Results tagged ‘ Jason Berken ’
There’s something happening here with the Tides and, by extension, the Baltimore Orioles. Saturday night, the Tides used utility infielder Carlos Rojas to perseve a one-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning at Toledo. Rojas allowec the tying run to reach second with one out but retired the last two Toledo batters to earn a save.
Usually, using a nominal postion player as a pitcher is reserved for desperation times, when there are no other pitchers available, or for mopping up in a blowout loss. The confusing part is that, by all indications, there should have been other pitchers available. The Tides are carrying twelve pitchers, which generally leaves a seven-man bullpen. And the previous day had been a 5-1 Tides win, which normally wouldn’t tax the bullpen. And, in Saturday’s game, the Tides used two relief pitchers — Oscar Villareal for one inning and Miguel Socolovich for three.
Making matters more confusing is that the Tides started a pitcher who had been used exclusively in relief up to this point — Rich Rundles. In the normal five-man rotation, Jason Berken would have been the normal starting pitcher, so starting Rundles would indicate that Berken was injured or that he was being held for a promotion. But Berken started Sunday. And Carlos Rojas, a proven non-hitter, might be more valuable as a pitcher. So what is going on with the Tides’ pitching staff? I asked the Tides’ media relations department for an explanation.
As far as Rundles’ starting is concerned, it was a reaction to Dontrelle Willis. You may remember that the Orioles signed Willis was signed in the offseason, intending to make him a left-handed spot relief pitcher. After a couple of ineffective appearances, Willis went AWOL and refused to return unless the Orioles allowed him to serve as a starting pitcher. The Orioles eventually acquiesced and sent him to extended spring training to get him in condition to serve as a starting pitcher. Willis was scheduled to make the Saturday start, and Jason Berken was preparing to make the Sunday start. On Saturday, however, Willis was incapacitated by the flu. Rather than mess with Berken’s preparations, the Tides decided to use Rich Rundles as a spot starter.
As far as the bullpen is concerned, two Tides — Brad Bergesen and Steve Johnson — are converting starters. Bergesen had pitched 2 2/3 innings two days before; Johnson 3 innings three days before. Neither was available to pitch. The Tides also decided that Zach Phillips and Pat Neshek were unavailable because they had pitched in the two previous games; that seems a little specious to me because Phillips had thrown exactly two pitches in his outing the previous evening. However, the Orioles and Tides agreed that they would not use Neshek and Phillips. That left two pitchers in the bullpen. Oscar Villarreal pitched one inning — requiring 44 pitches to get through the inning, giving up five runs. Miguel Socolovich relieved Villarreal; the Tides came back with a five-run eighth to take 7-6 lead but the tiring Socolovich — who threw 48 pitches in his three innings — gave up the tying run. After the Tides took the lead in the top of the tenth, another pitcher was required — and Carlos Rojas, who was probably the best available choice, came in. And preserved the win, earning a save.
All baseball games are unique, but some have more in common with other games and some have less in common with other games. Last night’s Norfolk home opener seemed to be in the latter category, a 1-0 game filled with oddities that I don’t remember seeing.
There were four throwing errors in the game, three by Gwinnett third baseman Joey Terdoslavich and one errant pickoff throw by Norfolk relief pitcher Dontrelle Willis. One of Joey T.’s errors was a throw from near the third-base foul line that was a little short and the first baseman couldn’t handle it cleanly. But both of his other throws and Willis’ wild pickoff attempt were absolutely terrible throws, nowhere close to first base. Willis’ throw ended up in the dugout; the runner on first was awarded third base; and he scored the only run when the batter singled.
There was also one play that, in a work of fiction, would be the pivotal point. The G-Braves put runners on first and third with no one out in the fourth inning. With a 3-2 count on Chris Marrero, Tides’ pitcher Jason Berken stepped off the rubber, looked to third base, and then snapped a throw to first, picking off the runner. Then Berken fired a called third strike past Marrero, turning a 1st-and-3rd with none out to runner on third with two out. Unfortunately for the Tides, they failed to take advantage of the possible momentum swing and the Braves continued to intermittently threaten.
