Press Box Notes

Erik Bedard
Although the line score doesn't look like it, Erik Bedard pitched a terrific game against the Yankees.  The final line was 5 innings, 7 hits allowed, 2 runs (1 earned), 3 walks and 3 strikeouts.  However, unless you were scoring the game pitch by pitch, there is a lot that is hidden in that line.  For instance, looking at the box score you can see that 41 of his 105 pitches were balls.  What you can't see is that 9 of his final 13 pitches were balls, and that was the reason he finished with 3 walks instead of one.  Up to the start of the sixth inning, he had thrown 92 pitches, 60 for strikes.  Of those 60 strikes, the Yankees, who are known for fouling off pitches, had fouled off 26.  Against another team, some of those would have been strike threes.

Also not seen in the line score is his work in the 5th inning, when Derek Jeter hit an easy grounder that went right through Miguel Tejada's legs, allowing in a run and putting another on base.  Bedard focused and struck out the next batter, Alex Rodriguez, swinging.  He came away with his second win of the season and a performance like his against the vaunted Yankees, who are second in the AL in OPS against lefties (.877) and first in runs scored against them (134), should boost his confidence considerably. 

Jason Grimsley
The O's have taken some heat for trading away AA pitching prospect Denny Bautista for essentially a journeyman reliever, Jason Grimsley.  And on the surface it looks like a bad trade.  However, Bautista probably wasn't going to be making the O's rotation any time soon anyway.  The O's have several quality young starters ahead of him: Bedard, Riley, Cabrera are already with the big club.  In the minors they have Kurt Ainsworth, John Maine, Adam Loewen and Luis Ramirez (who struck out 15 batters in 5 innings tonight for Aberdeen), each of whom appear to have more upside.  So Bautista was pretty much trade bait anyway.

But why not get more than a journeyman reliever.  Well, they didn't get Grimsley with an eye toward winning this year.  Because their starting staff is so young, they need a deep bullpen.  To date, the only middle relievers who have been reliable for them are BJ Ryan, John Parrish and Rodrigo Lopez.  That just isn't enough when you're bullpen averages nearly 4 innings per game.   So what do you do?  You trade for an extreme groundball reliever who can eat up some of those middle innings and occasionally get you out of jams with a double play ball.  Over the last 4 years, Grimsley has induced 3.30, 3.27, 3.68 and this year 7.88 groundballs for every flyball surrendered.  Not only does Grimsley give you innings, but he also gives the bullpen a veteran with playoff experience.  No, the O's won't be making the playoffs this year, but what situation will Grimsley ever face during the regular season that is more pressure packed than what he has faced in the playoffs?  There isn't one.  So he gives the O's a dependable right-handed reliever who can give them innings and bail out the youngsters whenever they get in big trouble.  Fewer blown leads means more wins which should in turn boost confidence in the rotation. 

My only problem with the trade is that the O's then signed him to a contract extension.  If it's for what he's making this year ($1 million) then it's money well spent.  But if they're including an increase to something along the lines of what they are paying Buddy Groom  ($3 million), then it's wasted money because finding good relievers off the winter free agent market is relatively inexpensive and easy to do.  No sense in overpaying.

Billy Wagner
Tim Kurkjian mentioned this earlier this year, but Billy Wagner is the only pitcher in history with twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed (minimum 100 innings pitched).  He has averaged 2.08 strikeouts per hit allowed for his career.  The next closest is Armando Benitez with 1.95, followed by Rob Dibble at 1.94.  The list falls off very quickly after that: Troy Percival (1.84), Matt Mantei (1.73), John Rocker (1.66), Scott Williamson (1.62), Bryan Harvey (1.61), Randy Johnson (1.59), Kerry Wood (1.57) and Pedro Martinez (1.56).  For those interested, Nolan Ryan ratio was 1.45.  Thanks to Lee Sinins' Baseball Encyclopedia for the data.

(Editor's note:  coming into this year, Francisco Rodriguez did not have at least 100 innings pitched.  As of this writing, he now has 130.  His career strikeout to hit allowed rate is 2.18, surpassing the career mark of Wagner.  However, Wagner still holds the mark for all pitchers from 200 to 500 innings pitched minimum.  The record for 1000 innings pitched minimum is held by Randy Johnson)