Come on Kevin Gregg, just smile...I'm getting nervous

It’s tough to be worried about a 5-2 week, but I’ll try and make sure you are anyways. Baltimore’s starters ERA this month is an awful 5.17 (27th in MLB). After seeing that number, it shouldn’t surprise you that the already heavily taxed bullpen has had an oversized load of innings dumped on it in May (80.2 to be exact, the most in the majors). With one of its better members on the D.L., it was surprising it took until last night for the bullpen to cave (good to see Kevin Gregg’s completely emotionless face again. It legitimately borders on sociopathic, he terrifies me for a whole myriad of reasons).

Down below I’ve got some interesting questions that are going to need to be answered soon. Stuff like: do you like the new/old Markakis? How many fingers would you cut off to keep Adam Jones here (remember, you have to shake his hand when he signs the contract)? What do you do when Brian Roberts rises from the dead and is ready to play (don’t keep him chained up in the barn, he’s not the Brian you knew anymore)? You’re welcome to all of that, and whatever is left in the fridge, make yourself at home.

Nick Markakis is on pace for 30 HR’s (career high)…and 124 strikeouts (career high)

A lot of Oriole fans had been wondering the past few years exactly where Nick Markakis’ power stroke went after back-to-back 20 HR seasons in 2007 and 2008. Well call off the search party, because it appears Nick has unearthed it. Markakis hit his 8th HR of the season over the weekend – a no-doubt crush job to right field – a mark he didn’t reach until his 90th game last season. In fact, this the quickest Markakis has EVER gotten to 8 home runs (DRAW CRAZY CONCLUSIONS! HE’S GOING TO CATCH BARRY BONDS!)

With this uptick in power, Markakis is experiencing a drop off in batting average and he’s striking out A LOT more than he usually does. Those 124 strikeouts would be 11 more than his career high in 2008, and his .257 batting average doesn’t look like it’s an aberration (.273 BABIP).

The question is, now that power hitting Nick is back, how do you feel? Do you miss the ’09-’11 version who was a steady .291-hitting influence on the lineup, someone who would never surprise you but was great to come home to? Or, are you a fan of the new/old Nick? One who is at times alternately impressive (.467 SLG) and frustrating (12 straight games with a strikeout)? Kind of like picking the sweet girl next door or the hot chick on bipolar meds? (Mark Reynolds would be a woman that spontaneously morphs between looking like Roseanne Barr and Rose Byrne. Kind of like Mystique from X-Men with less plate discipline).

(Insert Awesome Adam Jones stat here)

Three 10+ game hitting streaks. Tied for the 2nd most home runs in baseball. Currently on pace for 50+ HR’s and 20+ steals. These are all facts that are fun to say for you, me (#SupportYourLocalFantasyTeam), and a man named Nez Balelo. Nez Balelo will be taking a lot of Dan Duquette’s money this offseason. I’ll let you figure out if it’s because he’s Jones’ agent or the head of a Russian crime syndicate. Either way, I’d have Liam Neeson on speed dial for the negotiations.

I like to compare Jones to my other favorite CF in baseball, Andrew McCutchen, but unlike the Dutchman, AJ is doing the contract year right. I picture his deal falling right in between McCutchen’s (6 yr/51.5 mil) and the government bailout money that was offered to Matt Kemp (8 yr/160 mil), so about 6 years, 90 million dollars.

Coming from a person who went through a similarly….interesting situation with his own team last year, I would set a financial breaking point for what you want to pay Adam Jones. Again: I would pay up, he’s just entering his prime and is plenty of people’s pick for “best centerfielder for the next 10 years not named Kemp”. But, there is always a chance that Balelo asks for Kemp money in unmarked bills if Jones keeps this up. IF that unfortunate situation does appear to be occurring at the trade deadline, and the team and player are at opposite ends of a chasm on contract negotiations, start shopping his MVP-level talent, and look to stock the minor leagues with 3 or 4 outstanding talents along with a starter in return.

Or Duquette can take the opposite route, keep his star that he knows he can’t resign, not offer a contract in the offseason, and watch the fans favorite player sign with a division rival thus killing any goodwill between him and the fans. Maybe then he can make some bad investments and fall deep in debt. Maybe hire bankruptcy consultants that he denies are bankruptcy consultants. Maybe give an interview that slanders the rest of the players on the t- I HATE THE WILPONS, I HATE THEM WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY THIN PREYING MANTIS-LIKE BODY.

Left-Handers are not welcome here

This is amazing to me. Opposing lefties have the same average versus Darren O’Day as they do against Aroldis Chapman (both .107). I don’t think this will continue, and I say that because O’Day reminds everyone a lot of of former Oriole/Misfit Toy Island resident Chad Bradford. Similar motion, similar stuff, NOT similar success against lefties (the previous sidewinder’s Opp BA vs. LHB was a scorching .315).

