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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sting Ray

If Erik Bedard had a vote for the AL Cy Young winner, it would go to Josh Beckett. The modest Orioles ace would surely embrace the award, but knows he trails Beckett in one important statistical category--wins.
There is a strong correlation between Beckett's 15 wins and the team for which he plays. The Red Sox after all have the best record in baseball. It is Bedard, though, who leads the league in strikeouts by 33 over Johan Santana. It is Bedard's 2.98 ERA that is second in the AL behind Kelvin Escobar of the Angels (who have the second-best record in baseball.) Bedard is also among the 20 AL pitchers with a complete game shut-out. (Only Jeff Weaver, with two, has multiple shut-outs.) Beckett, for the record, has none.
So what then is holding Bedard from joining baseball pundits across the country in tabbing himself as a favorite for the prestigious pitching award? Statistically it may be the wins, but in reality it's a lack of two things: run support and a closer.
The Orioles will supposedly address the former problem in the offseason. But now with closer Chris Ray having Tommy John surgery performed yesterday the O's have to find a reliable closer for the 2008 season, which Ray is expected to miss.
Not that Ray was becoming the AL East's new Mariano Rivera, but he converted 33 of 38 opportunities in 2006. Now the Orioles have to rely on the unreliable Danys Baez to close out the rest of the season, and hope he proves fit for next year as well.
I don't mean to ruin the ending, but he won't.
Manager Dave Trembley says rookie reliever Jim Hoey will remain in the setup role, despite no earned runs in five appearances this year. Baez, meanwhile, has as many losses as Hoey does scoreless appearances. He was signed as part of the bullpen revamping project the Orioles proudly underwent in the offseason. Now they will be forced to revisit that area this offseason if they hope to find a true closer. Problem is that the market isn't going to be flooded with big names. (Francisco Cordero from Milwaukee may be the best outside option.)
Without someone to finish off what Bedard masterfully starts, it will be hard to convince him he can truly become one of the games elite pitchers in Baltimore. (Statistically anyway, Baltimore fans and others are quickly finding out that his stuff is as good as anyone's.)
Beckett has Johnatan Papelbon (with Eric Gagne setting him up, not a bad eighth and ninth inning rotation) and Escobar, along with John Lackey (15-7, 3.23, 129 Ks) have Francisco Rodriguez.
Erik Bedard has, well, nobody. And unless Peter Angelos makes a big move this winter, neither will the Orioles.

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