The Braves wrap up interleague play with a weekend series against the Orioles at Turner Field. The Braves are fresh off a 4-2 road trip capped with a sweep of Seattle while the Orioles have lost 12 of their last 17 games. Stacey Long of Camden Chat was generous enough to answer some questions regarding this series.
In 2010, the Orioles didn't have 35 wins until August 5; they've already won 35 this year. Who deserves more credit for the turnaround, Buck Showalter or the team's talented core of players such as Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters?
It's really a combination of things. The players obviously deserve the most credit for the turnaround, but the truth is their historically awful play in the first half of last season was unexpected and the results were below even their talent level. I truly believe that you could take the same players and have them play the same schedule a hundred more times and it wouldn't turn out that badly.
Showalter deserves credit for coming in as a known presence and laying down the law, but I think we've all seen by now that the so-called Buck Effect was a little bit overblown in August and September of last year, as the turnaround coincided with the young pitching getting it together and several players returning from the disabled list.
Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee have been lousy. Guerrero has turned into a singles hitter, basically, and you probably won't see him at all during the Braves series except as a pinch hitter because he is incapable of playing the field. Lee has already had one trip to the disabled list and is just barely keeping his on-base percentage above .300. They are the two worst hitters on the team, pretty much.
Mark Reynolds is another story. He got off to a slow start, but that's to be expected given he'd never played in the American League until this season. He leads the team in home runs and walks, and is tied for the lead in doubles. He's been a good addition to the lineup. Unfortunately his defense leaves a lot to be desired so he's not quite as valuable as his offensive numbers might lead one to believe.
Give us a brief scouting report on the starters the Braves will be facing in this series.
In game one the Braves will face Jeremy Guthrie, the veteran of the rotation. While Guthrie has had a good season, in his last two starts he hasn't been on point. On June 16th he was pitching a gem against the Blue Jays but had to leave after five innings with a mild muscle strain in his back. He didn't miss a start but it may still be bothering him since his last two outings have been decidedly un-Guthrie-like. When Guthrie is on his game, he doesn't walk many batters, but he is prone to giving up home runs. His fastball sits at 92-93, but he pumps it up to 95 on occasion. That and his slider are his most frequently used pitches.
On Saturday you'll see Jake Arrieta. This is Arrieta's second year in the majors and he is a frustrating pitcher from an Orioles fan's standpoint. He has a good fastball but he has trouble getting batters out once he has them down in the count, and he walks way too many. Even when he pitches well he throws too many pitches and thus often has trouble pitching late into the game.
Zach Britton takes the mound on Sunday, and while the rookie isn't as dominating as he was when he first got to the majors, he's still a lot of fun to watch. He's the only lefty the Braves will face, but he's not one of these "crafty" lefties that people love to talk about. Britton has a fastball that usually clocks at 92, but he's gotten it up to 95 several times this season. He relies on his sinker for the most part and has a ground ball rate of over 50% this season. That's a good thing as long as the grounders go to J.J. Hardy at shortstop or Lee at first, but Britton has been the victim of bad defense at third base and second base a few times this year.
Who is one player you think is widely underrated and/or overlooked?
I don't think that Matt Wieters is overlooked by any means, but those who don't get to see him play on a regular basis probably underrate him. He's been a bit of a disappointment given his hype as a prospect, but there is no one I'd rather have behind the plate. Wieters has thrown out 43% of baserunners this season (21 out of 49) and he blocks the plate as well as any catcher I've ever seen. He hasn't allowed a passed ball all year, either. He needs to get himself together offensively to avoid being a disappointment in the long run, but just looking at his batting stats doesn't come close to telling the entire story.
What do you expect from this Orioles team in the future?
I expect more of the same. The Orioles do have a core of good young players, but they're getting older by the second and they haven't panned out as well as we'd hoped. President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail seems content to supplement the roster with over the hill sluggers and high priced relievers while ignoring the international market and refusing to pay top dollar for impact free agents. The only way the team will contend is if the young players come into their own, and fast, because they're the only hope the Orioles have.
Friday, July 1, 7:35 p.m. EDT
#46 / Pitcher / Baltimore Orioles
Apr 08, 1979
|2011 - Jeremy Guthrie||3-9||17||16||2||0||0||0||103.0||107||52||45||13||24||66||3.93||1.27|
#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jan 29, 1986
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||10-3||14||14||1||0||0||0||95.2||87||24||22||5||22||55||2.07||
Saturday, July 2, 7:10 p.m. EDT
#34 / Pitcher / Baltimore Orioles
Mar 06, 1986
|2011 - Jake Arrieta||9-4||16||16||0||0||0||0||88.0||76||44||44||12||42||71||4.50||1.34|
#15 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jul 14, 1975
|2011 - Tim Hudson||6-6||16||16||1||1||0||0||100.0||87||46||39||6||24||70||3.51||1.11|
Sunday, July 3, 1:35 p.m. EDT
#53 / Pitcher / Baltimore Orioles
Dec 22, 1987
|2011 - Zach Britton||6-6||17||16||0||0||0||0||98.2||91||45||37||8||34||59||3.38||1.27|
#37 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Sep 03, 1986
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||3-1||10||10||0||0||0||0||56.1||43||20||19||7||15||66||3.04||1.03|
Brian Roberts is on the 15-day DL with concussion-like symptoms, so Robert Andino has received much of the playing time at second base; he can also play at SS, 3B and OF. Roberts was batting .221 at the time of the injury.