Category Archives: Jinx

The Orioles Are Doing It Again

After a long and severe drought in which Baltimore posted a losing record every season from 1998-2011 (!), the O’s won more regular-season games than any other AL team the past five years. We needed that.

They’re at it again. At 12-5, they have the AL’s best record. That’s a 114-win pace.

This after pretty much every expert prediction and forecasting model had them winning something like 80 games. Even after accounting for the fast start, Fangraphs only has them winning 85, and Baseball Prospectus has Baltimore going 67-78 the rest of the way.

That’s just what happens when your rotation is Dylan Bundy and pray for rain. It happened last year, when SI picked Baltimore to win 69 games. (They won 89 and made the playoffs for the third time in five years.)

Hell, it happens every year.

And the thing is, they’re not even playing that well. For all their slugging, they only score 4.00 runs per game, down from 4.59 last year. That drop is offset by their overall pitching improvement, though. Thanks to their remarkable bullpen, Baltimore’s team ERA is down to 3.53 from 4.22.

That ERA is bound to come back to Earth, but Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo aren’t going to slump for six months, either. Plus, Chris Tillman (16-6 last year with a 3.77 ERA) returns in a couple weeks.

Add it up and we’re looking at another contender in Birdland. When it rains, it pours.

Offseason Champs No More?


I hesitate to say the Redskins have reverse-engineered their approach to team building, learning from nightmares past, but that does seem to the case under new GM Scot McCloughlan. A recap of their moves through the opening days of free agency:

*Depth D-lineman Ricky Jean-Francois for three years, $9 million ($4M guaranteed)
*Pass-rushing D-lineman Stephen Paea for four years, $21 million ($12.85M guaranteed)
*Run-stuffing 3-4 nose Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton for one year, $4 million guaranteed
*Quality, 26-year-old cornerback Chris Culliver for four years, $32 million ($16M guaranteed)

Update: The Skins also signed 26-year-old strong safety Jeron Johnson for two years, $3.5 million. He was Kam Chancellor’s backup in Seattle, but he’ll probably start in D.C.

What they didn’t do: sign Brian Orakpo for four years, $32 million ($13.5M guaranteed). They let Tennessee do that, and there’s no takebacks if Rak tears a pec while signing on the line that is dotted.

So, a new leaf for the Skins? These are sensible deals addressing areas of major concern. Without doing the research, I’d say Washington had one of the worst defensive lines in football last season, as well as one of the worst secondaries. That was fun!

Now they’re improved on both fronts, and they’ve got a full boat of draft picks to use next month. This must be how quality organizations operate.

Added bonus: Both the Giants and Eagles land on Bill Barnwell’s top 10 *worst* free agent signings so far. #facts

10 Reasons To Be Excited About The Top-10 Terps

Hello there. While we’ve been away, Maryland basketball shockingly ascended to No. 9 in the Coaches Poll. We’re surprised and delighted by this, so here to explain it are Mr. Irrelevant Maryland sports correspondents JP Finlay, Brad Parker and Andy Peden.

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1. Melo!

Ah yes, freshman sensation Melo Trimble. We’ll let Grantland take this one:

“He’s the best player on the best team in the Big Ten.”

2. Interior D!

Defensive bigs Damonte Dodd (sophomore) and Jonathan Graham (senior) protect the rim and rebound.

3. Nickens & Wiley & Pack!

In addition to Trimble, two freshman (Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley) and a senior (Richaud Pack) in the backcourt are averaging a combined 31 PPG.

4. Layman without Dez!

Junior forward Jake Layman has stepped up, averaging over 17 PPG during the seven games Dez Wells missed. Overall, he’s shooting 40% from three and 55% the field.

5. Scoring depth!

It’s been awhile since Maryland could rely on more than one or two guys every night. Now there are about seven who could get hot from deep in any game and can close out games at the line. Speaking of …

6. Free throws!

Free throws are a reliable way to score. If you’re getting to the line 26 times a night that’s huge.

