. Below us in the Orioles organization Aberdeen was 41-34 (contending until the final days for a wild-card spot) and the GCL Orioles closed 28-32 while the single Dominican Summer League team (down from 2 in recent years) the Orioles provided players for wrapped up a 32-37 season. Ahead of us, Frederick made the Carolina League playoffs despite a 68-71 record and Bowie did the same in the Eastern League with a 72-68 record. (Both lost in their respective opening rounds.) Norfolk also finished below .500 with a 66-76 record. So as a whole the talent pool may be worse than average, although individual players from the lower levels may combine for a better team.

With a switch from weekly to monthly honors, going over those selected won’t take as long – so let’s review.

April player – Jake Ring

Jake began the season like he had something to prove after a somewhat bitter cup of coffee with the Shorebirds in 2016. It began by being the South Atlantic League’s first Player of the Week for the season and the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Month. Later on Ring was selected to the North’s All-Star team and a postseason All-Star despite a September promotion to Frederick. As a whole for Delmarva Ring hit .272/14/65/.785 OPS in 118 games, leading the team with 65 runs, leading the entire league with 36 doubles, and setting the pace for the Shorebirds with 212 total bases and a .457 slugging percentage. In almost every offensive category, Jake was among the team leaders.

However, the league seemed to catch up with Ring in the second half as he went from a .313 average at the All-Star break to a split of .232/5/24/.653 OPS in the latter stages. His brief callup to Frederick saw Ring go just 1-for-8, although that one hit was a home run. Ring was also the hero of the Keys’ lone playoff win, driving in the winning runs to cap off a ninth-inning comeback.

Yet the problems that led to a dearth of outfield talent in the organization to a point where the Orioles were experimenting (with varying success) with Christian Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Trey Mancini suddenly seem to have disappeared as prospects like Cedric Mullins, D.J. Stewart, and Austin Hays are names being considered for the 2018 Orioles, with 2016 Shorebird Ademar Rifaela (the Carolina League MVP) close behind. With that glut on top of the organization, a player like Ring – who was a late-round draft pick and is a little older than his league competition at the low-A level – won’t be as highly regarded as he may have been a couple years ago. Notice that a solid player from that period like Mike Yastrzemski is barely regarded as a prospect despite his elite lineage.

I would look for Ring to continue in Frederick next season, but he will need to make more contact to avoid stalling out at that level. Getting his first 15 professional home runs in one season is nice, but 141 strikeouts is not. (SAL Player of the Week April 6-16, SAL All-Star, SAL Postseason All-Star)

April pitcher – Alex Wells

You knew Alex would be something good when his first four starts netted two wins and just two earned runs allowed, but the thing about Wells was that a bad month for him (like June, where he was 3-2 with a pedestrian 4.46 ERA) was a good month for many of the other Delmarva starters. Named as an SAL All-Star, Wells turned up the heat on opposing batters in the second half by quickly embarking on what would become the stuff of legend: a 68-inning walkless streak that carried through the end of the season. (This helped the Shorebirds lead all of baseball in walkless games from a pitching staff; meanwhile, the major league record for such a streak is 84 1/3 innings by Bill Fischer of the 1962 Kansas City Athletics.)

Even without the pinpoint control of allowing 10 walks in 140 innings, Wells put together a fine season that arguably should have nabbed him the league’s Outstanding Pitcher honors – in a case of highway robbery, the award instead went to Rome’s Joey Wentz. Wells finished 11-5 (2nd in wins), with a 2.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP (both led the SAL) and 113 strikeouts. At home Wells was unbeatable, going 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 starts. Armed with a simple, easily repeatable delivery, Wells works at a pace that would make legendary “work fast, throw strikes” purveyor Mark Buehrle proud – the Shorebirds clocked one of Wells’ 10-pitch innings under two minutes, and a 10:35 7-inning game Wells started on April 26 wrapped up at the stroke of noon. (It took Wells just 68 pitches to dispatch Lakewood in a 2-1 win. The game probably would have been done before noon had reliever Jake Bray not needed 22 pitches to retire the side in the 7th.)

It’s almost certain the Orioles are slotting Wells to be the #1 pitcher on Frederick’s staff next season, and unlike this season the Orioles would not hesitate to move him up should the performance warrant. After all, he is the reigning Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year as he was honored before the September 5 Oriole game with the Jim Palmer Award. While a 2018 debut may seem like a bit of a reach, a good season for Wells sets him up for a date at Camden Yards sometime in 2019 – basically the only questions are whether he will fare as well against more selective batters and work on a way to give up fewer home runs. (SAL All-Star, SAL Player of the Month for July, Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July, Jim Palmer Award winner for Oriole Minor League Pitcher of the Year)

May player – Preston Palmiero

Preston had spots of excellent play, including a month of May that turned out to be his best month as he turned around a very slow start (.197/2/9/.608 OPS in April) to establish himself at about the overall level where he would finish the season. So far in his career, however, he’s only put up average numbers as his .253/13/77/.718 OPS run this season tracked closely with his Aberdeen numbers from 2016 with the exception of finding a decent power stroke – like Jake Ring, all 13 of Palmiero’s professional home runs came this season. Those who thought his May was going to be the norm for the rest of the season had to be disappointed, though, as he left about 30 batting average points and a corresponding number of hits, home runs, and RBI on the table. While Preston led the team with his 77 RBI, better contact would have allowed him to make a run at 100.

