Gunning for the fences

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Now on an offensive tear highlighted by an epic Sunday afternoon home run at Camden Yards onto the Warehouse walkway, Luke Jones and Nestor discuss the emergence of Gunnar Henderson as a leader and an impact force on the Orioles offense as the Magic returns to Baltimore.


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Luke Jones, Nestor Aparicio

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

wn st Towson, Baltimore, Baltimore positive we are positively getting into baseball. And more than anything we’re gonna put this football thing away at the end of the week, you know pending no injuries and all that and Luke can focus on his first passion which is the Baltimore Orioles. Luke Jones joins us now you can follow follow him at Baltimore Luke at on the the Instagrams and the Twitter’s and the LinkedIn and certainly on our Facebook page as well as he does double duty this week, afternoons with the with the ravens and evenings with Oriole baseball, and certainly this group of players and this young crop of players, and whether it’s the Baltimore on the front of the jersey or the black jerseys or I see kids wanting a jersey right like in the day was are you going to be Kyle bowler, you’re going to be Terrell Suggs, you’re going to have a Ray Lewis you’re gonna have a John Ogden, certainly the the Adley rutschman thing is there. And you would say that Couser is coming and holidays coming and they have the Rodriguez is gonna have all these guys coming. But gunner Henderson, over the weekend made at least people consider getting one of his jerseys. And I watched some baseball over the weekend with a guy who played some baseball. And he’s more bullish on Henderson than he is on rutschman in some way. And I found that to be kind of an interesting statement of where will they be in 12 years? Well, you know, I don’t know if he would have measured Matt Wieters versus Nick Marcus. I you know, I guess back in the day and say who would have numbers who would make the most money, whatever. Certainly Gunnar Henderson younger. And we forget that and I know you’re always bringing up how young he is. He brought up a young years, but did something on Sunday that my neck still hurts from from watching that thing crank up.

Luke Jones  01:48

That was a mammoth shot. It really was. And I say that having seen the the homerun that Shohei Otani hit in Baltimore a few weeks ago that almost landed in boogs barbecue out and right center field so I’ve seen plenty of impressive homeruns at at Camden Yards and to rank them. I can’t say that Gunnar Henderson shot on Sunday was the most impressive, but it was certainly one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen at Camden Yards. I mean 462 feet thick. The exit Velo was 113.8 miles per hour. I mean, he clobbered that ball so, and me being the Marvel nerd that I am Nestor that they handed out the Adley rutschman Captain America bobblehead on Saturday. That was a Thor like blast frog frog gunner Henderson on Sunday, but I mean, he’s, he’s been terrific. And we talked so much over the first six, seven weeks of the season about his struggles. I’ll give you the numbers here. I have them in front of me right now. Nestor. So on May 13. So we’re talking a month ago, literally a month ago at this point. Gunnar Henderson was batting 170, not 198, not 2041 70. And there were lots and lots of people who named for

Nestor Aparicio  03:04

something under 175. That’s like worse than Mendoza. Is that Davis? What is that?

Luke Jones  03:09

I was just gonna say it might be the Chris Davis slide. I mean, I’m not trying to be I’m not trying to pick on the former Oreo, but it

Nestor Aparicio  03:15

was. So last century we I mean, when you when you’re in the big leagues hitting the buck 70. And they’re giving you the bat and saying here, take it for five times today, instead of sending you somewhere else. It is. I mean, it’s validating, to some degree to say who he is and what he did. But they didn’t waste any time Senator Rodriguez was asked out of here, right. Like they sent Palmer back a lot of guys got sent back over the course the time. Henderson kind of, you know, hung in and rode the wave around Preakness time, right. Well, you have

Luke Jones  03:42

that and you know, it’s it is a little bit different when you’re talking about a starting pitcher. You know what, when you get knocked out of the game early, I mean, that compromises your bullpen, not just for the rest of that game, but for the next few days. So so it is a little more complicated with a pitcher. But the thing that I kept talking about was what Nestor he was batting 170. What was the bud that I kept? He was making hard contact. What not just that but at that point in time, he started 341 on base percentage. So he was still finding ways to contribute, even though the batting average as ugly as could be. He was still getting on base. And we know how important that is. And that’s a Moneyball thing. But it’s not just the Moneyball thing that was an Earl Weaver thing back in the day, Earl didn’t want to blind or wanted to play. For the big inning. He wanted to play guys getting on base and also

Nestor Aparicio  04:28

look under the arm and see how many times he’s scored because he’s gotten on and that’s in this offense. That’s what this is about. Right? Exactly. So

