• Apr

    Hats off to Olson

    My hats off to Garrett Olson after the left-hander took another step in erasing his disastrous 2007 Orioles performance last night with six and two-third strong innings last night. Even with a tight strike zone, Olson made quality pitch after quality pitch with his moving 88-91 MPH fastball, solid curve while even tossing in some good changeups.


    Even when he missed he didn’t miss by much last night, so I think those five walks are a little deceiving. With 15 walks issued by pitchers last night, it was pretty obvious that Angel Hernandez’s strike zone was pretty tiny, but Olson never lost his poise and went back after the next hitter.


    When I talked to Olson this spring, it was pretty obvious to me that he had learned a lot from last year, but had put it behind him. With his stuff, he’s going to walk some guys, especially when he struggles to get his curveball over, but the emergence of the changeup, something he didn’t have earlier in his career, should allow him to battle on most nights.


    Walker and the bullpen


    There’s been some concern around the Hangout’s message board community about Jamie Walker, with some voicing concerns that he could be the new Buddy Groom. Groom of course was the solid left-handed reliever of went from bullpen stalwart to bullpen fodder when he turned 37, had very similar stuff to Walker except he actually threw harder. Walker, who will turn 37 in July, has struggled this season to find his good slider on some nights and the command of the pitch has been off as well.


    However, although his ERA is high at 5.19, he’s only been scored upon in three of his 12 outings and last night, despite his slider being a little flat, he worked his way out of a jam that Chad Bradford created when he allowed singles to the first two batters he faced.


    The real concern right now is that lefties are batting .333 with three home runs in 21 at bats off Walker this year. With no other lefty in the bullpen besides closer George Sherrill (who has shut down lefties with a .067 BAVG), the Orioles don’t have a go-to guy to get that key lefty out if Walker doesn’t re-find the slider that has been so effective against lefties throughout his career.


    Currently, right-handers Jim Johnson (.100 BAVG) and Matt Albers (.111 BAVG) have been the most effective against left-handers. Albers will get the start tonight against Tampa Bay but right now, he may be the most effective set-up relief pitcher the team has against both right-handers and left-handers. The Orioles may want to consider moving him into that 8th inning role to set-up Sherrill, especially if Walker continues to struggle with his slider.


    The Surprise


    Speaking of Johnson, what a nice surprise he has been this year. Johnson impressed Orioles officials this spring by showing off a much tighter curveball and by pitching more aggressively with his fastball. Additionally, he’s thrown with more velocity out of the pen touching 94 MPH rather than the 89-92 he threw previously as a starter. Johnson has cemented his role in the Orioles bullpen by tossing 13 scoreless innings allowing just six hits (.133 BAVG) and has walked none. He looks like a totally different pitcher than the shell shocked one that we saw in 2006. I think he may have found his niche in the bullpen.


    Time ticking on Trachsel


    Could the clock be ticking on Steve Trachsel as a starter with the Orioles? If it’s not, it should be. It’s time for the Orioles to look at the cold hard facts, and the fact is besides six starts in August of last year that spurred the Cubs to foolishly trade for him for their stretch drive, the veteran has been an unmitigated disaster as a starter since June of 2007.


    Since that time, Trachsel has made 17 starts and posted a 7.91 ERA (77.1 IP/68ER) with a 44-41 BB-K ratio. Adding fuel to the fire, the right-hander is not even eating up innings; averaging 4.5 innings pitched per start since over this span.


    With the emergence of Johnson, Randor Bierd and Dennis Sarfate in the bullpen, Albers makes the logical choice to replace the struggling Trachsel from the current staff. He’ll start today against Tampa and the hope is with success, along with the success of Olson, the Orioles will start looking towards the future and jettison the veteran right-hander, at least from the rotation.


    Oh, by the way, down in Norfolk Radhames Liz faced just four batters over the minimum in his start last night and has allowed just one run in his last 13 innings. He’s walked five and struck out 15 over these last two starts.


    I know if I’m paying money to watch the O’s, I’d much prefer to watch Liz than Trachsel, even if both struggle because at least I know Liz is part of the future. It also doesn’t hurt that Liz has a special arm and if he keeps dominating, needs to be given his opportunity with the Orioles. Trachsel is the odd man out in my mind.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.