But even if this is the case, the Orioles relievers are having amazing success against lefties while having only one subpar southpaw (Troy Patton and his 4.35 ERA) of their own in the pen. So, if you’re Dan Duquette, can you give me a cushy front office job? And also, do you start perusing around Ned Flanders’ Leftorium (Minnesota’s Brian Duensing? New York’s Tim Byrdak?) knowing that you’ll have to give something up? Or do you stick with a bunch of guys who are all having career seasons, but may be at a higher risk for developing arthritis (thank you Wikipedia).

What do you do when the dead come back to life?

            I miss the Walking Dead. Here though, I’m talking about Zach Britton and Brian Roberts. Obviously, both of them have a long way to go. Britton is making his third start of extended spring training, and every sentence with Roberts’ name in it for the last year has concluded with a question mark. But eventually, they’re both going to be back, and…well, what does that mean?

I’m really not sure what to make of Britton, who rocketed out of the gates last year (5-2, 2.35 ERA in his first 10 starts) before tumbling catastrophically back to earth from the end of May-July. Obviously, there’s a term called the rookie wall for a reason, but his 2 starts at Boston and at New York in July last year were hideous. He pitched a TOTAL of one inning and allowed 17 runs.

The most logical solution is to bump Hunter to either a crowded bullpen or the minors and slot in Britton. But, if Hunter continues to struggle (and he will, his FIP is still well into the 5’s), how soon do you slot in Britton? Do you risk using feast or famine Pineiro as a stopgap so Britton can have an extended stay in the minors, or just throw Britton straight in the fire?

On the other hand, Roberts will hopefully be standing in the Camden Yards on-deck circle at some point this season. Robert Andino’s cult following swelled to Big Lebowski and Community levels early in the season, but Andino looks like he might be better suited as a sub at this point. He leads all second basemen in errors (7), leads the team in strikeouts (40), and is hitting a paltry .218 in May. There’s no way to predict what you’ll get from a 34 year old who’s been out of baseball for a year, and was last seen hitting .221 with a .273 OBP. Do you give the former All-Star his spot back when he returns? Slide Andino to a different spot (he played 19 games at 3rd) or to the bench? I leave Andino right where he is

Three thoughts on the rest of the AL East

  • I’m going to condense two players into one, because neither of them deserve an individual thought: can we all just give up on Clay Buchholz and Phil Hughes? The two former blue ribbon winners of the Red Sox and Yankees farm systems have had one full good season between them (Clay Buchholz’s 2010), and have survived based on the run support silver spoon they’re given every year (Hughes 1st in RSA in 2010, Buchholz 1st in 2012). On the surface, Phil and Clay look like two young aces with sharp breaking pitches and above average pepper, but under the hood they’re held together with scotch tape. Buchholz regularly has a K/BB under 2, and in Hughes’ 18 win season in 2010 he had the 12th worst HR/9 in baseball (1.28). The Yankees and Red Sox would be smart to realize that both pitchers don’t even eat innings, and shop them to the highest bidder ASAP.
  • The Red Sox are starting to figure it out right now. I had them missing the playoffs to start the season, but Bobby V finally seems to have found the right mix in the bullpen (1.64 bullpen ERA since the start of May). The combination of that, and injuries completely derailing the Yankees pen have left the two teams tied at the start of Tuesday.The Yankees ace in the hole has always been their bullpen, which this season looked exceptional at the start (Soriano-Robertson-Rivera looked like a throwback to the days of Lloyd/Nelson-Rivera-Wetteland). Now, it’s an even race in the pens, with the Yankees having a slight advantage with the lineup, and the Red Sox having a better starting rotation. Should be interesting to see who catches Tampa.
  • In the category of things I never thought I’d say 10 years ago: Tampa Bay is again the class of this division. With the exception of struggling phenom Matt Moore, the rotation has been far and away the best in the division. David Price and James Shields finally coordinated their on years, Jeremy Hellickson seems hell bent on not regressing despite what all the advanced metrics say, and Jeff Niemann is a 5th starter capable of shutting down the Yankees (as he did in his last start). They spot started Alex Cobb, and he conjured a 7-inning gem against the best team in N.L. (seriously, how deep does the pitching go down there?)The team has played .500 ball in the absence of their one consistent source of offense, and if they can stay similarly afloat until he gets back in mid-June, they’ll be in very good shape for the stretch run. As fun as it is to knock off the Yankees and the Red Sox, don’t forget for a second that neither of them is the team to catch in this division this year.

Three Things to Watch

1)   I don’t advocate anything from Duke, which is why it’s so tough for me to admit that I love this. But it’s an awesome commercial, and the best part is how he sold it with a couple of bricks. BACKBOOOAAARRRDD!!! I dare you not to start laughing when you see the “Dinner’s Served”.

2)   Brick, give a nice message to the people

3)   Nick Kroll has a funny video on FunnyOrDie with Selena Gomez, but any time I see him, I just think of this.