Baltimore Orioles: Bad Bud, Bad Ump, Bad Luck, Bad Game


Jun 29, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bud Norris (25) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Bad Night. Not even the Baltimore Orioles can win all of the time. The Texas Rangers did something they did not do in four attempts in 2014 – win a game in Baltimore. Four home runs and a bases-loaded triple spelled an 8-1 loss for the O’s on Monday night.

I’ll admit it: I think Jim Palmer can be annoying at times as an announcer. Understand, I love the guy … I grew up watching him pitch and cherish the heritage that he brings to the Orioles. But there are times he is a bit grating and comes off with a know-it-all and condescending tone … “Welllll … now here’s the thing about that …”

But Palmer was spot-on with his analysis of Bud Norris and the realities of umpire inconsistencies in major league baseball.

Bud Norris had a decent fastball, and the strike zone was the size of the national debt of the country of Greece. But Norris insisted on using off-speed pitches over which he had little command. They found the middle of the plate, the fat part of the bat, and the happy flight deep into the night. Choo hit a good fastball, but the others were “hit me, hit me” hangers.

As Palmer pointed out on several occasions, batters were behind on fastballs – unable to square them up and just making marginal contact. Why would you then switch to something else until they prove they can hit the fastball? Palmer constantly talks about “speeding up the bat” by throwing a pitch of lesser velocity, and that too gets tiring to listen to. But Norris displayed the very thing that Palmer speaks of.

Even Ryan Flaherty and J.J. Hardy – two of the meek who will inherit the earth – were frustrated and complaining.

Beyond that, umpire John Hirschbeck was simply awful on this evening. No, it was not the difference in the game, but it was a distraction all around. The Rangers were nearly as frustrated as the Orioles. Even Ryan Flaherty and J.J. Hardy – two of the meek who will inherit the earth – were frustrated and complaining. I’m not sure when I’ve ever seen a strike zone so low (and outside too). Simply crazy – inches below the knees.

Palmer commented at length on this as well, speaking of the wide-spread inconsistencies, and of remedies the league could undertake to work toward a consistent zone from umpire to umpire. It does not happen. And on nights like this, it really distracts from the game.

Hirschbeck is no stranger to controversy. Here is an article from spring training this year that talks about strike zone bantering that went on between Hirschbeck and Norris. And here is another from the 2013 season that features last evening’s starter, Wandy Rodriguez, getting the benefit of a Hirschbeck call – with the writer going on at length about the antics displayed by the ump that exacerbated the problem.

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It was just one of those nights where nothing went right for the Orioles. Nothing would fall in, hard-hit balls went right at people, etc.  Even though the O’s got nine hits, they left nine on base. And for a team that leads the world in RISP clutch hitting, they were only 1-for-9 against Texas.

Back to Norris:  He now has a 6.79 ERA on the season. Some fans are calling for him to go to the bullpen, in the model of Ubaldo Jimenez last year. That day may come, but Buck has a long memory of what players have done in the past and is slow to make such moves. Other fans are ready to see him DFA-ed, especially in the current context of the roster crunch and the great interest there is in seeing Kevin Gausman added to the rotation.

Honestly, Norris must not still have any lingering effects of the sickness that took him down earlier this spring. His fastball was hitting 95 and 96 even at the end of his outing. Command of off-speed pitches was the issue tonight, as well as throughout this season.

However, his previous two starts – though losses – were both quite good, allowing only two earned runs in 11.2 innings on 12 hits and three walks. He has not gotten any run support in any of his three recent losses.

I personally like Bud as much as any of the Orioles. His competitive spirit is totally awesome in my book! But I don’t think his talent is at the top of class. To succeed, he has to walk a fine line rather perfectly, having good command and avoiding mistakes. This is what he is not doing. My guess is that he’ll have until the All-Star break to find it, or he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen.

Next: The ups and downs of Jimmy Paredes