Invariably, there are those who will compare Preston to his father and note that the elder Palmiero was already in the majors by the end of his second pro season. On the other hand, Preston is outpacing his older brother Patrick, who washed out after three seasons in the White Sox organization and has played in the independent Atlantic League the last three seasons. (Interesting fact: the older brother played 2 games at Delmarva in 2013, going 2-for-9 with Kannapolis as their third baseman.) But taken as a player who was a 7th round draft choice – one of the few high picks on the team – it seems like the Orioles should be expecting more. Over the last ten seasons we have seen our share of first basemen with some power but mediocre average – Mark Fleisher, Anthony Martinez, Joe Mahoney, Elvin Polanco and Mike Flacco are guys who come to mind, with only Mahoney briefly making it to the Show – but Palmiero was definitely handed the first base job. (You have to go back to Fleisher in 2006 to find a first baseman who played 100 or more games at the position in a season, and Palmiero’s 123 games this season rank second behind 1998 Shorebird Franky Figueroa’s 137 at the position.) It’s doubtful Palmiero will return for 2018, but his road to the big leagues may have to involve either a position change or numbers that do a better job of knocking the socks off the top brass.

May pitcher – Francisco Jimenez

Marking his third straight season with Delmarva, Jimenez was honored in the midst of a long scoreless streak (20 2/3 innings over six appearances between April 18 and May 21) that encompassed his first-ever appearance with Frederick – that cup of coffee was May 17 as he pitched 3 2/3 scoreless at Salem. Overall, Jimenez was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA with Delmarva in 28 appearances, striking out 63 while walking 28 and allowing 68 hits. That put his WHIP at 1.24, which was right around league average.

While Jimenez made a couple spot starts – including six no-hit, shutout innings in a game against Charleston on April 27 – he seems to be transitioning into a long relief role going forward. However, his numbers really haven’t changed much in the two-plus seasons he’s been here except for an uptick in strikeout rate, which may be a result of more bullpen work. It’s most likely he will be promoted because there’s really not much reason for him to repeat this level for a fourth time. (In his career, Jimenez spent 2012-14 in the Dominican Summer League but advanced all the way to Delmarva in a little over one season through the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen. So this is his second stall, as it were.)

As slowly as he is moving, Francisco needs an impressive season at Frederick to separate himself from the “organization player” category he seems to be settling into given his propensity to keep himself close to career average each season.

June player – Alejandro Juvier

Another repeat performer from 2016, Alejandro managed to avoid demotion this season by picking up steam at the right time and putting together a good campaign with a slash line of .241/4/34/.606 OPS. No, it’s not the stuff of a Jonathan Schoop, but Juvier seems to be working his career into a Ryan Flaherty mold: he played 75 games at second base, 27 at third base, and 9 at shortstop this season after playing his first 24 at second. Moving him around the infield seemed to do his bat good as well: hitting .218/0/3/.512 OPS after that first 24 games improved to a .248 average and .632 OPS the rest of the way.

When I did his profile, I was hoping he could run his average up into the .250 or .260 range, but Juvier slumped somewhat toward the end of the season with a .194 average after August 1. It’s something that may hold him back for next season, but can be overcome with a good spring.

The issue with the utility player role Juvier seems to be moving into is that the chain is littered with them – one example is longtime Bowie player Garabez Rosa, who has been with the team for five seasons. Remember, Flaherty was handed a job as a Rule 5 draftee of the Orioles but they haven’t seen the need to bring up such as player such as Rosa. But if not for his versatility Juvier probably doesn’t impress scouts as a prospect.

June pitcher – Steven Klimek

In the middle part of the season Klimek was almost untouchable, with June and July numbers that were outstanding: a 3-1 record and 0.99 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 3 walks. The rest of the season wasn’t bad either, with Klimek going 7-3 with a 2.67 ERA. He made 37 appearances on the year, covering 70 2/3 innings with an astounding 71 strikeouts and just 12 walks. Steven was one of just three Delmarva pitchers with significant time to average a strikeout an inning, but neither of the others had a WHIP comparable to Klimek’s 1.02 mark.

Steven was yet another second-time player, having pitched 10 1/3 innings with little success at the tail end of the 2016 season. But he made the improvements and adjustments needed to advance in the system as a late-inning guy – none of his appearances this season came before the 4th inning, and most were in the 8th or 9th. Steven wasn’t the primary closer but still managed to pick up 6 saves, a valuable experience for down the line.

With numbers resembling that of a power pitcher, Klimek may move into more of a one-inning setup role as his career goes on, sort of like a Brad Brach. But there may be a time where he becomes a closer someplace, especially if he can maintain his good control while keeping hits to a minimum. Aside from the rough debut with the Shorebirds, Klimek kept most of the same numbers he had with Aberdeen last season, and the progress he made should play well in 2018 as he moves on. The only way I could see him with Delmarva is as a closer, to gain more experience in high-leverage situations rather than the guy holding down the fort (which is why he had seven wins this season.) Steven has earned a promotion, though.

July player – Ryan McKenna

McKenna had a month sort of like Preston Palmiero did in May: the type where you expect this breakout will last the rest of the season given the fact the Orioles selected him early in the draft. But after the .319 average and .824 OPS in July, Ryan slipped back to just a slightly better than average rest of the season by hitting .264 in the last month-plus (although his OPS was a robust .849 for that period.) As a whole, McKenna put up a .256/7/42/.712 OPS slash line.

But without the bloodline of Palmiero, you have to wonder how long the Orioles will wait on a 4th round pick, even if he was plucked out of the high school ranks. In his favor, though, was the improvement he had year-over-year when compared to his half-season at Aberdeen in 2016 – 15 points higher in batting average, 30 more extra base hits in slightly over twice the plate appearances, and an 83-point jump in OPS (mainly due to the improvement in extra-base hits.) His only drawback was the 129 strikeouts he amassed, and while he had 20 stolen bases, it doesn’t compare well to having 17 in half the time last year.

So Ryan did make some progress, particularly when you recall he was hitting .235 at the All-Star break but hit .280 in the second half. If he can replicate that success with the Keys next season, heads will begin to turn in considering McKenna as part of the group of young outfield prospects that includes Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and D.J. Stewart.

