Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Baltimore Orioles Series Preview

* Tonight, the Twins will see Radhames Liz, the highly celebrated right-handed pitching prospect in the Orioles organization who was named the #2 overall prospect in the system by Baseball America and is touted as having the best fastball and best change-up. In 2007, the 6’2” Liz amassed 161 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched (a 27% strikeout rate) while with the double-A Bowie Bay Sox. He finished second behind the Yankees Alan Horne (165) in the Eastern League for strikeouts earning him the late September promotion to the major league. Liz made his major debut in 2007 against the Twins last August, six innings of work against Matt Garza that was spoiled by a three run home run by Torii Hunter. This will be Liz’s 2008 major league debut after 11 starts in triple-A Norfolk where he compiled a record of 1-5 with 58 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched (a 22% strikeout rate). His biggest problem is control. In 2007, he had an 11% walk rate while in double-A and an 18% walk rate in his 24 innings at the majors. After just 4 spring innings in 2008, Liz was reassigned to triple-A Norfolk to work on his location. There he reduced his walk rate to 9.6%. The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connelly wrote what is long known about minor league pitcher, “You’d like to think he’d [Liz] pitch with more confidence than he had last year. We know he has talent. But you have to get the ball over the plate in the majors or you won’t stay long.” Tonight, Joe Vavra should reiterate that patience is a virtue to his highly eager line-up.

* The Slow-man will have his seventh start of the season tonight. As I had previous mentioned, Slowey’s progress up until his fifth start of the season in Detroit was a bit of an enigma. Blessed with outrageous accuracy and control, Slowey seldom allows a free pass but has allowed a significant number of solo home runs in that duration. In fact, he has walked as many as he has allowed to go yard: six. He had allowed at least one home run in his first four starts but found a groove in the Motor City. His control was off, as indicated by his three walks, yet he only allowed four hits (two of which were doubles) and did not relinquish a run in his six inning of work at Comerica. Slowey’s most recent start against Kansas City was once again blessed with numerous strikes including six strikeouts on his way to a 1-run complete game. The difference between Slowey’s first four starts and his last two is the type of ball that is put into play. During the first four 50.8% of balls in play were fly balls. The last two outings Slowey featured 50% ground balls, which led to less elevation (29% fb%), which led to zero home runs. Hopefully, this is a Kevin Slowey that had learned where to locate his stuff.

* The Orioles are coming off a series against Boston in which they lost 3 of 4. Over their last ten, the Birds are 3-7 and hitting fairly well (scoring 4.1 runs per game) but have had pitching problems (5.5 runs allowed per game). Opponents have been able to run wild over the Orioles battery. In those last ten games, opponents have swiped 20 bases including Boston’s six steals off of Ramon Hernandez (20% cs%) during the May 30th game. In all fairness, uber-stealer Jacoby Ellsbury stole 3 that game. Daniel Cabrera, who the Twins will see Wednesday night, is second in the American League with 14 stolen bases allowed (82% steal rate), left-hander Garrett Olson, who the Twins will face on Thursday, is fourth in the league with 10 stolen bases allowed (100% steal rate). Expect Gomez, Casilla and Young to be in motion whenever they are on the bases this series.