With the Nationals on a 10 game home stand and MLB.tv blacking out Orioles games, I didn’t get to see too much of the O’s this week. From what I did see, Brian Matusz got a raw deal due to some predictably poor defense in Anaheim, Wei Yin Chen had yet another very strong outing, and the offense looked great in some spots (Jones and Wieters) and rough in others (Reynolds hasn’t had a hit in nearly a week). But despite not seeing much of Baltimore this week, there is one thing I do know.

Cam Cameron is ruining Joe Flacco. How the hell is Joe supposed to build a successful career with shoddy schematics? No one will ever know how good Flacco can be until Cam’s parking spot is empty, and his playbooks are halfway through the shredder. This is how Ravens fans introduce themselves around here, and Baltimore was in the AFC Championship game last year.

At the same time, O’s fans acknowledge that there’s some talent on the pitching staff. Tommy Hunter won 13 games with Texas, Jake Arrieta’s stuff is cough syrup nasty, and Brian Matusz was once considered good enough that people still wonder what’s wrong with him. If Baltimore fans had their way, Cam Cameron would have had an appointment with Ned Stark’s barber months ago. Which leaves me scratching my own head as to why Rick Adair’s is still under an Orioles cap.

In one of the more unbelievable stats in all of baseball, the O’s rank 1st in the AL East in Team ERA (3.64). But as amazing as that number is, it’s equally unsustainable because of how it’s happening. The starters are still rocking the boat enough to make you seasick (4.39 ERA), while the bullpen has been Dramamine and Pepto Bismol all in one (2.26 ERA).

Flat out, the rotation isn’t getting it done, and it’s been a while (OK more like a decade) since they have. If I’m Orioles management, I take a good hard look at the pitching coach. I’m not going to debate whether the staff isn’t listening to Adair’s messages, or if he’s just not sending them. But it’s common knowledge that the coach gets the axe before the players, and the numbers point to the whetstone.

Since Adair took over as the pitching coach on June 14 last year, Orioles starters have had the worst ERA in baseball (a jarring 5.95) by more than half a run. Good starting pitching is built on the fictional but helpful quality start stat (6 IP 3 ER or better). No team ranked in the bottom 11 made the playoffs last year. The Orioles were ranked 30th (dead last) in that category in 2011, with 11 fewer than any other team in baseball. They are tied for 23rd in quality starts this season.

Now, there may not be bonafide aces on this staff, but great pitching coaches have a way of making them appear out of thin air. Dave Duncan (who should get a royalty check every time Tony LaRussa’s name is mentioned) made a career of picking washed up hurlers like Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro off the scrap heap and restoring them into anything from competent to exceptional starters. Mike Maddux has transformed the Texas rotation from a punch line to no joke in just a few years. A good pitching coach is like a good accountant: he sees things that you can’t, and by the time he’s done, the numbers are much lower than you ever thought possible.

Speaking of Mike, maybe his brother Greg (arguably the smartest pitcher of all time) is getting bored with retirement, it wouldn’t hurt to kick the tires there. Maybe go the Duncan route and tap a former catcher (Chris Hoiles was a great defensive catcher). Orioles starters have shown flashes of talent (especially Arrieta), but they have struggled mightily with their lack of pitch efficiency and inability to get out of jams. A new pitching coach could help to clean up those issues. To be fair, Adair may not be the whole problem, but he’s certainly a part of it. And he definitely hasn’t been the solution. At this point, it’s just a matter of how much stronger the winds of change need to blow before they knock the hat off Adair’s head.

Who would you want to look at as a pitching coach? Tell me in the comments.

With the 29th pick in the NFL draft (or the 23rd…or somewhere else)

Meanwhile, there are only 3 more days until 32 kids make more money than any of us will ever see. Draft time. Peter Konz was the name that I had been seeing linked to the Ravens last week, and that has not changed this week. The Ravens need a true left tackle, but the 29th pick is too late to get one. Instead, they’ll kill two birds with one stone by having Konz play LG until Birk hangs ‘em up, and then try to slide him under center.

Again, I can see why Dont’a Hightower is such a seductive prospect. He’s big, smart, and shows great initial burst on pass rushes. But the league is getting smaller and faster, and the first thing that I’d be looking for from a linebacker would be coverage ability. I’m not sure Hightower can cover NFL tight ends or slot receivers, and that might be his undoing.

