04 July 2017

Why McDowell?

Every year, the pure genius of Seinfeld slips further and further from the beating pulse of popular culture.  The once-iconic sitcom is in the danger zone of being relegated to Andy Griffith-status, for those 25 and under.  

Sure, the scenery and technology may not have aged well, but the simple genius driving Larry David's program about nothing still kills it, for those who are willing to dive back into a world of beepers, it brought us gems like this.

The man with the mustache is, of course, the unforgettable Keith Hernandez.  And, in the “flashback”, that is Roger McDowell: the real spitter *spoiler alert*.  And, yes, that is the same McDowell who currently presides over the burning garbage of the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff. 

Right now, poor McDowell must feel that he’s trapped on the barge of some hellish sitcom, awaiting cancellation. 

In the latest episode, Wade Miley starred as “shellacked individual number four."  It took him 67 1.2 innings pitched, with 7 hits, 2 walks and 7 earned runs on just 67 pitches.  All that was missing was the canned laughter. 

It takes a special kind of efficiency to achieve such rotten results in such a short period of time.  Anyone who can read the back of Miley’s baseball card knows that such dastardly deeds are his specialty.

Sure, every now and then, he’ll pull a gem from the clutches of his rear end.  Those who believe those short bursts of success to be anything more than a sun-kissed mirage have been drinking too much of Dan Duquette’s kool-aid. 

The Orioles have just weathered a horrific month of June.  The ineptitude included an AL-record, 20-straight games allowing five or more runs.

The carnage totaled 186 runs allowed.  The last time a Baltimore pitching staff allowed that many enemy runners to cross the plate was during George W.’s second term.  In September 2007, Daniel Cabrera and company allowed an astounding 202 runs. 

Before that, you had to go all the way back to June 1987 (186 runs allowed) to find a month so horrid. 

I stopped my runs research there.  After all, there’s something uncomfortably-morbid about poking around these stats – like reading bar tab statements of an alcoholic.

On the bright side, while the ‘87 Orioles went 5-23 in that month, their 2017 counterparts went 12-16, so it could be worse, right?

Moral victories won’t do much to save McDowell’s job, however, should the losses continue to mount.  Baltimore, under Buck Showalter’s direction, has certainly not been reticent to make changes at pitching coach.  In fact, McDowell is the sixth man to assume that responsibility since Showalter took over. 

Fair or not, hitting and pitching coaches usually get the ax when a club is under-performing.  And, under-performing they are.  The most troubling piece of evidence against retaining McDowell’s services is that the talent atop the rotation continues to take deep strides backwards. 

Here are Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy’s 2016 numbers held up against those from the current season:

Gausman: 8.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.77 XFIP
Bundy: 8.53 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 4.61 XFIP

Gausman: 7.3 K/9, 4.16 BB/9, 5.03 XFIP
Bundy: 6.99 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 5.22 XFIP

Bundy has cut his walks, but is allowing fly-balls (and home runs) at a much higher rate.  Whether this season’s problems have been mechanical or mental in nature, they don’t seem to be improving. 

Barring a miraculous turnaround, it is likely the Orioles will push the reset button yet again, this winter – if not sooner.  It wouldn’t be unwarranted; his Baltimore body of work is far from inspiring. 

Still, on days like Monday, you can’t help but feel for the guy.  

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