7. Quality wins!

Wins over Iowa St. and Michigan St. and Oklahoma St. and Arizona St. (and any other state) are wins that matter in March.

8. Intangibles!

This team is playing hard and playing together. There’s a toughness that’s been missing.

9. The Future!

There are two non-seniors (Melo and Layman) who might end up in the NBA eventually but aren’t going anywhere next season. Plus they don’t have to rebuild when the four seniors graduate, because they have seven players coming back.

10. March!

There may actually be some meaningful games for Maryland to play this time around.

Three Reasons The Nats Will Be Better In 2014

Please welcome back guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant. Here he is on your 2014 Washington Nationals.

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It says a lot about the Nats’ expectations that an 86-win 2013 season was considered a bitter disappointment. Going into this season, the song remains the same: They’re projected to go to the playoffs, Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate and the starting rotation is spoiled with Cy Young candidates.

The optimism is slightly different in 2014, though: bottom-of-the-roster holes have been filled, a new manager takes over the talented team and the glaring injury problems seem to be resolved (knock on wood).

Without further ado, here are three reasons the Nats are poised to win at least 90 games this season. Tomorrow, we’ll list why they won’t.

1. New Additions

One of the biggest problems last season was bench support. GM Mike Rizzo addressed that by adding outfielder Nate McLouth and catcher Jose Lobaton, both of whom provide depth at positions where the team had significant injury problems. McLouth will back up Harper and Jayson Werth, who missed a combined 77 games. Lobaton, a switch-hitter acquired from the Rays, will back up Wilson Ramos, who has only played in 80 or more games once in four seasons.

The most significant addition comes in the form of Doug Fister. Fister, acquired in an early winter deal with the Tigers, takes over the No. 4 spot, left vacant by the departure of the wildly inconsistent Dan Haren.

Fister brings playoff experience and reliability, as well as consistency. Last season, he finished with a 3.67 ERA and, in 32 starts, lasted at least six innings 27 times. Conversely, Haren finished last season with a 4.67 ERA and pitched six or more innings just 18 times.

Fister would be a No. 2 on most teams and has the potential to make the Nationals’ rotation the best in the MLB. He does start the season on the DL, though.

2. Pitching Changes

Rizzo and new manager Matt Williams have made a few other changes to the pitching staff, moving Ross Detwiler to the bullpen and adding lefty reliever Jerry Blevins. The Detwiler move leaves the No. 5 spot available, and righties Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are the frontrunners. The Blevins move gives the bullpen its only left-hander other than Detwiler.

Roark, 27, made his major league debut last year and put up a 7-1 record with a 1.51 ERA. Jordan, 25, also made his debut last season, going 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Both have looked solid this spring and could provide an upgrade to the back of the rotation, which was unreliable last season.

Blevins has been solid for Oakland the past two seasons, and he’s been sharp this spring. He should help upgrade a bullpen that was inconsistent last season after a strong 2012.

3. Improving Young Core

Strasburg, 25, and Harper, 21, are the present and the future of the Nats. Despite notable improvement last year, they still suffered hiccups.

Strasburg’s win-loss record was unimpressive, though that can be attributed to a lack of run support. Harper was on an absolute tear until he literally hit a wall, then his season fell back to normal human level.

Spring has brought Nats fans a Strasburg slider and bulkier Harper, showing the work they put in during their longer-than-expected offseasons. All indications are they’ll be better than ever in 2014.

Bryce Harper Is Your Sports Illustrated Cover Boy Once More

Four years after being introduced to the world as a teenage phenom, Bryce Harper makes a return visit to the cover of Sports Illustrated this week (via @richarddeitsch). It signals a new year in which the 2013 Nats not only look like baseball’s best but are the talk of the sport too, and the team most likely to be jinxed. Thanks, SI!

Here’s a preview of Tom Verducci’s cover story, and here he is on the O’s.

