Notes from the Couch

Matt Riley
The one thing that was evident in Riley's last start is that he still has problems reigning in his emotions.  He opened the game trying to make each pitch perfect instead of just getting the ball and throwing it.   In doing so, he walked Bernie Williams and opened the way for another emotional roller coaster.  During the course of his two innings work, he was routinely falling off the mound towards third because he was trying to throw the ball through the backstop instead of just relaxing and playing catch with his catcher. 

The situation was not helped any with Javy Lopez refusing to go inside whenever Riley had two strikes.  This is a habit he had in Atlanta, although then, he was catching guys like Tom Glavine, pitchers who's bread and butter was hitting spots rather than overpowering hitters the way Riley is capable.  Of the 14 hitters Riley faced on Tuesday, he was 0-2 on five of them.  In every case but one, Lopez set up outside, sometimes way outside for the next pitch.  For the season, batters are hitting .300 against Riley after the count is 0-2.  If he misses away, ball one.  If he misses inside, bang because batters are looking for that 0-2 pitch middle away.  The one batter Lopez didn't set up outside was Jason Giambi, his first time up.  Instead he called for a fastball inside.  And although the pitch was a ball, it was clear from the way Giambi stopped his lunge and jumped back off the plate that he was looking outside.  On the very next pitch, Giambi lifted a harmless fly to short center field.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

Another thing that didn't help is manager Lee Mazzilli pulling him after 61 pitches.  He pulled Riley in his previous start after 89 pitches in 4 innings work.  Riley had pitched very well, but an RBI infield hit in the 4th that could have been turned into an inning-ending out unnerved him and he served up a gopherball to the very next batter.  That's not good, but Riley still could have gone another inning and perhaps recovered his composure on the mound.  At that point, the score was 5-0, so there wasn't much more damage he could do out there regardless.  The point is he can't learn anything on the bench.  He certainly needs to learn to be more efficient with his pitches, but it's hard to learn that, plus learn how to handle big league line-ups and get enough innings to rest the most used bullpen in baseball by yanking him before he gets to 100 pitches.  And Riley is 24 years old, so he's not nearly at as much of an injury risk as a 20- or 21-year old pitcher would be from high pitch counts.

I'm not advocating Riley for a strong second half.  He still lets his emotions get the best of him from pitch to pitch, something that has plagued Joaquin Benoit the last couple of years.  He also has two things working against him getting past that: Lopez' recieving and Mazzili's handling.  But the talent is there to be a very good starter.  And if the O's can ever figure how to get him to relax and not worry about being yanked if he makes a few bad pitches - whether they are his fault or his catcher's - then they might have the ace of the staff they're looking for.  For the record, Riley has struck out 28 hitters in 27.1 innings this year.

Erik Bedard
Here's an unusual factoid: five of Erik Bedard's 10 outdoor starts have had either a rain delay or some amount of rain.  One of those starts came in LA where they never get rain.  He's scheduled to start today against the Yankees and the forecast is, of course, for scattered thunderstorms followed by showers.  So in more than half his starts where there's a possibility it could rain, it has.  The Orioles should do the country and FEMA a favor by trading him to a California team in order to put a stop to that state's yearly summer drought conditions.  With Bedard in California, they will never have to worry about water shortages or brush fires again.  Even if he never learns to pitch - and I think he will become a pretty good starter - he will be a fan favorite because fans will once again be able to water their lawns and wash their own cars.  Obviously the O's shouldn't trade him to Seattle.

San Francisco Giants
How much luck does a team need to have a record 7 games above .500 yet be outscored and have one of the worst bullpens in baseball?  Bill James' Pythagorean theorem allows for teams to exceed their projection due to a good bullpen and good luck in 1-run games.  However, the San Francisco Giants are just 8-6 in 1-run affairs and their bullpen ranks 26th in the majors in ERA, 29th in runners allowed and tied for 26th in home runs allowed.  Their starting staff is incredibly average after Jason Schmidt and their offense, outside of Bonds, is rather ordinary with an overabundance of AAA level talents.  Another aspect of the Giants that defies conventional wisdom is that their offense has been better at home than it has on the road.  Despite having played a series at Coors Field already and that they play their home games at pitcher-friendly SBC Park, the Giants home OPS is 82 points higher (.812) than their road OPS (.730). 

It's odd that Felipe Alou is getting no credit for their success so far.  Given the numbers, the odds are that this team is in for a huge collapse.  If that does happen, however, Felipe Alou will undoubtedly get the blame.