July pitcher – Alex Wells

This was the month Wells did not allow a walk or a run in 31 innings, leading him to be named both Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month and SAL Player of the Month. So he became the first two-time winner.

August/September player – Daniel Fajardo

Since he was the last player of the month for the season, he didn’t improve on his .236/1/24/.554 OPS split between three teams, but predominantly with Delmarva. (He played in 67 contests here, 4 for Frederick, and a spot game for Norfolk. That should be good for the paycheck.) He turned out to be a very good defender as well in terms of catching would-be base thieves, but his question going forward may be how much longer he stays in the organization since he’s eligible for Rule 5 and one season away from free agency. Among the peer group that has played with him, though, Fajardo has gotten the most playing time both with Aberdeen and here. (With Aberdeen in 2016, as this year, Fajardo was on the same squad as Stuart Levy, who bounced around last season between Aberdeen and Delmarva and did the same this year with Frederick and the Shorebirds, the now-retired Jerry McClanahan who was with Delmarva for the first half of this season, and Chris Shaw, who missed a lot of time in 2017 with an injury.) Out of that group, Levy and Fajardo were the best performers.

Next year, though, Fajardo will have to compete with Ben Breazeale, a catcher who tore up the NY-Penn League as well as Levy and other players up the chain. However, after picking four catchers in the first 11 rounds of the draft a few years back (which has netted current Oriole Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, who had a breakout year at Bowie) the Orioles’ catching pipeline has pretty much dried out with the exception of Breazeale, who is likely going to be a cusp player between Delmarva and Frederick next spring. So Daniel may be destined for Frederick. (Much of the Keys’ catching this year was done by Armando Araiza, a six-year free agent player the Orioles acquired from the Atlanta organization in May – pointing out the lack of depth in the organization. Yermin Mercedes also did some, but he had a disappointing season and finished it on the suspended list.) It’s more than likely he will move into the ranks of catching insurance for the organization, but Fajardo now will be playing to impress others as well with the pending free agency.

August/September pitcher – Kory Groves

Kory was my one comeback story for the season, since he missed all of 2016 with an injury. But the time lost will also put him behind the eight ball as far as being too old to be considered a prospect despite a nice 3-5, 2.58 season that featured a 1.21 WHIP and a solid ratio of 41 strikeouts to 14 walks. While Groves certainly wasn’t as dominant as he was before the injury – his abbreviated 2015 campaign featured a 1.11 ERA and 0.77 WHIP between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen – he was also facing better competition this year so the statistics hold up well.

While Kory was rather effective when stretched out to 40-50 pitches (he had four appearances of four innings or more this year, including the 17th to 20th innings in the 21-inning game against Lexington July 13 and 14) his bread and butter this season was being a setup guy or the one holding the opposition in hopes for a late rally. (This would explain why Groves had but one save.) That’s not to say the Orioles wouldn’t consider him as a starter with a little more stretching out, but I think his destiny is the bullpen, and it would more than likely be the one in Frederick.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco
  • 2015 – John Means
  • 2016 – Yermin Mercedes

With my new format of monthly honorees, I had some early favorites for the honor – all they had to do was stay for the requisite 2/3 of the season to be eligible. Thus, Jake Ring and Alex Wells burst out of the gate.

But as the season went on for the hitters, Ring was like a helium balloon that slowly lost altitude. He was leading the team in pretty much everything the first half of the season, but as time went on Ring began falling down the ranks: Preston Palmiero caught and passed him in RBI, Gerrion Grim went on a power surge to outpace Ring in home runs, and eventually Cole Billingsley passed Jake with a .282 batting average to lead the squad. So Ring won none of the traditional Triple Crown categories, and one could make an argument that Billingsley (who was in the hunt for a monthly honor a couple times) was more of an offensive star despite a fairly low .715 OPS.

On the other side, while several pitchers had good months and were at times in contention for monthly honors, there was only one month where Alex Wells wasn’t in the conversation for the honor, and that subpar June was followed by an all-world July where I had no choice but to name him a second time. And when you consider just how elite he was in terms of the entire league – not just the team – I pretty much had a no-brainer for Shorebird of the Year. Even the photo I’m using is one where he gets hardware.

Alex Wells had a hardware collection going this season with the Shorebirds.

I wish I had hardware to give, but for now the pixels to officially dub Alex Wells as the Shorebird of the Year for 2017 will have to suffice. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 needs just one more to tie for largest, and it’s only a callup away.

Meanwhile, I’m already jonesing for a ballgame at the stadium. By the way, I’ve finally added the other photos I promised so now each month can be reviewed and they are how I intended them to be.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: August 2017

September 7, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

Unlike months past, this time I’ll dispense with the preliminaries because next week will bring a full season review for the 2017 campaign. So instead let’s go straight to a look at my final honorees, who both get the award for the first time.

We’re going to begin with a player that definitely stepped up the pace in the season’s final month compared to his previous performance. My August (and September) Position Player of the Month: Catcher Daniel Fajardo, who settled in with a shifting cast of backups and put together a great month of August. His .314/0/8/.774 OPS slash line for the month was among the team leaders with previous honorees Ryan McKenna and Cole Billingsley, but Fajardo also proved to be a good defensive weapon with his arm by nabbing 9 of a potential 17 base stealers. (For the season Fajardo caught 44% of would-be thieves.)

Overall, Daniel finished the campaign with a .240/1/24/.568 OPS slash line in 67 games with the Shorebirds, although his time here was interrupted by a spot start for Norfolk on May 3 (where he went 1-for-4 at Charlotte at a time where he was Johnny-on-the-spot – the Tides had a need and the Shorebirds were in the midst of a southern swing to Columbia and Charleston, SC) and another brief stint with Frederick from May 19-22 – there Fajardo went 2-for-13 in 4 games.

