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What a catcher looks for on the bases

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What a catcher looks for on the bases

NEW YORK – Caleb Joseph isn’t playing on Saturday. Ryan Lavarnway gets the start instead.

That will give Joseph the chance to rest and watch. So far this season, nine runners have stolen off Joseph, and he’s thrown four out. On Friday night, Brett Gardner was successful.

He says he made two bad throws this season, both last month in Toronto.

“Those are bad throws. All the other ones I’ll take. The rest of them were a product of a fast runner. Maybe he got a good jump, but our pitchers have been doing a great job all season of giving us a chance. I’ll take every one of my throws, minus the two,” Joseph said

“Out of all of them, I just want two throws back.”

There were questions about Joseph’s defense when debuted just over a year ago. He answered many of them.

“Even last year when I threw out 40 percent, you’re looking at a 60 percent success rate. It’s hard. These guys are getting paid millions of dollars. They don’t get on first base and just run. These guys are fast,” Joseph said.

“There are a lot of things that go into it, like who’s hitting behind him, the count, look for a sequence, maybe look for a breaking pitch because those pitches are getting to the plate a little slower. They’re not going to go unless they feel like they really can steal the base.”

Orioles pitchers are continually drilled on the need to deliver the ball rapidly to the plate. Most do.

“Our guys are normally quick. It’s not necessarily about times. It’s about getting jumps,” Joseph said.

Joseph says throwing runners out can’t necessarily be replicated in spring training.

“There’s an ebb and flow of getting it because I only had two chances, three chances during the spring to throw a guy out. You take three months off, and you can practice it all you want in spring training. You can practice throwing to bases, but there’s a totally different feel when you’re in the game and you’ve got adrenaline and you’ve got live pitching, you’ve got a live batter,” Joseph said.

“You can try your best to simulate it, but nothing comes close to a real game. It would be like only giving Chris Davis three at-bats to get ready for the season.”

Joseph says he’s helped by having J.J. Hardy back. That should boost his caught stealing percentage.

“My responsibility is to throw the ball in hopefully under 1.9 seconds in the tagging zone. After that, there’s a lot of pieces and parts to this puzzle. People underestimated what a great tagger J.J. is, and Buck [Showalter] talks about it all the time. J.J. singlehandedly got, I would say eight to 10 stolen bases for me because of his unbelievable tagging,” Joseph said.

“If I’m throwing balls into center field, we’ve got issues, but as long as I’m doing my part, and getting it down there as fast as I can in the tagging zone, I feel like with the way that the team is designed and as great a job as our pitchers do, we will get, more times than not, we’ll have a really good chance of getting them out.”

As a second year player, Joseph is able to see more of the game behind the plate, and he’s able to multitask more often.

“You can pay attention to a lot of the way they lead off [the base]. I’m so much more comfortable with how [bench coach] John Russell is going to use pickoffs and pitchouts and knowing that, it’s kind of an unspoken communication there, knowing that this is a good time to run, and your senses are heightened versus maybe [in your] first year, there’s so much going on back there,” Joseph said.

A year ago, Joseph was a career minor leaguer hoping to get some time in the big leagues. Now, he’s the regular pending the return of Matt Wieters. The game is so much more cerebral.

“Late in the game, you’re trying to manage a certain spot there. Where is this out at the plate more important than the stolen base? How are we going to pitch to this guy because every catcher wants to throw a fastball? It’s the hardest pitch. It’s the easiest to handle, but sometimes you’ve got to know how to navigate around the guy at first base and the hitter because you don’t want to throw him five straight fastballs because then a guy puts it into play, and the run scored,” Joseph said.

[MORE: Adam Jones wasn't missing a game after crashing into a wall]

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

The Baltimore Orioles were historically awful in 2018. The Orioles were eliminated from the A.L. title race on Aug. 10 and eliminated from playoff contention Aug. 20. Since the divisional era began in 1969, no team has been eliminated from postseason contention as early as the 2018 Orioles were.

The 2018 season was downright awful for the Orioles. Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers. Chris Davis, who is set to receive $94 million over the next four years, had one of the worst seasons in MLB history.

Baltimore fans knew very early that a trip to the 2018 MLB Postseason was not going to happen. But because the Orioles traded away such a sizable chunk of its roster, fans actually had a better opportunity to see their favorite players in the postseason.

