Monday, September 9, 2013

Birdland Bulletin: Homer Happy

Chicks dig the long ball, and if that is actually true, then the Birds must be cleaning up in Fed Hill!

However, if the O’s want to meet a real classy broad, you know like someone they can bring home to their Oriole Mothers, then they better find a girl who gets turned on by two out knocks and SAC fly’s.

The Orioles lead the league in home runs with 193, which wouldn’t feel so hollow if the Birds could actually drive in runners from third with less than two outs; or getting a base hit with two outs and a runner on second.The Orioles look like a lineup full of Mark Reynolds clones with the amount of strikeouts or pop outs when there is a runner on third with less than two outs, cut to a sheepish Nick Marpopup Markakis.

Dan “The Duke” Duquette has done a tremendous job over the last two years of adding to a nucleus hand crafted by the much maligned Andy McPhail.The lineup is full of pop with four hitters who have at least 20 home runs (Davis, Jones, Hardy, and Wieters), one of which has 30 (Jones), and another one who has had 50 in his sights for quite some time (Davis). The Orioles lineup has more free swingers than a "Key-In-The-Bowl" party, if you smell what I'm stepping in...
It’s fun to watch a lineup that can bop home runs out of any spot in the order, but at same time, I speak for much of Birdland when I say, I’d rather see a SAC fly than watch someone take three straight hell hacks at sliders out of the zone and strand the runner.

We can pour over the putrid RISP numbers or shrinking OBP’s, or mention that out of the Orioles last 34 runs, 25 have come via the long ball. However, I’m an old school kind of guy and I’d rather take a gander at approach and discipline.

Top to bottom this lineup is full of aggressive hitters, which when you have as much talent as professional baseball players, is not a bad trait.  However, patiently aggressive is the most successful approach. To most this sounds like more of an oxymoron than a “classy Yankees fan”. Patiently aggressive means, swinging early in the count but making sure it’s the pitch you are looking for, or you can handle. It’s not swinging at a first pitch slider low and away or a fastball below your knees; both pitches usually lead to rolling over into ground outs. So again, there’s nothing wrong with swinging early in the count, but making sure it’s a pitch that can be handled is what separates good from great.

The lack of discipline in the Orioles lineup is borderline alarming. I love Adam Jones and Chris Davis, no seriously, like “Man Crush City”, but their plate discipline is like watching someone get paper cuts in slow motion. The book is out on these two; throw them off speed low, early and often. Like Lamar Odom at Charlie Sheen’s house, they just can’t help themselves but indulge. Too soon?

Matt Wieters is the same kind of hitter. He likes to get his hacks in early in the count (which again there is NOTHING wrong with), however more times than not, when Matty swings at 98 in on his hands he either pops it straight up or waves through it.

Eventually when I get a hang of GIF’s and screen shots, we can have a more in-depth conversation about the hitches in the swings of say Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Nick Markakis.  If I can see these hitches from the comfort of my arm chair, then hopefully Jim Pressley can see them from the dugout AND the video room. But that’s for another time.

The Orioles are a lineup full of supremely talented and extremely proud ball players. We all know that they are not intentionally stranding runner after runner after runner after runner after runner after ru… We all know that they are not sitting around and waiting for someone else to hit a home run. As Buck Showalter said in his postgame press conference after the first White Sox game when talking about his pitchers (but we know it clearly relates to the whole team),

“They have their ups and downs, but their hearts are always in the right place and that's why I have so much confidence in them. It's about, 'I need to deliver this expectation of me so the team can win.' ”

Buck is around these players 24/7, he is so tapped into that clubhouse and he knows how all of his players tick. I just sit in my arm-chair and make snap judgments, advantage Buck. You know Buck and his staff have had these same conversations with this team about driving in the runs when they are out there, but it is still hard to stop the fanbase's frustrations from piling up.

There is still just enough time left in the Hunt for Another Orange October, but if the Birds have any hope of another champagne shower, they will need to shorten up their swings in certain situations and simplify the at bats.  Minor adjustments and razor sharp focus can go a long way in getting to October.