Ravens vs. Bengals Preview

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It may be a little too early to say this, but this game could be a must win for the Ravens. The Birds are back at M&T Bank, where they have been pretty good this year. The only problem is that the Bengals are in town. The Bengals are the favorite to win this(for obvious reason), but I expect this to be a tough battle between AFC North foes.

You can read my reaction to last weeks loss for the state of the Ravens. They need to play better in the secondary and the offensive line needs to start blocking. The front 7 have been playing well all year. The offensive skilled positions have not had holes or time to get open because of the lack of blocking. Joe Flacco needs to emerge as a leader and win this team some games, even with the struggling secondary.

The Bengals enter Sunday’s game 6-3, and fresh off an overtime loss to Miami last Thursday. They have had plenty of time to recover and prepare for this weeks game. They boast 7th best passing attack and 19th rushing. Two words: A.J Green. I would suspect the Ravens to double him and/or shadow him with a safety over top. Good luck to the Raven’s corner who gets that duty. The Bengals O-line has been pretty good this year in their pass and run blocking. Andy Dalton has been improving all year and has time and weapons. They feature a 2 back system with BenJarvis Green-Ellis and rookie playmaker Giovanni Bernard who has also been getting better week by week. Marvin Williams had a 4 TD game two weeks ago and Sanu is decent, but AJ Green is their only solid WR. TEs Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert can stretch the field and block. They cause mismatches with LBs and Safeties. This is very good and balanced offense. The Ravens D needs to rely on pass rush, shutting down the run, and limiting big plays. The Bengals will pass for 300 yards, but AJ Green and Sanu need to be kept under check. They need to give up the underneath routes and play a bend but not break style defense. Let the D-Line pressure Dalton into a mistake or 2 that could change the game.

Defensively, the Bengals are one of the best in the league, 11th in passing and 10th in rushing. The loss of Geno Atkins is huge, but they have pretty good replacements for him. The Ravens will be unable to run against the front 7. Burfict, Maualuga, and James Harrison are all run stoppers at Linebacker. The D-Line includes run stopper Domata Peko, and edger rushers Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. This is a scary front 7(without Atkins). Corners Adam Jones, Terence Newman, and nickel Dre Kirkpatrick are decent but nothing too special. Safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka have been very consistant this year. The Ravens need to isolate Torrey Smith on one of these corners. Throw him slants, curls, crossing routes, and screen early. Get the ball in his hands. After repeated short attempts, get him on a double move with max protection. Utilizing Smith will be essential for a win. Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, and TEs Dickson and Clarke should be used in the passing game as well. Burfict is the only one who can cover, so getting Rice on Maualuga or Harrison should be easy checks for Flacco. Dickson and Clarke should be able to find holes in the middle of the field.  Flacco needs to make calls and audibles at the line depending on what the Bengals line up in.

Prediction: The Bengals are too good of a team to lose this game. 27-17 Bengals. Only way Ravens win is if their RBs go for 100 and 1+TD and Torrey Smith hits 100 and 1TD(must keep AJ Green under this as well).

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3 Orioles win Silver Slugger award

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(saw this picture plenty of times this year)

The Orioles continue to win headlines(and not games) in the post season with a few silver slugger awards. The Orioles had the most players from one team this year; Adam Jones(OF), JJ Hardy(SS), and Chris Davis(1B). Hardy(.263 25 HR 76 RBI) and Davis(.286 53 HR 138 RBI) were well deserving of this award. I know Joneys led all AL outfielders with 108 RBI, but I thought there would be someone more deserving. After further looking into it, Trout and Tori Hunter were the only 2 that should have won anything. Adam Jones is a great hitter, but his .318 OBP is pathetic. Jacoby Ellsbury is a great player, but I don’t think he deserved a silve slugger. Same with Alex Rios, he put up great stats, but was on a shitty team. He probably would have posted 100 RBIs on a real team. Hardy’s only competition was Jed Lawrie who had a higher batting average and same the amount of RBIs, but only 15 HR.

The only other teams with multiple players to win silver sluggers were  Detroit, Pittsburg, and St. Louis, all playoff teams. This is a clear evidence that the Os need to improve their pitching staff. They had the best hitter in the AL at 3/9 of their positions and were unable to reach the playoffs. None of the Os pitchers will even come close to an award. I still laugh at the fact that Chris Tillman was an All-Star. An average ERA and high wins thanks to the Os offense got him there.

Os need to keep the bats around and bring in some pitching. Need to challenge the Yanks, Rays, and Sox batters this year.

The Goose teaches Adam Jones how to eat crabs

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How high is Adam Jones right now? We know he smokes all the time, but agreeing to eat crabs with the Goose? I wouldn’t be surprised if these two characters became friends and then Jones reports to Spring Training 30 lbs overweight after going on food binges with the Goose. Hey Jones, how about you work on some plate discipline instead of your crab eating technique and maybe your OBP will be a little higher than .318 (league average is .321) next season. But how can I blame AJ here, I would kill an infant to be in the Goose’s entourage. Cocaine, Strippers, Cheesesteaks. Look at this savage.

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Orioles Season Review

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85-77,  4th in AL East, 6.5 off Wildcard

46-35 Home, 39-42 Away

The Orioles put together the perfect example of a “rollercoaster season” this year. After a decent first half, the Orioles became a very inconsistent team, having no balance with their offense and pitching. The early hot bats cooled off towards the end of the season and the poor pitching all season finally cost the team to miss out on the play offs following a tight AL East race.