The 22-year-old Fajardo is a veteran of six minor league seasons, as he was signed at the age of 16 in September of 2011 and left his native Venezuela the next summer to catch in the Dominican Summer League. Two seasons there led to a promotion to the Gulf Coast League for the 2014 season, and he played there most of the next two seasons (with the exception of 2 games at Frederick in 2015.) Last year he moved up to Aberdeen as a backup catcher and this year served as somewhat of an organization player with the two brief departures from the Delmarva roster. Over the last two winters he’s also done spot duty in his native land, playing for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League.

One thing that sets Fajardo apart from many of his teammates is the fact, based on his lengthy service time in the minors, that he would have to be protected on the Orioles’ 40-man roster if they wanted to assure themselves of keeping him. It’s not likely the Orioles will do so, thus it’s possible another team may take a flyer on him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. (Unlike the major league portion, where a player has to remain on the 25-man active roster or be offered back to the original team, those picked in the minor league portion can be assigned to any minor league affiliate. So a team selecting Fajardo could ship him to the high-A level where the Orioles would likely send him.)

Fajardo, McKenna, and Billingsley were the best of a mediocre lot of hitters for the Shorebirds, who faltered in early August and fell well off the playoff pace. On the other hand, I had a difficult time deciding the Pitcher of the Month as several had a legitimate claim, including two-time honoree Alex Wells and swingman Cody Dube. But my final decision came down to a razor-close debate between lefty Tyler Erwin and righthander Kory Groves.

This was one that came down to expectations, and the fact he was recovering from a lost 2016 tipped the scale to Kory Groves.

In August and September Groves made a season-high 10 appearances covering 19 innings. In those stints he allowed just 13 hits (for a .197 average against) and 6 runs (4 earned) which translates to a 1.89 ERA. Striking out 14 while walking just one, Groves gave up just 2 earned in his last 7 outings. The only blemishes on his record were losses to Kannapolis and Hagerstown, right around the end of a stretch where Groves was pitching 3 or 4 innings at a time – he thrived in shorter 1 or 2 inning outings as the month wore on.

Over the season Groves stayed healthy enough to pitch in 33 games, covering 59 1/3 innings. Kory gave up 58 hits but only 17 earned runs, also amassing 41 strikeouts to 14 walks. The bottom line for Groves was a 3-5 record and 2.58 ERA with a WHIP of 1.21.

Because he lost that season to injury and came from a small, unheralded school (Cal State – Monterey Bay, which has had just 4 players drafted from the program and none since Groves in 2015) Kory has worked his way from being just a 34th round pick to this point. But having just celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday, it’s more likely Groves will be pitching for his very career in spring training if the Orioles don’t decide to move on from him over the winter. Such is often the fate of a late-round selection, and especially one whose numbers don’t seem to show him as a power pitcher (just 6.2 strikeouts per 9 innings is one of the lowest rates on the team.)

However, Groves did put up one of the better WHIP numbers on the team and was reasonably effective in short outings, so he could be one of those late-inning guys at Frederick next year. And for this month he was about the best the Shorebirds had to offer on the mound.

As I noted up top, next week I will do my season review and track the players selected as Shorebirds of the Month, with the following week devoted as always to picks and pans from a fan. So September will bring a flurry of Shorebird activity before its hibernation until December when I add at least six players to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2017

August 3, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2017 

July was a month where the Shorebirds marched through Georgia like William Tecumseh Sherman, compiling their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years and coming home in first place. Unfortunately that lead has melted away like a gallon of ice cream left out in the sun, but the Shorebirds are enjoying unexpected success due in large part to the players honored here this month.

While Jake Ring took home honors in April, it was his two usual counterparts in the outfield, Cole Billingsley and Ryan McKenna, who were vying for the Position Player of the Month honor in July – seemingly trying to outdo each other at every turn. Billingsley was hitting an even .250 when the calendar turned to July, but his hot month improved his overall average to a more solid-looking .270 mark. However, while his average has gone up Billingsley has become more of a slap hitter, with just three extra-base hits in July leading to an OPS of just .718.

Thus, what tipped the scale to his teammate Ryan McKenna was the latter’s .319 batting average, 5 steals, and .824 OPS – by far his best of the season and way above his numbers for May and June. While Billingsley picked up his average 20 points in July, McKenna did even better by going from .231 to .254 in the month, recovering a large part of what he lost in a two-month slump. On that aforementioned road trip to Georgia, Ryan was a hot hand as he went 11-for-27 in the seven games, including four doubles. (Ryan had 11 doubles for the month.)

Ryan is an Oregon native who was drafted out of high school in New Hampshire two years ago as a fourth-rounder, so a lot is expected of him. With this being his first opportunity to play full-season ball, McKenna has set career marks in most of his categories already, but he has shown some improvement in his all-around game so he’s tracking to make the jump to Frederick next year as a 21-year-old (he will turn 21 just before camp opens next spring.)

Besides Billingsley, another batter who had a month worth noting (albeit in limited spot duty) was infielder Tanner Kirk, who brought his average up above the Mendoza Line with a little room to spare.

On the other hand, there was no contest on the pitching side of the equation and it netted me my first-ever repeat Shorebird Pitcher of the Month in Alex Wells.

Here are the brief lines from Alex’s five July starts:

  • vs. Lakewood, 7 innings, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Hickory, 6 innings, 2 hits, 4 strikeouts.
  • vs. Rome, 6 innings, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Rome, 6 innings, 1 hit, 5 strikeouts.
  • vs. Greensboro, 6 innings, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts.

I did not mention runs or walks because there were none. Wells has not allowed a run since June 30 and last walked a batter June 25. Brett Barbier, then of Lakewood, was the last batter to walk off Wells, and it turns out Wells’ streak has outlasted the remainder of Barbier’s pro career as he’s since been released.

