Saturday, July 28, 2007

Alice's Restaurant, This Land is Your Land & Other Guthrie Classics

The Yankee bats were sleepy for the second night in a row. I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, nor do I feel as down-in-the-dumps as I did a week ago this morning after that hideous loss to Tampa.

Last night was just a subtle reminder to how difficult the trek is going to be for this team. Both Boston and Cleveland rolled to easy victories last night, vs. Tampa and Minnesota respectively. The Red Sox lead is now a roubust, and in my opinion still insurmountable, eight games; the Yankees trail the Indians by 5 in the loss column.

I would really like to see the Yankees take the back end of this four-game series, and sustain their current momentum. But even a 2-2 spilt keeps them on track for the 14-7 post-All Star break July I asked for.

This Orioles team has a long way to go to being a playoff contender, but you have to like some of the pieces they're putting together, specifically in the starting pitching department.

It would nice if the Yankees didn't have to face Jeremy Guthrie again this season. Although not overpowering last night, I'm really impressed by this guy's stuff. In 12.1 innings of work this year vs. New York he's allowed 4 runs on 13 hits, with 4 walks and 10 strikeouts.

At 28 years old, Guthrie is not a budding prospect, but he certainly is a surprise. Coming into this season, the former 1st round pick of the Indians in 2002, had appeared in a grand total of 16 games with only one start. He'd posted an unsightly 6.08 ERA in 37 innings of work over three seasons with the Tribe. Despite good AAA numbers last year, Cleveland decided to move on this past off-season, and the Orioles claimed him off waivers in January.

After some relief stints and a spot start the first month of the season, Guthrie was inserted into the O's pitching rotation for good on May 8. His numbers that day against Tampa: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K. And from that point on, he's been one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.

In fact among all starting pitchers with at least 10 starts since May 8, Guthrie ranks 4th in the majors in ERA at 2.47. His teammate Erik Bedard is 2nd at 2.04, which gives you an indication why the Orioles are 19-14 since making their managerial change in June; their pitching has been very good for at least a month now. Among that same group of starters, Guthrie is 1st in innings pitched, with 109.1 since May 8.

The question, of course, is did the Orioles see this coming?

In an article published on earlier this month, O's Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone quipped, "To be perfectly honest with you, he's better than we thought. A lot better."

The Indians have to be at least puzzled by Guthrie's rise to the top-tier of American League pitchers. Back in January, Anthony Castrovince reported on that Cleveland's General Manager Mark Shapiro admitted the organization overestimated Guthrie's "rate of progression at the time of his signing."

"It might have been a slight miscalculation by us on how advanced he was when we drafted him," Shapiro said after the Orioles claimed him. "He has the talent, intelligence and character. We speeded up the time frame. We still feel this guy will be a solid Major League pitcher at some point, but our time clock on him ran out."

This month Shapiro, in PC speak said, ""We're all happy to hear about the success he's having. [Assistant GM] Chris [Antonetti] and I have both told him that. Obviously, you're talking about a blue-chip guy, a No. 1 Draft pick with great ability and talent. Now, he's executing consistently, and it's great to see"

Although Guthrie's age makes me hestitant to think he's a long-term solution for the Orioles, with him and Bedard in place for the next couple of seasons, they could have a potent 1-2 at the top of their rotation. I think by this point we're all in "we'll believe it when we see it" mode when it comes to the Orioles truly being competitive again, but they're at the point now that for the Yankees, and other playoff contenders too, Baltimore games won't be 'gimmies' coming down the stretch of the season. And that could be enough to keep a team like New York on the outside looking in, as they have 11 games left with the O's.

Top 5, ERA since May 8 (*at least 10 starts)
1. Chris Young, 1.04
2. Erik Bedard, 2.04
3. John Smoltz, 2.43
4. Jeremy Guthrie, 2.47
5. Lenny Dinardo, 2.48

Top 5, IP since May 8*
1. Jeremy Guthrie, 109.1
2. Aaron Harang, 108
T-3. C.C. Sabathia and Joe Blanton, 106.1
5. Javier Vazquez, 104.2

Top 5, K/9 since May 8*
1. Erik Bedard, 11.42
2. Scott Kazmir, 9.98
3. Tim Lincecum, 9.72
4. John Smoltz, 9.12
5. Chris Young, 8.92

Sources:, (Day-by-Day Database)

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