The Orioles optioned Chris Tillman to Norfolk, where he’ll join Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken in the Tides’ starting rotation. Although Tillman pitched reasonably well in spring training, it was more of a case where he was pitching well compared to how he had pitched in the majors over the past three seasons, rather than truly pitching well. He’s still only 23, and getting regular work in the rotation will be better for him than inconsistent work as a long man. I’m hoping that he’ll adjust and return to what he was three seasons ago.
Also, the Tides and the Orioles will play an exhibition game Wednesday at Harbor Park. Brian Matusz and Jason Berken will pitch, although it’s not clear who’ll pitch for whom and even if they’ll pitch on different teams. Expect the position players to play five or six innings, but don’t expect the pitchers — especially the relief pitchers — to pitch much if at all.
Yesterday, the Orioles optioned three players to Norfolk, reassigned five others to the minor-league camp, and essentially placed two other players on the disabled list. With just over a week to go before the Tides’ season opener, I can make some guesses about who will be on the Tides when they play at Charlotte on April 5.
The Orioles optioned pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken to Norfolk, and announced that both will be used as starting pitchers. I expected both to be with the Tides, and Bergesen to be a starter. I am surprised that Berken will be used as a starter, as his only major league success was as a relief pitcher. This tells me that Berken isn’t really in the Orioles future plans, and that they’re just hoping that lightning will strike.
The Orioles also sent Dontrelle Willis and Armando Gallaraga to minor-league camp. I’d be surprised if Gallaraga is in the organization and not with the Tides, and in the Tides’ starting rotation. He has 518 innings of major-league experience and hasn’t been below AAA since 2007. Willis, on the other hand, is being groomed as a left-handed spot reliever. The Orioles may want to stash him at Bowie so he can be more easily available for a quick call-up.
John Hester was sent to minor-league camp, which can’t have been much of a surprise after going 0-for-14 in spring games. I’d have to say he’s headed for Norfolk. Even if Caleb Joseph is heading for Norfolk, there’s still a need for another catcher. Taylor Teagarden is recovering from injury and Ronny Paulino is the only other backup catcher in camp, so there won’t be another catcher coming down. That means Hester should be here.
Matt Antonelli was optioned to Norfolk, and Steve Tolleson and Scott Beerer were sent to minor-league camp. That makes for some interesting possibilities. Antonelli, Ryan Adams, Josh Barfield, and Josh Bell have all been second basemen or third basemen in their careers. There’s no way you can get all four players into the lineup at second, third, and DH. Even assuming that Jai Miller and Scott Beerer end up in Norfolk, that still leaves the third outfield spot uncertain. I still think L.J. Hoes will start the season in Bowie, so that might mean that either Adams or Bell will get a look as a corner outfielder. Tolleson is a career utility player who would be welcome in Norfolk, playing six games a week at five positions.
Brian Roberts was put on the Disabled List, which means that Robert Andino will start the season as the Orioles’ second baseman and that Ryan Flaherty will make the Orioles as the utility infielder. Zach Britton was also put on the Disabled List, which probably slots Brian Matusz into the Orioles rotation but doesn’t really clarify Chris Tillman’s status.
Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? What’s his future?
Like Jason Berken, with whom he shares the first three letters of his last name, he shot to the major leagues in 2009 because the Orioles’ starting rotation was crumbling and because he had pitched well in his first starts at Norfolk (in his case, two.) Bergesen had an impressive-looking 2009 before getting hurt (7-5, 3.43 ERA in 19 starts) but his underlying statistics weren’t that good. He struggled as a starter in 2010 (4.98 ERA in 28 starts) and was bad as a swingman in 2011 (5.70 ERA). He went to Norfolk for three starts, one a four-hit shutout.