You can look at stats all you want, but Chris Davis (286. 53HR 138RBI) was the only player to consistently play both offense and defense all year. Adam Jones(.285, 33HR 108RBI),  Manny Machado(.283, 51 2B, 71 RBI), and J.J Hardy (.263, 25 HR 76 RBI) were All-Stars after strong starts to the season, but did not play as well in the second half. Jones and Wieters were notorious all year for late RBIs and HRs with the team down 5+ runs. Machado hit a very cold streak in November and September both offensively and defensively that cost the team. Hardy was never in full rhythm with the offense and seemed a little uncomfortable batting late in the lineup. Corner outfielders Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth were also very inconsistent at the plate, especially late in season.

The biggest issues with the Orioles were their lack of a power hitting DH and inconsistency at second base. The Orioles production from the DH spot was one of the leagues worst. Using a combination of Nolan Reimold, Danny Valencia, Steve Pearce, and Brian Roberts was a disaster for the O’s. After struggling all season,  Michael Morse was brought in from Seattle, clearly something Buck Showalter did not agree with, and got not production out of him.

After Brian Roberts went down with an injury, the Oriole’s used a platoon of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. This was a major downgrade from a healthy Roberts, and left the 9 hole one of the weakest in the AL. I do like Flaherty as a back up utility player, as he did show some promise and a little power towards the end of the year, but he needs more time to develop into an everyday starter.

The pitching staff struggled all year and was easily the main reason the O’s missed out on the playoffs.  Starters Chris Tillman (16-7 3.71 ERA), Miguel Gonzalez (11-8 3.78 ERA), Wei-Yin Chen (7-7 4.07 ERA), Scott Feldman (5-6 4.27 ERA), Bud Norris (4-3 4.80 ERA), Jason Hamel (7-8 4.97 ERA) the 8 other pitchers(“Sweaty” Freddy Garcia) to start for the O’s did not have their best stuff this year. While Hamel won 16 games, it is evident that he was not a true #1 pitcher, and that there is no Ace for the Orioles. Adding Feldmen and Norris were good moves that did not pan out. The Orioles need to go shopping in the off-season for a #1 to solidify this staff. There were obvious locker room issues with players like Francisco Rodriguez, Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Luiz Ayala, ect. that also held back the O’s.

The bullpen, which looked strong to start the season faced problems following Jim Johnson’s melt down. Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day pitched decent but there was always a sense of worry whenever a new reliever was brought on. K-Rod and T.J McFarland struggled at the end of the season. Brian Matusz and Troy Patton never looked comfortable on the mound despite being matchup pitchers. On a positive note, the pen finished in the middle of the MLB in terms of stats and in my opinion, can only get better after giving Tommy Hunter, Matusz, and O’Day more experience.

Looking at next season, the Orioles need to make some Free Agent additions. Jason Hamel and Scott Feldman are free agents and I suspect they will land else where. Brian Roberts Michael Morse, and Nate McLouth are free agents  I also expect to not sign in Baltimore. The Orioles will need 2B, LF,  DH and SP. Possible SP additions: Matt Garza, AJ Burnett, Josh Johnson, Tim Linceum, Ubaldo Jimiez, Ricky Nolasco, Bartolo Colon, Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren. The question is are the Oriole’s willing to pay 10 Mil for a pitcher? I would hope so, and looking at this list, Ervin Santana could be a perfect fit for the O’s, despite loosing a draft pick.  If the Orioles are looking to make a splash, why not 2 and bring in Nolasco or Garza? At second base, Omar Infante is the #1 guy, but may cost too much. Kelly Johnson,  Juan Uribe, Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, and a few others could be options. I just don’t see Brian Roberts returning. OF/DH will be interesting. Will the Oriole’s spend? Players like Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkillis, Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay and James Loney will be available for DH. All have proven power.  Carlos Beltran and Marlon Byrd will be a free agent for both spots but will likely cost too much. Rajai Davis could be a good replacement for McLouth, while players like Corey Hart and Tony Gwynn Jr. could be had for a lesser price than Beltran.

Going forward, I see the Orioles rotation looking something like this : Hammel, Gonzalez, Chen, Norris, and Gausman after the Orioles fail to sign a top SP. I like the young Orioles pitchers in Gausman, Bundy, and Britton, but having Gausman start out in the minors would be the best for the rotation. The lineup will change, with the addition of  LF, 2B, and DH. My guess would be Rajai Davis/LF will lead off, with Markakis, Machado, Davis, Jones, Hardy, DH, Wieters, 2B. the DH will likely be a righty as Buck loves setting his line up L/R/L/R. The bullpen will likely add 1 or 2 guys for depth but not much should change.

If the Orioles want to spend this year, they can add 1 or 2(more likely 1) quality pitchers for 10 Mil a piece, Omar Infante, Rajai Davis, and their choice of a righty DH. While this most likely will not happen, this team could be very dangerous. Regardless of the free agent additions, there are enough pieces on offense to make the Orioles a contender again. A healthy Chen and Gonzalez should produce better from last year, and Tilman should have confidence after a 16 Win season. Machado will be healthy and hopefully back in his top form.

While the AL East will be just as tough next season as it was this season, I see the Orioles playing as a contender for the wild card in September next season. With a strong FA class for their needs, the Orioles could piece themselves together an October baseball team.