If Baltimore does trade up (not a Ravens specialty, I know), I could see them going after Mark Barron, Michael Floyd, or Melvin Ingram if any of those three were to slide out of the top 15.

So, my bet would be on Konz if the Ravens stay put. If they move up, it could be for Hightower who is definitely good, but not “second coming of Ray Lewis” good. Or they could move up significantly and take care of some of the other needs they have. As for an ILB, the Ravens do have a good history with drafting troubled but talented linebackers out of Arizona State who had bad combine numbers. Burfict could be a steal if the team can instill some discipline into his game.


4 stupid MLB predictions one month into the season

1)   Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels will be looking for someone to complete their golf foursome in October. I made this prediction on the podcast, and now with Lee on the shelf for an indeterminate amount of time, I’m sold on it. 3 good starters can definitely get you to the playoffs, but not when you’re shooting blanks on offense. Lee threw 10 innings of shutout ball in San Francisco, and LOST because the Phillies couldn’t put up one single run for him. Halladay’s last start: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, L. Larry Bowa speculated that the Phillies could go out and get a bat at the deadline. With what? Their formerly fertile minor league system was plucked barren in the Halladay, Pence, Oswalt, and first Lee deals. Keith Law ranks Trevor May as their best prospect, and he’s #76 in the top 100. I couldn’t be happier to say this: Philly will not make the playoffs

2)   Stephen Strasburg will exceed his 160 inning limit in October. The Nats starting pitching staff looks to be about a week or two away from an SI cover, and with a bat at the deadline (whether from a trade or a healthy Michael Morse), they’ll either win the wildcard or the division. The two keys to the Nationals right now are Gio Gonzalez’s incredible shrinking walk rate (only 2 total in his last 2 starts) and rotation depth. If Gio continues this trend of not walking people, the Nationals have a 1 and 1a starter, with a very good 2 behind them in Zimmermann. Edwin Jackson has thrown a complete game shutout this year, and Ross Detwiler froze a boiling hot Marlins lineup in his last start. The offense is lagging, but it has much more talent top to bottom than the Phillies offense does, along with a better and deeper bullpen.

3)   Matt Kemp is a cyborg sent back through time to save humanity. This probably has the biggest chance of coming true of all four predictions. Somebody prove otherwise.

4)   Although it’s really more the fault of his terrible pitching staff, Bobby Valentine will be in Fenway Park one year at the most, and half of a year at the least. Buchholz and Bard aren’t getting any better, and the bullpen is a house of horrors. I know that Bobby V can turn a mediocre pitching staff into a great one (he did so with my Mets in 1999 and 2000). But with Beckett reverting to his pre-2011 form and the rest of the arms failing him at every turn, he’ll be booted from Boston and someone else will get thrown to the lions sooner rather than later.


NBA Playoffs time:

I want to get this article up at a decent time, so I’ll say this and expand on it later on my own site (patguth321.blogspot.com). The Knicks are a matchup problem for anyone in the playoffs right now with Carmelo riding a month long on fire streak and their great bench depth and scoring. But, I just don’t know how they get past a hyper-motivated Heat team.

Miami’s transition offense (best in the league) and killer bee swarm D (downright terrifying when they played the Knicks in February) prey on two big Knick weaknesses especially with Amar’e back in the starting lineup and no true facilitator on the offensive end. They’ll need to steal one in Miami this upcoming weekend to make it interesting, with the Garden registering on the Richter Scale for LeBron’s arrival next week.


Three things to watch:

1)   Considering I have no hockey allegiances, good luck to the Caps fans out there in Game 7. As an objective observer, there’s nothing more entertaining to watch than a Game 7. As someone who has watched their teams play in one, I don’t envy you. There’s nothing more nerve wracking. It’s a white knuckle, fingernail chomping, whiskey neat kind of night. Enjoy Wednesday.

2)    A 6 game home stand for the Orioles that appears to be smooth sailing. The O’s already swept Toronto and don’t have to see Romero this time around, and the A’s are terrible. They need to finish it over .500 with some dark clouds looming on the May horizon (road trips to New York and Boston followed by a brutal home stand of Tampa, Texas, and New York again). Beat the good teams and split with the bad ones is a good adage to follow, 4-2 should be the benchmark for success.

3)   The Californians and Drunk Uncle. Hilarious.

See everyone next week with much more O’s/Draft analysis.