Myriad O's Thoughts: Ubaldo's ongoing struggles; the Orioles' lack of momentum; a half-hearted Game of Thrones night - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Paul Folkemer

Myriad O’s Thoughts: Ubaldo’s ongoing struggles; the Orioles’ lack of momentum; a half-hearted Game of Thrones night

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

It appears that lightning doesn’t strike twice for Ubaldo Jimenez.

Last year, Jimenez’s banishment to the bullpen in August managed to jump-start his season. He returned to the rotation at the end of that month and was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher down the stretch, posting a 2.45 ERA and delivering five quality starts in his seven outings. (Let’s not talk about what happened in the wild card game.)

So this season, when the Orioles were again forced to demote a struggling Jimenez to relief duty (this time in June), there was some semblance of hope that he could right the ship as he did in 2016. Some optimism that he could turn on the jets in the late months of the season again.

It hasn’t happened.

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Jimenez, since rejoining the rotation June 18, has been just as erratic and unpredictable as he was before his bullpen hiatus. With his latest unimpressive outing against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday (five innings, five earned runs), Jimenez has a 6.46 ERA in 13 starts since his return. Only four of those have been quality starts. Six times, he has allowed five or more runs.

One thing, though, has changed for Jimenez. Walks are no longer his biggest problem. Sure, he still issues his fair share of free passes, but his walk rate since his return is only 3.6 per nine innings. That’s actually lower than his career mark (4.1).

Instead, what’s really hurt Jimenez is that he’s become extremely hittable. Entering Tuesday’s game, opposing batters were hitting .290 with a .906 OPS against him since June 18.

He’s also been prone to the gopherball. He coughed up three more home runs to the Athletics on Tuesday — two to Ryon Healy and one to Jed Lowrie — and has now surrendered 17 in 69 2/3 innings since June 18. That’s a rate of 2.2 homers every nine innings, dramatically higher than his career 0.9 rate. And remember, this is a guy who used to pitch his home games at Coors Field for six years.

“It definitely wasn’t a good one,” Jimenez said of his Tuesday outing. “I left a couple pitches up, and they made me pay for it. The first one was a fastball that was supposed to be inside, and it got too much of the plate. And the other one was a hanging slider.”

The bottom line is that even when Jimenez keeps the ball in the strike zone, his stuff simply isn’t fooling enough hitters. And that’s a problem that a mere bullpen stint can’t easily solve.

“It’s never a good feeling not to be able to be there for the team,” Jimenez said. “Today was a tough one.”

Orioles struggling to build momentum

I think we can all agree that sweeping a series is no easy feat. Even the best team in baseball is no guarantee to win three games in a row against the worst. That’s just the nature of baseball.

That said, the Orioles, who are frantically trying to keep their head above water in the wild card race, really could have used a sweep against the Athletics. The Orioles, who struggle on the road, need to rack up all the wins they can while they’re on their home field — especially against the non-contending A’s, who have the third-worst record in the AL.

But with Tuesday’s loss, a sweep is out the window, and the Orioles are at risk of losing the series in Wednesday’s finale.

It’s a familiar story. In each of their last five series, the Orioles have won the opening game, only to lose the next one. They haven’t won any of those series. And they haven’t won two games in a row since Aug. 6-7.

“We’ve talked about it, and they’re certainly aware of it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “But we’re going to have to get consistent in our starting pitching in order to have that type of momentum and to have those things happen. We have some good things, and then we have some that really put us in a hole early on. Sometimes we climb out of it, sometimes we don’t.”

A half-hearted promotion

Tuesday was Game of Thrones night at Camden Yards, inspired by the hit HBO series. And I must say, I was a little disappointed with how it played out.

Fans who bought a special ticket package were given the opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne and received an “Adam Jones: The Watcher on the Wall” T-shirt. But that’s pretty much where the Game of Thrones connection ended. Once the game began, I didn’t notice any mention of or reference to the show.

As an avid Game of Thrones fan, I was hoping the promotions staff would find creative ways to incorporate it into the ballpark entertainment throughout the game. How about a Jumbotron feature in which Orioles players name their favorite character? How about a Hot Dog Race that replaces Ketchup, Mustard and Relish with Daenerys’ three dragons?

What about getting a cast member from the show to make an appearance? Even if the big names weren’t available, surely the Orioles could’ve found some minor actor to show up. There have been approximately 10,000 characters on the show, give or take.

What about introducing the starting lineups to the Game of Thrones opening theme, using images from the show? Or making Game of Thrones-related puns with players’ names? (I’ve got one: Trey Mance-Rayder. Boom, there you go.)

Seventeen other major league teams have hosted Game of Thrones nights this season as part of a partnership between MLB and HBO. Many of them found unique ways to pay homage to the show. The Tampa Bay Rays introduced their opponents, the Boston Red Sox, by portraying them as white walkers on the scoreboard. The Milwaukee Brewers’ Twitter account mocked up pictures of their players as characters from the show. The Orioles’ attempt was a bit lacking by comparison.