In the category of “duh”, the Orioles also selected Wells as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month. So the question now becomes what will happen with him?

He’s on pace for six more starts this season, and it seems to me that as long as the Shorebirds have a chance at the postseason he should stay here. Barring rainouts, Wells is actually lined up just right to start the first game of a postseason series on normal rest. And it’s not like he doesn’t have things to work on, despite the recent success – one is a penchant for giving up the longball. (Wells has allowed 13 this season, and consider the team has given up 66 collectively.) At 114 innings, the Orioles may also want to slow his workload down as well, so he may be cut back to 5 inning starts or skip a turn along the way.

In either case, when you have an ERA of 0 and a WHIP that comes in at 0.42 for the month, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be my pitcher of the month, again.

One more month and then we’ll line ’em up and pick a Shorebird of the Year.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2017

July 13, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2017 

I promised when I did last month’s awards that this month I would do a first half in review, so here goes.

Over the last several years, our trend has been to have the better first half and fade in the second so the fact that we had a lackluster 29-39 first half that placed us 10 games in arrears to eventual leader Kannapolis doesn’t bode really well. And unlike a lot of other seasons I can recall, the team did not do a large-scale turnover at the All-Star break as no players were promoted to Frederick – those who were bound for Aberdeen had already long since left the scene. So there’s been little player movement since the second half began.

Statistically, the Shorebirds were a bottom-echelon team in most offensive categories, generally ranking outside the top 10 in the league. As far as pitching went, they were more toward the average but still tended toward the lower half. And the fact that there were no obvious standout players who just had to be promoted to Frederick says a lot about this team, which seems to be comprised of a large proportion of late-round draft picks for some reason. As of this writing, it’s worth noting that the top five hitters in average were respectively drafted in rounds 31, 19, 7, 21. and 15, while the best ERAs belong to pitchers drafted in rounds 33, 23, and 34 (three others were international free agents.)

So the fact that they are where they are in the standings may be reflective of their relative talent level compared to other squads loaded with blue-chip prospects. The success we may have will definitely be unexpected on paper, but it is why they play the games.

June provided a wide-open free-for-all competition for Position Player of the Month – there was no real standout. I could make legitimate arguments for four different players based on the factors of statistics, comparison to season performance as a whole, and comparison to expectations. Cole Billingsley, Rafael Palmiero, Alejandro Juvier, and Frank Crinella were all contenders for the prize, which Palmiero would have won in back-to-back months.

And while Alejandro Juvier started out July with a personal milestone, it was the great month preceding it that tipped the scales toward the Player of the Month honors for the versatile infielder. Juvier, who’s now played 53 games at second base, 17 at third base, and 5 at shortstop, hit a solid .288 in June (23-for-80) to lead the team in hitting, chipping in four doubles, a triple, and a home run with 8 RBI.  Stumbling along with a .221 average as the month began, Alejandro increased the mark to .244 by month’s end, setting monthly highs in most offensive categories and putting up a remarkable .760 OPS for the month (compared to a lifetime .595 mark.) Maybe the guy needs to shop for diamond rings more often.

It’s a significant improvement over the time he spent here last season, where he fell one AB short of the Mendoza line in 30 games, going 22-for-111 (a .198 average.) But aside from the 2015 season, where he somehow put together a slash line of .307/0/18/.742 OPS between the GCL Orioles (29 games) and Aberdeen (17 games), offense has been a challenge for the 21-year-old Cuban native whose family found its way to Miami and got Juvier into the Doral Academy Preparatory School, from which Juvier was drafted three years ago in the 15th round. (Juvier was the first player drafted from there; two others followed this year.) Alejandro carries only a .236 lifetime mark, and tossing out the aberrant 2015 season lowers it to a .220 number. So hitting over .280 for a stretch is big news, and worth celebrating. I’ve often noted that it sometimes takes a player a second time here to “get it,” but with perhaps the chance at another 200 or so plate appearances, Juvier could make a run at a nice mark around .260 with the same sort of effort.

Similarly to the position players, there were three pitchers I could have awarded the Pitcher of the Month distinction to. It really came down to a trio who had good months in Lucas Humpal, Steven Klimek, and Matt Trowbridge – of the three, Humpal is the lone starter.

In the end, though, I opted to go with the best body of work overall and that belonged to Steven Klimek. Like Juvier, Steven spent a brief amount of time with the Shorebirds in 2016 and struggled, going 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. In June Steven made seven appearances, allowing 2 runs on 10 hits in 11 2/3 innings for a 1.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. (The WHIP was low because Klimek walked no one while striking out 14. This goes with a 45-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season, in 44 innings.)

Klimek had either a tie or lead in all seven appearances, and there was only one instance where he failed to keep it – Kannapolis scored a run on him June 12 to tie the game, but the Shorebirds would win it in extra innings. Thus, he had a win and two saves in the month as Klimek has become the guy for high-leverage situations. Not bad for a 33rd round draft pick out of St. Bonaventure two years ago. Klimek is actually my oldest SotM honoree for this nascent award as he’s already turned 23.

Over the years I have seen this type of pitcher a lot – a guy with pinpoint control at this level who has issues when promoted because batters become more selective. Obviously that will be a test for Klimek when he moves up, since I see no reason why he shouldn’t get a chance in the coming months. But bear in mind he struggled his first time here, so he was one of those that “got it” the second time too.

Now that I have my internet back, I should be able to resume my regular schedule and do July’s Shorebird of the Month on August 3.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2017

June 8, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2017 

Because I did a lot of explanation before introducing my April position player and pitcher of the month, I think I’ll stay with the trend for May and do my impressions on the season so far.

