I’ll start with the most painful observation. It’s what is called a comparative attention-grabber in those crazy sports journalism circles.
Through eight starts in 2018, Alex Cobb, who signed a four-year, $57 million deal with the Orioles, is 1-6 with a 7.32 ERA.
Through eight starts in 2017, Ubaldo Jimenez, who once signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles, was 1-2 with a 6.52 ERA.
Jimenez actually never posted an ERA at or above 7.32 ERA last year after May 1 (his ERA peak from that point forward was 7.26 on June 23).
All things are relative, of course; 2017 was the final year of Jimenez’s terrible contract. Cobb is only eight starts into his Orioles’ deal.
No one expects Cobb to be Ubaldo-like (or Ubaldo-Lite).
And, frankly, Cobb’s nightmare beginning in orange and black could be traced to his first three outings before Wednesday night’s disaster in Chicago in which he allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks to the White Sox in 3 2/3 innings. All of that damage came in innings three and four.
Prior to Wednesday, Cobb had a 3.38 ERA in his previous four starts in May after posting a 13.11 ERA in his three April games.
Those three early starts can be dismissed as rust-covered since Cobb signed late in the offseason and didn’t have a true spring training.
And, for now, you can dismiss Wednesday’s outing as a blip, one of those bad days that all pitchers have.
The guy is a good pitcher and was looking the as-advertised hurler this month until he landed in Chicago.
I don’t expect this to be Ubaldo 2.0. But, understand, for comparative sake, at this time last year, the terrible, awful, no-good Jimenez had a better ERA than Cobb does now.
Davis isn’t scoring at a near-record pace
There are so many numbers that demonstrate how terrible of a start this has been for Orioles first baseman Chris Davis.
In 178 plate appearances, he’s hit .154 with a .230 on-base percentage and .253 slugging percentage – which would all be career lows, by far. He’s struck out 65 times, that’s a 37 percent strikeout rate compared to an eight percent walk rate.
His hard-contact rate is down, his ground-ball rate is up, pretty much all the numbers that you would expect to point to poor performance are there.
But here is the old-school, counting stat that stunned me, one that almost seems like it is impossible given all his at-bats so far.
Davis has played in 44 games this season, and he has scored eight runs. Eight. He has been to the plate 178 times, and only eight of those have resulted in touching the plate on the way back around. And four of those were on his own homers. He scored zero runs in the five games in which he led off.
Now, it’s not surprising Davis hasn’t scored a bunch. He’s not getting on base – though he has reached first 40 times — and he’s batting in the lower half of an order that doesn’t produce a lot of key hits. This is a reflection not only of Davis’ year so far, but the Orioles’ lack of production, of course.
But still, only eight runs scored in more than a quarter of a season? That’s really hard to do.
In comparison, Mark Trumbo hits in about the same spot in the order as Davis – fifth or sixth – and has batted half the amount of time this year due to injury. And Trumbo already has scored 10 runs. Tim Beckham hasn’t played since April 23 and he has the same number of runs scored as Davis.
Another stunner: Davis has yet to score more than once in any game this year.
Again, there are many better indicators to point to Davis’ woes. But none seem as stunningly bad as a 162-game pace of 30 runs scored in a season.
Consider there have been only six players in baseball history that have had at least 500 plate appearances and have scored 30 runs or fewer in a season (the most recent was Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria in 2013; before that you have to go back to 1978). Only California’s Leo Cardenas in 1972 had 600 plate appearances with 30 runs or fewer scored. He touched the plate only 25 times.
Castoffs finding jobs
Earlier this month, three players opted-out of their minor league contracts with the Orioles: Alex Presley, Michael Saunders and Josh Edgin.
Now, all three have new minor league homes. Presley signed with White Sox on Wednesday, joining Saunders with the same organization while the Washington Nationals agreed to terms with Edgin.
This is the underbelly of the Dan Duquette philosophy of throwing players against the Warehouse wall and hoping some stick. There really was no room at the big league inn for any of the three, and so they have gone elsewhere.
I would have liked to have seen Edgin get a shot, because good left-handed relievers are hard to find. But the Orioles have been OK in that spot with Richard Bleier, Tanner Scott and Donnie Hart getting looks, so it made sense for Edgin to move on.
They were all worth a shot. Now all sides have moved on.
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