With the Orioles visiting Detroit for the next four games, we're playing "Five Questions" with Jeff Pilson of Right Off Russell to learn a little bit about the opposition. The last time the Tigers played the O's, the two teams split a four-game series in Baltimore, but the big story was Luke Scott's five homers and 11 RBIs (and 1.500 slugging average) against Detroit pitching.
We were supposed to do some Q&A with ROR before that series back in May, but my mind went blank and I forgot to respond to them in time. Fortunately, we got another chance to do so this week, and swapped questions over the weekend. ROR's posted my answers to their Tigers queries, which you can read here.
Bless You Boys: Are you generally happy with what the Orioles received for George Sherrill? Were you hoping they could've made more deals at the trade deadline, selling off players like Aubrey Huff or Luke Scott?
Right Off Russell: In a word, yes. It is hard to say how good Josh Bell and Steve Johnson will be, but they are both having good years and Bell especially is highly regarded. The Orioles need help at the corner infield positions and Bell fits that bill. Johnson also is the son of former Oriole (and former Tiger), now broadcaster, Dave Johnson. So the trade is a homecoming of sorts for him. Anytime you can turn a thirty something reliever into 2 young, legitimate prospects it is a good thing. Sherrill was very good during his time here and will be missed, but he was a left-handed specialist/set-up guy forced into a closer role. It also makes the Erik Bedard trade look that much better.
As far as other trades, I am not sure the O's were trying to move Scott that aggressively. They have a few more years of contract control over him. I am sure the O's shopped Huff, but no one was willing to give up enough. Huff has struggled some this year and his value may not be high enough. He could net the O's a draft pick or 2 if he leaves via free agency, or he could also be re-signed and be an Oriole for a while. I would like the Orioles to try and get something in return for Danys Baez, but I am not convinced there would be any takers.
BYB: As you might imagine, Tigers fans are terrified of Luke Scott and hoped to get him in a trade, if for no other reason than he wouldn't be able to kill Detroit pitching anymore. What are you expecting from him in this series, and has there ever been any explanation offered as to how he looks like Barry Bonds when facing the Tigers?
ROR: This is perfect timing for a series against the Tigers because Scott is struggling. If there is one thing I have learned in Scott's time with the O's it is that he is very streaky. Scott will have stretches where he is on everything and all he hits are line drives. Then he will go through equally long stretches where he can barely get the ball out of the infield.
My only guess as to why he has produced so well against the Tigers is timing. When the Orioles hosted the Tigers in late May Scott had just come off the DL, but it was like he did not miss a beat. Scott launched into a hot streak that lasted through most of June. July and early August have been different stories, however, so I am concerned that Luke's mastery over Tigers pitching may be put on hiatus this series.
BYB: What's been the perception in Baltimore of Nick Markakis this season? Was more expected from him, or are his numbers pretty much in line with the kind of player he's been over the past four years?
ROR: Markakis' numbers are in line with what he has produced during his first 3 full seasons, but I think many around Baltimore are waiting for him to take that next step. I find it hard to criticize a guy who is hitting around .300 and is on pace to drive in 110 runs, while playing stellar defense in right field. I think the concern around Baltimore is that he may never be much better than what we see now.
It may be a case of scrutinizing too closely, but at times Markakis looks over-matched against top-tier fastballs in a way you would not expect a superstar to be. He may not have the type of bat speed needed to go from a .300, 20-25HR, .800-.850 OBPS guy, to a .325, 30-35HR, .950 OBPS type guy. So yes I think more is expected from Markakis, but he is a victim of his early success. Markakis is still only 25 and has better years ahead of him, but how much better and for how long is the question.
BYB: David Hernandez looked great in his debut against the Tigers back in May. And his numbers have been good in virtually every one of his appearances since then. Is he being counted on to be an important part of the 2010 starting rotation?
ROR: At this point, yes. Hernandez will have to compete with other promising young arms next spring, but I believe he has shown that he can be a major league starter. There has been some debate about whether Hernandez' stuff would play better as a late inning reliever, or as a starter. When Hernandez commands his fastball, which has good late life up in the zone, he is tough. Hernandez also has a good slider and an improving change-up. The change-up, should he keep improving with it, is the pitch that will keep him in the rotation.
BYB: The Orioles have some exciting young players, especially in the outfield. But who are some guys O's fans are really excited about seeing in the future? Or are you still blinded by looking directly at the hope that is Matt Wieters?
ROR: Matt Wieters' star does shine pretty brightly, but not so much that we cannot see the rest of the supporting cast. Detroit fans will get a good look at two other guys we have been eagerly anticipating. Chris Tillman, who made his major league debut last Wednesday is scheduled to start in the series opener. Tillman was the other main piece in the Erik Bedard trade, along with Adam Jones.
Then it looks like Brian Matusz, the Orioles' first round draft pick from last year, will make his debut on Tuesday night. Matusz is a left-handed starter with four good pitches. He started out well in high A ball, then was promoted to AA and has dominated. Matusz will be the fifth rookie starting pitcher this year to go along with Hernandez, Tillman, Jason Berken, and Brad Bergesen. Bergesen has been our best started this year, but was put on the DL after taking a line drive off the shin in his last start. There are a few other arms sprinkled through the minors. The Orioles hope for the future is resting most heavily in its pitching.
Thanks once again to Jeff for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out Right Off Russell over the next four days to get the opposing view on this series. They also have an account on Twitter, if you'd like to follow them that way.