As it stands, the Shorebirds are tracking to be about the team I thought they would be when I found out that three of the top four picks in last season’s draft would bypass Delmarva and jump straight from Aberdeen to Frederick: how would this team look with Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin in the rotation and Austin Hays in center field? I’m not sure they would flip their current record that has them well under .500 and already all but eliminated from the first half title with a couple weeks to go, but we would be much less mediocre.

When I looked up those players who were slated to make the Delmarva starting lineup, I cringed at their offensive production. One of the few saving graces I thought we would have was the fact the plan for Dariel Alvarez was to have him pitch once or twice a week as he learned that aspect of the game but stay in touch with the offensive end as a DH a couple games a week also. It would have been like having a guy on rehab all year (and bear in mind Joey Rickard hit .300 in his brief rehab stint here.) Alvarez wasn’t a slouch at the plate for the Orioles in his time there, so that would have been an interesting couple days a week and/or weapon off the bench. Alas, Alvarez blew out his arm so we may never know how it would have worked out.

I thought we would have a reasonably decent pitching staff, but with the exception of my April Pitcher of the Month Alex Wells, the rotation has been roughed up for much of the season. Aside from Wells, none of the five rotation mainstays have an ERA under 4.10 or a WHIP under the league average of 1.27. (Lucas Humpal is right on that mark, though.) Even our closer has an ERA over 4. It’s just a team that seems to languish in the bottom half of the league in a number of categories, including the number of blue-chip prospects that are playing right now.

Earlier this week we also learned who our three representatives to the SAL All-Star Game will be, and to no one’s surprise my April players of the month are two of the three – Alex Wells will pitch for the Northern Division team while Jake Ring will be a starting outfielder. They’re joined by Chris Clare, who’s the utility infielder of the group. However, while all three of them had good months in May, none of them were selected as my two honorees.

Instead, I went with two players who had hot hands in May; in particular my position player. This player had a May batting average over 100 points higher than his April mark and his OPS surged from .608 in April to .908 for the month of May. Based on a stellar month in which he batted .303/4/15/.908 OPS I selected Preston Palmiero as my Position Player of the Month for May.

It’s obvious that Palmiero has a bit of a legacy to uphold as a member of the Orioles’ organization, as his father had seven of his twenty very productive major league seasons in a Baltimore uniform. (Unlike his older brother Patrick, who played for three seasons in the White Sox organization and now plays with the independent Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Preston was born while his father was an Oriole.) The younger Palmiero was also the higher draft pick, taken in the 7th round last season by the Orioles. (Worth noting: his brother Patrick was drafted out of high school by the Pirates, but did not sign. The White Sox signed Patrick as a free agent after college, so Preston obviously drew a lot more interest as he attended North Carolina State.)

Preston put up reasonable numbers in 34 games last season with Aberdeen, hitting .258/0/18/,622 OPS. It wasn’t going to set the world on fire, but I’m certain that Palmiero was ticketed for Delmarva this season all along unless he really struggled or shined with the IronBirds last season. And April was a mighty struggle for Preston, but May was a month he righted the ship, aided by a lot of road games – Palmiero has an extreme split in favor of games away from Perdue Stadium thus far, where he’s hitting .289/6/18/.941 OPS compared to .216/1/11/.575 OPS at home. It’s almost like he tries too hard here, but since the Shorebirds had so few home games in May it helped Preston out. Surely the numbers will begin to balance out, but for now his average is about where it was for Aberdeen and the trend is in a good direction.

If Preston hadn’t come on with such a good month, I would have had no problem giving the honor to Jake Ring again. He had a fairly solid month of May to go with a stellar April, and that’s why he’ll be an All-Star.

As for the May Pitcher of the Month, the seeds of his success began in April when he began a shutout streak that would take him deep into May and even through one spot appearance with the Frederick Keys. Francisco Jimenez had six consecutive shutout appearances that varied between 2 and 6 innings during the run, but for the month of May itself he was 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA and WHIP of 0.906. (Note that Baseball Reference does their splits among all levels, so this counts his one 3 2/3 inning appearance with Frederick. If you back out the Frederick innings the ERA goes up to 1.29 and WHIP to 0.929, which are still really, really good.)

In Francisco’s case, though, one could argue that he’s only come to master this level because he’s repeating it for the third time – he was he for the last few weeks of the 2015 season, all of 2016, and so far this season except for the quick dash to Frederick. But a point to consider is how many pitchers who succeed here struggle immediately on their promotion to the Keys, so that’s in Jimenez’s favor. Also. he’s had the flexibility to pitch as both a starter and reliever this year, although his background has been more geared toward a starting role.

Also doing well this past month on the bump and deserving mention are starting pitcher Matthias Dietz, who has bounced back to great extent after a terrible start, and relief pitcher Cody Dube. Both were top-10 picks last season so you would hope they have success at this level.

Finally, I wanted to point out that so far – with the exception of Wells, who is but 20 years old – all of my Shorebird of the Month selections are 22 years old, so they are right in line with expectations for excelling at this level. Once we reach the All-Star break, it will be interesting to see how the roster is shaken up as the team doesn’t appear to be a contender with the cast they have now. My June Shorebird of the Month selection will have a first half review as well.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2017

May 4, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2017 

After I decided to retire the Shorebird of the Week feature at the end of last season, I still felt something was in order to express my fandom and admiration. So I decided (after some thought) to do a Shorebird of the Month, then it occurred to me that both position players and pitchers should be so honored as most organizations that give awards such as those tend to do.

This award will be subjective to the point where it won’t just be based on statistics, but also on whether a player exceeded the expectations one could reasonably place on him. A good case in point was my Shorebird of the Year for 2016, Yermin Mercedes. Here was a guy who had been released by one team, went to play in the independent leagues to keep his dream alive and was rewarded by latching on with the Orioles organization. I knew he could hit based on his previous campaigns, but there were reasons to expect a so-so season from him last year: his numbers slipped when repeating a level for the third time in his previous organization, his best hitting season came in a league where hitting an even .300 would put you somewhat below the league average, and he only hit .272 the season before for the Shorebirds – quite solid for a catcher, but could he do that well a second time? He definitely exceeded my expectations by winning the SAL batting title.