DMV: The Nats Are Really, Really Good, At Least On Paper

Comparing the ’13 Nats to the 116-win ’01 Mariners: “I can see this club winning 105 games, something no team has done since ’04.” [Sweet Spot]

Mike Rizzo on Soriano: “Raffy is here to pitch the ninth inning.” [WaPo]

Nats avoid arbitration, sign Storen to one-year, $2.5m deal. [Nats Journal]

Another good one from NB, this time on the Morse deal. [Nats Baseball]

Morse deal means heavy leaning on Moore and Bernadina. [Nats Journal]

Sounds like Carpenter-Santangelo-Akra returning to MASN. [Nats Journal]

Troy Brouwer actually did the Gangnam Style dance … on ice. [RMNB]

Welcome to the older, wiser stage of Ovechkin’s lifestyle. [WaPo]

You can actually buy a little Brooks Laich doll now. How cute. [Bog]

Skins WR coach Ike Hilliard leaving to be Bills WR coach. [Real Redskins]

Terps wearing these “stealth-black pride” unis vs. UNC. [@alex_prewitt]

Ex-JMU football player now one of the world’s strongest men. [JMUSB]

SI Cover Jinx Attempts To Derail The O’s Unlikely Bandwagon

Endy Chavez, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis share the Orioles’ second SI cover in 16 years (the other is Matt Wieters two years ago), even if Markakis is on the shelf and missing this sweet September action. Bonus points for it being the Washington-Baltimore “Unlikely Sports Capital” issue as well, with features on Davey Johson and RGIII.

Steinz has the details. Might have to get this one for the collection.

On Being Both A Nats And O’s Fan During These Sky-High Times

I don’t know that I was born an O’s fan, but I was raised one. From about 1985 it was all about the Birds, and then 20 years later the Nats happened.

I was still an O’s fan after baseball returned to D.C., it’s just that they took a backseat. Even though both teams more or less stunk these past seven years, we’ve followed them along the way, and this blog’s coverage of each reflects the pecking order: Nats 1 (595 posts), O’s 1-A (266 posts).

Continue reading On Being Both A Nats And O’s Fan During These Sky-High Times

DMV: Nats Fans Talking Playoffs

Nats have MLB’s largest division lead (4.5 games up on the Mets), and their playoff chances grow stronger by the series. [Nats Baseball]

Math: Nats have a 72% chance of making it. [Sports Club Stats]

And with that, the first-place Yankees come to town. [Nats Journal]

Nats pitchers and pinch-hitters have hit well. [Federal Baseball]

Steinz has your “Clown Question, Bro” roundup du jour. [Bog]

O’s win fifth straight, sweep Pirates, pound Bedard. [Camden Chat]

Assessing the Skins’ muddled safety situation. [The Insider]

Observations from Bradley Beal’s Wiz workout. [Bullets Forever]

MKG thinks the Wiz could be a playoff team. [Wiz Insider]

McPhee discusses Caps’ coach search, doesn’t say much. [RMNB]

Nats Are NL’s First 10-Win Team, Which Is Historically Awesome

The Nats won their 10th game in typically low-scoring fashion last night, making them the National League’s first team to hit that watermark. That’s impressive on its own, but take a look at how long it’s taken them to reach 10 wins in their previous seven seasons:

2012: April 18 — 13th game (10-3)
2011: April 24 — 20th game (10-10)
2010: April 26 — 20th game (10-10)
2009: May 8 — 28th game (10-18)
2008: April 29 — 27th game (10-17)
2007: May 11 — 35th game (10-25)
2006: May 5 — 30th game (10-20)
2005: April 24 — 19th game (10-9)

Man, ’06-09 sucked, but this year’s Nats reached 10 wins 46 percent faster than the previous best (’05) and twice as fast as the historical average (26 games). That’s something.

Really, it is, because even if, as Chris Needham pointed out, the Nats play .500 ball the rest of the way they’ll still win a franchise-best 85 games and be in the hunt down to the wire.

That’s the thing about all these early wins; you can’t take them away.