Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Angels Drown in Orioles' Waters

Windsor, our resident farm system expert, is off on vacation this week, probably sipping mai tais on the beach and blissfully ignorant that in his absence the O’s blew two leads, blew a comeback with Sherrill, and that Chris Waters- yes, Chris Waters- went 8 shut-out innings against the best team in baseball in the road, throwing 103 pitches in his major league debut. I think I may pay for Windsor to stay on vacation for a bit longer, I’ll ask Falco if we have the budget for that…

Well it seems as though at least for now, Baltimore pitchers have answered Trembley’s call to go deeper into games to spare the bullpen, with Garrett Olson, Jeremy Guthrie, and Chris Waters going 8 or more innings. A common theme: the Orioles are 3-0 in these games. No matter how good your bullpen might be, the starters have to last deep into the game for the team to be successful down the stretch. While Chris Waters wasn’t around for Dave Trembley’s speeches on the subject, it never hurts to give the bullpen a rest before a rubber match against the league’s best team in their home park.

How did we miss Waters? Windsor had briefly considered (and was planning to) write a prospect report on Chris Waters, but he, like the rest of the Orioles community, assumed that either Hayden Penn or Brad Bergesen would be making the start on Tuesday. Penn has struggled to post consecutive quality starts and Bergeson continues to appear promising but unprepared for the big leagues; Waters has appeared at least on paper to be nothing more than a middling minor league pitcher. He might not have even started last night if Penn had not been slightly injured several nights before.

This is incredibly impressive for a player like Waters to come out of nowhere and deliver a performance like this. With how desperate the Orioles are for starting pitchers, suddenly this is not a one-start situation, and Waters could be given the chance to ride out even the rest of the season if he ties together a few decent performances to go with this last outing. First impressions are everything, and this one could keep the lefty in the rotation for the foreseeable future. The Orioles need warm bodies that can eat up innings, and games like this will certainly help the pitching staff sleep at night.

There are significant reasons for caution, however. Waters was 3-6 with an ERA of 5.70 in 90 innings at Norfolk to go with a 1.67 strikeouts to walks ratio. Almost 28 years old, he only reached the Triple-A level this year after a strong performance at Bowie to start the season. Also remember that while we didn’t know what to expect from Waters, neither did the Angels. Their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City isn’t in the same league as Norfolk and therefore their scouts likely had no first-hand information on Chris Waters. Finally, like the rest of us had probably prepared for Penn after Bergesen went 6 innings in his last start so were just as surprised when Waters flew into L.A. on Tuesday morning.

At his age this is the perfect time for Waters to make his impact- one can’t stay in the minors much longer after 28 and still be considered starter material. As the Dennis Sarfate experiment draws to a close and with a travel day coming up, this could be the best time to work Waters into the rotation and see what comes of it. Unlike some of the other pitching prospects, with Waters the Orioles have nothing to lose. If he keeps giving the Orioles performances like last night’s, they could have everything to gain.

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