I would expect a guy like Manny Machado (or Ryan Mountcastle from last year) to take the South Atlantic League by storm. And having seen enough 20th round or later picks come to this level and have their weaknesses exploited by opposing pitchers or hitters, I have a pretty good idea of what a player’s ceiling is expected to be. Go back seven years to the 2010 draft (which featured Manny Machado as the #1 pick) and you will find the Orioles drafted 49 players that season. Out of those 49 players, five made it to the majors: Machado (1st round), Parker Bridwell (9th round), Chi Chi Gonzalez (11th round), Scott Copeland (21st round), and Tim Adleman (24th round.) While Machado and Bridwell debuted with the Orioles, Gonzalez was not signed and was later a 1st round pick; meanwhile, both Copeland and Adleman were released by the Orioles in 2012 and made The Show with the teams that eventually signed them, Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. Adleman played for two seasons in independent league baseball before the Reds snapped him up.

Just five other players from that Baltimore draft are still active in lower levels: Matt Bywater (7th round) was in the Braves’ organization and independent baseball last season, but hasn’t yet latched onto a team for 2017. Wynston Sawyer (8th round) was an Orioles’ farmhand until the end of last year, but now the six-year free agent plays in the Dodgers’ chain. Both Bywater and Sawyer have only advanced to AA ball.

The other three were high school players who opted to sign later when drafted by other clubs. Between those three active players, they have played a combined one game beyond the advanced-A level.

That covers just 10 players out of 49. Out of the other 39, seven did not sign with the Orioles, 2 made it to AAA Norfolk (34th rounder Sammie Starr – for one game – and 42nd rounder Jake Pettit), 4 never advanced past AA (rounds 3, 10, 17, and 30), 7 could not get past advanced-A (rounds 4, 5, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 28), 7 were stopped at Delmarva’s level (selections 22, 23, 29, 31, 37, 40, and 48) and a whopping 12 never broke out of rookie league, covering rounds 19, 20, 25, 26, 33, 35, 36, 38. 39. 43, 44, and 47.

To make a long story short, I would be as impressed if a 35th rounder comes in and can be about league average as I would be with a first rounder hitting .380 and home runs by the bushel. There’s also track record to consider as well, since we have had many players who finally “got it” at this level and went on to be successful.

With all that introduction now out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, 2017.

The Player of the Month is outfielder Jake Ring.

After the Shorebirds’ initial road trip, Ring was hitting just .190 (4-for-21.) But he loved home cooking so much that in the seven-game opening homestand the Shorebirds had against Hagerstown and Greensboro Jake went an amazing 12-for-17 against the Suns and 4-for-11 versus Grasshopper pitching. Folks, that’s 16-for-28, or a .571 average with a homer, 12 RBI, and an absolutely mind-boggling OPS of 1.696 – the slugging percentage was also over 1.000 thanks to a total of 10 extra-base hits.

Overall in April Ring played in 20 games, hitting .359/3/19/1.085 OPS. As of this writing (through games of May 3) Ring is still second in the SAL in average, leads in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and the associated slugging percentage (he’s sixth in on-base percentage), third in doubles, tied for the lead in triples, tied for eighth in home runs, second in RBI, and second in total bases.

His season-opening exploits led Jake to be named 2017’s first SAL Player of the Week, covering April 4-14. It’s a far cry from the struggles he had with Delmarva at the tail end of last year, where he began his Shorebird career hitless in his first 10 at-bats before finally breaking through in the eighth inning of the season finale September 5. He would add another hit in the 10th inning of a game the Shorebirds won later that frame, finishing 2-for-12 in the three games. The 31st round selection from last year, out of Ingleside, Illinois by way of the University of Missouri, Jake spent the previous portion of the 2016 season hitting .278/0/21 in 53 games for the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League team – but that would be somewhat expected against a league where many of the players are either fresh from high school, coming from lightly-regarded or smaller college programs, or just arrived from the even more raw talent pools of the foreign summer leagues in various countries. The SAL is probably the appropriate challenge for Ring at this stage in his career.

Looking ahead, Jake could be here for a little while barring any injuries on Frederick’s roster – their outfield complement of Josh Hart, Austin Hays, Randolph Gassaway, and Ademar Rifaela is holding its own so far. Hart, Gassaway, and Rifaela should be familiar to Delmarva fans but Hays is a 3rd rounder from last season who bypassed Delmarva in his advancement. And while Jake has slowed down a little bit, hitting “just” .294 over his last ten games, keeping himself at or above .300 should merit him both a league All-Star bid and a mid-season promotion. Since he’s still only 22, there’s not a great deal of urgency to rush him along.

While Ring was a clear winner in this field, shortstop Chris Clare deserves honorable mention as well for a great month of April.

My Pitcher of the Month was a somewhat closer call, but I felt that putting together four excellent starts and being in the top five in league ERA was enough to give the nod to Alex Wells. Admittedly, I am buying a pig in a poke here because I haven’t seen either of his two home starts but so far Wells has a 2-1 record with a 1.11 ERA and WHIP of 0.945 (less than one baserunner an inning) based on just four walks and 19 hits allowed in 24 1/3 innings – meanwhile, he has struck out 20 in that stint. One thing those who attended either or both of his two home starts haven’t seen is Wells allowing an earned run – Lakewood scratched out an unearned run against him but Hagerstown was shut out.