Bergesen is very similar to Jason Berken, actually, in that there’s no real reason to believe that he can be an effective starting pitcher other than his 2009 season. On the other hand, Bergesen’s strikeout rates even in the minor leagues are too low to signify future success — his best full-season rate was 6.5 K / 9 IP. I think Bergesen is, like Berken, near the bottom of candidates for the Orioles starting rotation, and probably the Atlantic League is in his future.
Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? What’s his future?
Jason Berken shot to the major leagues in 2009 because the Orioles’ starting rotation was crumbling and because he had a 1.05 ERA in 5 AAA starts. After he started quickly, he had a terrible 2009 as a starter (6.54 ERA), rebounded with a fairly good 2010 as a relief pitcher (3.03 ERA in 62 innings), and then had a terrible (but slightly less terrible than 2009) 2011 as a relief pitcher (5.36 ERA in 47 innings.) He was sent to Norfolk a couple of times to get work and pitched okay.
I would classify Berken as a “wishful thinking” class starting pitcher, a step above desperation options like Chris Jakubauskas and Alfredo Simon. There really isn’t any reason to think Berken can be a good starting pitcher, but at least you can hope. Among the Orioles’ 2012 options, he ranks almost at the bottom.
Berken has neither the dominant stuff nor the consistency to be a closer or set-up man. He’s probably no better and no worse than dozens of other candidates for a middle-relief job.
I think Berken’s future is the Atlantic League. I just don’t see him being good enough for a major-league career.
Summaries simplify. That’s obvious. In baseball, statistical compilations and boxscores – even game accounts – are summaries, and thus simplifications of players’ performances. It’s a tradeoff we have to make – we simplify in order to comprehend the overwhelming details. In last night’s Rochester Red Wings – Norfolk Tides game, Tides’ relief pitcher Jason Berken was one of the positive contributors to the Tides 5-4 win, but that would be overlooked by looking at the statistics.
Historically, runs have been charged to the pitcher who put the runner on base. That made a lot of sense when there were relatively few mid-inning pitcher changes. Recently, observers noticed that relief pitchers often come into the game with runners on base. The relief pitcher can be ineffective and allow those runners to score, but the runs would be charged to the previous pitcher. Those runs would not be reflected in the relief pitcher’s statistics. The observers started keeping track of “inherited runners”, those runners who were on base when a pitcher entered the game. The percentage of inherited runners stranded – or not allowed to score – became recognized as a more accurate, more reliable measure of a relief pitcher’s performance.
Which brings me to Jason Berken. Berken’s “base” pitching line was okay:
1 2/3 innings pitched; 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout
But he also allowed one of two inherited runners to score. That lessens the positive impact of his not allowing any runs to score.
The Tides had taken their third lead of the game, 5-3, in their previous at-bat. The Tides had earlier taken a 1-0 lead in the first, only to give up two runs in the second; and a 3-2 lead in the fourth, only to give up the tying run in the fifth. After Zach Phillips gave up singles to the first two Red Wings’ batters in the seventh, past history would suggest that Rochester would tie the game or take the lead. Phillips got the next batter to hit into a forceout at second base, and then was removed from the game.
So Berken came into the game in the top of the seventh inning, with runners on first and third with one out, and the Tides holding a two-run lead. He got the first batter he faced to ground into another forceout at second base, with the runner on third scoring (the inherited runner.) The next batter hit a ground ball slowly enough that Ryan Adams could get to it in the hole between first and second and throw him out. The Tides still held a 5-4 lead. Berken gave up a leadoff single in the eighth inning before retiring the next three batters.
The game summaries deservedly highlight Adams and Jake Fox, who hit home runs and combined to drive in four runs. They even highlight Mark Worrell, who retired the last two batters. Berken’s performance as the true unsung hero is not even mentioned, and students of the boxscore won’t even notice it. That’s the price we pay for simplification.