How did the former Orioles players do in the 2018 MLB Postseason? Glad you asked.

Atlanta Braves

Brad Brach (2014-2018): Continuing off of a regular season in which he struggled, Brach was unable to turn it around in the postseason. He gave up two walks and two hits in an 1.1 innings (two games), allowing one run.

Kevin Gausman (2013-2018): Gausman came on in relief in Game 3, Atlanta's only win in the series, though Gausman didn't play a big role. He allowed two runs in two innings, off two hits and two walks (deuces are wild). He did strike out four though.

Ryan Flaherty (2012-2017): Ryan Flaherty had an uneventful October, as he only got two at-bats in the series, and he went 0-for-2.

Nick Markakis (2006-2014): The beloved Markakis' comeback season was a major reason for the Braves making it to the postseason, but he didn't do much with the opportunity. Markakis went 1-for-12, just a .083 batting average.

Boston Red Sox

Steve Pearce (2013-2016): Pearce's overall numbers don't jump off the page, but he's had quite the postseason. On numerous occasions, Pearce has come up with the big hit when needed. He's just 9-for-34, but hit one of the most critical home runs of the World Series when he tied the game off Kenley Jansen in the eigth inning of Game 4, and he started the scoring in Game 5 with a home run in the first inning off Clayton Kershaw.

Chicago Cubs

Pedro Strop (2011-2013): Strop pitched just one inning in the NL Wild Card game, allowing one hit and striking out two in the Cubs loss. 

Cleveland Indians

Andrew Miller (2014): Miller didn't have many leads to protect during the Astros' dominating performance against the Indians, and he pitched poorly when he actually got in the game. In 0.1 innings, Miller allowed one hit and walked three batters, which is unheard of for someone of Miller's talent.

Colorado Rockies

Gerardo Parra (2015): Parra reached base twice in the NL Wild Card game, walking once and recording a hit. He stayed hot in the NLCS against the Brewers, going 3-for-6 and scoring a run.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rich Hill (2009): It feels strange including Hill, given his minimal time in Baltimore (Justin Turner was left off the list for the same reason). He is technically a former Oriole, however. This postseason, Hill pitched 16.2 innings and allowed four earned runs. Hill was terrific in Game 4 with the Dodgers trying to tie up the World Series, allowing one hit, one run, and three walks whil striking out seven. The Dodgers lost the game, thanks in part to another former Oriole in Steve Pearce.

Manny Machado (2012-2018): You could write a dozen articles about Machado's postseason without even mentioning his on-field performance. Manny has taken a heel turn this October, becoming baseball's biggest postseason villain since Alex Rodriguez. There have been quesitonable slides, weird kicks and stomps while running to first, and even the occasional crotch grab. In terms of the games themselves, he's hit 15-for-62, though struggled in the World Series, being held without a single extra-base hit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Wade Miley (2016-2017): Miley has had an interesting postseason. He pitched well in his one NLDS start, going 4.2 scoreless innings (which is essentially a complete game in this era of pitching). He then started Game 5 in the NLCS and was pulled after just one batter, part of a strategic decision by the Brewers. He started again in Game 6. The Brewers lost Game 5, but he held his own the next day and the Brewers forced a Game 7. 

Jonathan Schoop (2013-2018): Schoop didn't get many chances this October, and he did literally nothing with them. He was 0-for-8 overall, and struck out three times.

New York Yankees

Zach Britton (2011-2018): Britton struggled in pinstripes, allowing two runs in his only inning pitched during the Wild Card Game. He fared better in the ALDS, allowing one run and three hits over the course of four innings across three games.

Oakland Athletics

Edwin Jackson (2017): Did not pitch.

 

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.

A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles' career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.

Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.

Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.

Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.

"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It's the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don't know if he's going to coach or manage again, but he's got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."

With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.

"You know how good they've been to me? I'm not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin was asked before his team's playoff game against the Yankees on Wednesday night whether Showalter was victimized by the trend toward analytics.

"I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics," Melvin said. "I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships."

After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.

Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.

Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.

The Orioles' deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.

Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.

At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.

"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We've got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."

Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.

"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He's really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He's been a main figure here for a long time."

Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had ever played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It's been an absolute honor to play for Buck. He's been incredible."