And yes, I’m well aware that I might be the only person who actually cares about this. Maybe the Orioles didn’t want to distract from the game at hand by delving too deeply into a fantasy TV series.

But if you’re going to have a Game of Thrones promotion, I say you go all out and have fun with it. This is an entertainment business, after all.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Stick’em with the pointy end.

  2. ravenjt42

    August 23, 2017 at 8:51 am

    At one point during a late inning rally, they showed a graphic of a dragon flying over OPACY, but it was cheesy CGI.
    As for the quality of the promo, most likely it was due to the fact that all the other parks had the promo scheduled before the season started. Once it was announced, I called my ticket rep to see why we weren’t in on the fun, and he had no idea. our GoT promo wasn’t announced until last month, so maybe they didn’t have time to whip anything up.
    Anyway, the shirt was cool and I drank 7 small beers in 90 minutes,so, y’know, Valar Dohaeris.

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      From the looks of it, all the GOT nights around the majors were scheduled at the same time, earlier this year: http://m.mlb.com/tickets/special-events/game-of-thrones

      If that’s the case, the Orioles had more time than any other team to prep their GoT night. And they still couldn’t come up with much. Maybe the event staff aren’t fans of the show.

  3. Os_Skins

    August 23, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Any chance the Orioles line their Boston starters up like this:

    Friday: Castro
    Saturday: Hellickson
    Sunday: Gausman (gives him an extra few days rest, which there’s been speculation about him needing)

    I can’t watch another Tillman debacle. We’re constantly getting “no better options,” but I’m sorry, 3-5 innings from Castro, followed by Bleier for 2 or 3 could lead nicely into your A pen if you have the lead. That’s a better option.

    Then you stick Tillman in the pen for an emergency long arm while Castro recovers from the start and hopefully you won’t need to use him before rosters expand. I’d rather give Castro the opportunity to audition for next year, while trying to salvage a 500 campaign this year, than watch Tillman labor through 3 or 4 in Fenway.

    As silly as it sounds, the Orioles are most likely missing Sale and Pomeranz, and they could use a surprising road series. 2/3 in Boston would be a nice get, and could right the wrongs of Angels/Oakland. I don’t mind Buck sticking with Tillman and Ubaldo in April to see if they can work it out, I do mind it in August.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Obviously I’m a day late here. And I like your thinking. But Castro pitched in deep relief again in extras. The problem with your above scenario is you lose Castro and Bleier for a couple days. And then you have to hope another starter disaster doesn’t come. A lot of these decisions are made to protect the bullpen.

      • Os_Skins

        August 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

        Right, I had suggested Castro before his magnificent performance in extras.

        The issue with my scenario is that it requires you to go from what is already 6 starters (Bundy, Gaus, Tillman, Miley, Ubaldo and Hellickson) to 7 in terms of availability. But I’m thinking about this in terms of winning…and in terms of getting close to September call ups. If he had started on the 25th or 26th, was optioned because you won’t be able to use him anyhow, and replaced with a Wright or Wilson, can he rejoin the club on Sept. 1 and make his next start?

        OR does the 10 day recall rule barring injury still apply? OR would you have to wait until the 10 days had gone? If you wouldn’t have to wait, I would have still gone with that plan. It’s a temporary shuttle – like Chen to Frederick near the ASG a few years ago (that went over well, right?)

        Buck and Dan are good at getting creative, and I’m not sure how many more starts of Bad Ubaldo and Tillman this team can sustain. I’d rather 4-5 innings of the Castro we’ve seen throughout the year and an Asher or Ramirez or Wilson thrown in the mix. Heck, once rosters expand, I’d be up for a couple bullpen-by-committee games where you start these longer relief guys and have a quick hook for other longer relief guys, in stead of 115 pitches over 4 from Ubaldo or Tillman.

        • Paul Folkemer

          August 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

          I believe the 10-day recall rule still applies until the minor league seasons end. The Norfolk, Bowie, and Frederick regular seasons all end on Sept. 4. So if you sent Castro down on the 25th or 26th, you couldn’t recall him until the 4th at the earliest.

  4. Wade Warren

    August 23, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Orioles can’t win 2 games in a row

  5. Liamandcarolinesdad

    August 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I watch baseball for the baseball…if I wanted to watch GoT, I’d simply watch GoT…none of this makes any sense to me.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Hmmmm…..it makes more sense to me than Folkemer’s Sabremetrics …..

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:20 am

      Hey, at least Paul explains his end every couple weeks.

  6. GSISDANNO

    August 25, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    The Game of Thrones promotion was rather odd to me. The Orioles usually do their special days very well. I almost felt they had the Game of Thrones promotion because they had to. I was in the ballpark that night and I had no idea the Iron Throne was there. I watch the show but I am not a fanatic about it. The Nationals went all out with their Game of Thrones promotion. They had shirts with House of Scherzer, House of Harper, etc. A lot of people dressed up as characters. The Orioles’ promotion was very odd to me.

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      I got the same feeling. It seemed like the Orioles were only begrudgingly having a GOT night as part of the MLB/HBO promotion. They didn’t seem invested in it at all.

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