Unlike Ring, Alex was challenged in his first pro season as he debuted last year with Aberdeen, going just 4-5 but with a 2.15 ERA in 13 starts there. Wells also has a more intriguing backstory as an Australian native whose twin brother Lachlan Wells pitches in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Somehow that fits, I suppose.) With one more season under his belt, Lachlan is pitching one level higher than Alex right now but they have very similar statistical profiles: low ERA, great strikeout/walk ratio, and capable of putting together fine games. In the case of Alex, all of his game scores (a statistic created by sabermetrics guru Bill James) are over 50, and two are over 65, suggesting a high-quality start. (The formula is somewhat cumbersome to explain, but a start that would match the minimum baseball definition of a “quality start” (3 earned runs or fewer in 6 innings or more) would net about 55 to 60 points, or an increase of 5 to 10 points over the 50 given to start. An absolutely perfect nine-inning game with 27 strikeouts would be 114 points, and the record for a nine-inning game is 105. Wells has a high score of 72 for his start at home against Lakewood (6 IP, 1 unearned R on 2 H, 6 K’s, no walks.)

Signed by the Orioles at the very end of the 2015 minor league season (and about 9 1/2 months after Lachlan), Wells was named as both an organizational and NYPL Midseason All-Star last season, all before he reached the age of 20. Baseball America also selected him as the 20th best NYPL prospect and 25th best Orioles prospect. The bespectacled Wells (both brothers wear glasses) has now pitched a total of 18 games for the Orioles’ brass and has started every one, compiling an overall ERA of 1.86.

So Wells has a pretty high ceiling, although one could definitely argue he’s simply meeting expectations. If he tracks as his twin brother did at this level last season, one could expect Alex to finish with a sub-2 ERA and stellar peripheral numbers such as WHIP and strikeout/walk ratio. While he has the potential to be moved up midstream, the Orioles can afford to take the time to develop Wells given their blue-chip young guns already in the rotation (although a left-hander would be a good companion to right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.) If the rotation and weather cooperate, the next time Wells should pitch here would be May 13 against Greenville.

Two pitchers who will get an honorable mention for beating expectations in their second tour of duty with the team are Steven Klimek and Jhon Peluffo. Both – but especially Peluffo – were batted around in their first stint here but have recovered nicely to start 2017.

With that, welcome to this new chapter. It will be more in-depth than a weekly look at one player, and the next one on the schedule would be June 8. The first Thursday in June is the 1st, so I’m creating the rule that these players of the month will be featured the Thursday after the first Monday of the month – it gives me time to digest the previous monthly splits and see who is deserving of the honors.

The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2016

December 8, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2016 

For a short time this summer, I thought I was going to have a record class for the SotWHoF this season, but as it turned out it fell one short of the record seven, with six. But this season’s class is making a prediction I made a couple years ago on the Shorebird of the Week tracker page come true:

I think the 2014 (SotW) crop has the potential to match the 2008 SotW group in terms of guys who can make it. They just seem to have that air about them, and three of them made the jump to Frederick immediately after the All-Star game.

True to my prediction (and within the timeframe of 2 to 3 years typically elapsing after their selection as Shorebirds of the Week) there are three players I picked in 2014 among the five inductees this season. In order of their debuts, they were Steven Brault, Donnie Hart, and Trey Mancini. Parker Bridwell was only the second player from 2013 to advance to the Show, and Ty Kelly finally gave me one player from the 2010 SotW crop that made it – from a team that was sometimes nearly unbearable to watch. Meanwhile, Eddie Gamboa became the new record holder for longest wait, going over seven years before his debut.

As has become a trend over the last few years, we have watched as two players traded away for a quick lineup fix made it to the majors with other franchises. But while Brault was acquired by the Pirates in a trade with the Orioles, it took another trade, waivers, and free agency (along with a blazing hot start) to finally bring Kelly to the bigs, while Gamboa left as a minor league free agent. But Kelly was among a record five Hall of Fame members playing in the postseason this year (and the only one not suiting up for Baltimore.) However, none of them advanced past the wild card game and Zach Britton was a healthy scratch that could have been six.

Perhaps the one making the most impact of this season’s crop was Hart, who has been a solid LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) for Baltimore. But none of the six made a great splash this season like some have in the past; luckily that’s not an indicator of future results.

I actually did rather well predicting some of the guys who made it this year, but I think 2017 may be a somewhat barren year. Sure, you could have the feelgood stories of longtime prospects like Garabez Rosa, Michael Ohlman, or Tim Berry finally breaking through, but if you look at the guys from 2012 and 2013 who are still hanging on no one jumps out at you. Former SotW players who participated in the Arizona Fall League included Adrian Marin from 2013, Jimmy Yacabonis and Austin Wynns from 2014, Stefan Crichton from 2015, and Jesus Liranzo from last season. (Liranzo was also the only SotW added to this winter’s 40 man roster.) None of them really made an impact in the AFL, though. The most likely person to be a 2017 class member could also be the first Shorebird of the Year to make it, 2014’s Chance Sisco.

And going forward I’m a little bearish on the prospects that I will have another class with as many as six in it, as the players over the last two years don’t seem to have the same prospect cache as those from 2014. So this class of six may be the last really large one.

Yet the process may not be done with this past season after all. I am thinking about a less stressful alternative to weekly honors, with the thought of perhaps going to a monthly award with the prospect of repeating during a season (so the monthly honoree in April could repeat in May.) It may also expand to a position player and pitcher, based on merit, and if I decide to do this it would begin the first Thursday in May for the April player and pitcher so honored.

But in the meantime it’s time to congratulate my six newest members of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, and with the posting of this article I will restore the SotWHoF page to public view.

Update, February 20, 2017. The best-laid plans of mice and men. I had Eddie Gamboa’s name on the list as I fixed the SotWHoF page but some edit must have wiped it out. He waited seven years to make it, though, so what was another two months?

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