Luke Jones  04:35

my point wasn’t that a 170 batting average was okay, the point that I was making there was this a kid that is still finding ways to contribute even though he is struggling when he’s swinging the bat. He was striking out a lot. And he was struggling, you know, you’re bad. 170 There’s no way to sugarcoat that it’s it’s rough. However since then, so we’re talking roughly a month since Then you’re talking about someone who’s bad at it over the last month 321 361 on base percentage, so he’s not walking quite as much. What’s that telling you? He’s being a little more aggressive in the count, I think young hitters who have a great command of the strike zone. While it bodes well, for their long term game, their long term prosperity, I think they can get into a habit of, maybe they’re a little too selective, and they’re letting some good pitches go by. And then you get yourself into some unfriendly counts. And that puts the pitcher especially in this day and age, when you have guys who throw so hard guys who have such good breaking stuff really puts you at a disadvantage. And I think hunter or gunner was kind of having some of that some of those problems. And I think when Adley rutschman runs into some issues, even though they’ve been not not as dramatic, I think there are times where he could probably stand to be a little more aggressive at times, you love the the plate discipline, but at times, it does behoove you to swing early in the count, because the best pitch you might get might be the first one. So we’ve seen a different approach from Gunnar Henderson in that regard. So he’s put up 1000 op s over the last month, six home runs five doubles, 14 RBIs, as I mentioned, five walks over that time, so not as many walks for the short term, but we’ve seen him hit the ball with such authority. And we’ve

Nestor Aparicio  06:17

seen this when you go three for five.

Luke Jones  06:20

Sure, sure. Exactly. And look, I love Walks. But I love extra base hits a lot more than that. Let’s be clear, yeah, as a money notice the guy with the goggles and left field, no question, no question. So to see him what he’s done, to see what he did in San Francisco. Remember, he hit the big homerun on the Friday night against the Giants first game of that series, to see him do what he did in the finale against Milwaukee, and then won a

Nestor Aparicio  06:44

couple games for them since the last time you and I got together

Luke Jones  06:47

literally. Absolutely, absolutely. So for him to do that. It’s a reminder of the talent that’s there. And a reminder of, and it’s interesting. You mentioned, the conversation you had over the weekend. I mean, if you ask me who’s going to be a better player a decade now, the next five years? That’s a different discussion, but a decade from now. Well, Gunther Henderson’s younger, he’s four years younger than Adley rutschman. And he plays well. And let’s be clear, he we could see him at shortstop. And we’ll get to that in a moment because I do want to talk about Jorge Mateo. But the idea that he is an infielder as opposed to a catcher lends itself to aging more gracefully as well. So the point is, and even without comparing the two, Gunnar Anderson has a bright future. And we’re seeing this and look, he’s going to have some more times where he struggles right, he does have swing and miss to his game he’s going to strike out, as so many hitters do in this day,

Nestor Aparicio  07:39

when he makes contact. I mean, everything I was referring to his back, he struggled the first couple of weeks of the season, and we were like, hit the ball hard. He hit the ball hard, he hit the ball hard. And it was cold out like all of that April stuff. But I looked up at one point, I remember hitting like 201 in late April. And I said to you, I’m like, ooh. So you gotta make it. You know what I mean? Like, and then it got worse. We didn’t talk a lot about it because they were winning. But it got worse. And I the kids 20 years old, right? I mean, it’s crazy. He’ll he’ll be

Luke Jones  08:11

22 at the end of this month. So he’ll just have turned 22. And I had to laugh. And I shared this on Facebook, I shared this on Twitter as well as wn S T. But he was asked in the postgame if the if that 462 foot homerun which by the way, and I don’t put too much stock into this because Statcast has given us a much more sophisticated way of estimating homeruns compared to back in the day where they use landmarks and you use the eyeball test game or whatever. Right, right. So so is a much, you know, much less precise science at that point in time. There’s anybody

Nestor Aparicio  08:48

alive who saw the Frank Robinson who wrote is 67 Right, like literally.

Luke Jones  08:54

Exactly, exactly. But that was the longest recorded distance for for a ball to land on Utah Street. I mean, that was a one hopper off the warehouse that reminded me of the Jim Tomi Homer off Messina, I think back in 96. I think it was where, you know, kind of hit it a little more towards right center. And it was a one hopper off the warehouse. I mean, that’s that’s how I’m pressed. It almost looks like a golf ball when

Nestor Aparicio  09:15

they hit it like under Henderson.

Luke Jones  09:18

Yeah, oh, no question. But Gunnar Henderson was asked to in the postgame clubhouse, if that was about as far as he could hit a ball. And this is where he reminds you that hey, he’s only 21. He’s almost 22. He said, When I get that man, strike it a few years, maybe I’ll be able to hit it a little bit farther, which to which I thought, Well, I’m certainly not I’m still waiting for my man strength, but that’s neither here nor there. But he’s just, he’s an impressive kid and to see him do what he’s done after the way that he had struggled early in the season, and let’s face it, he was struggling defensively as well. You know, he had some hiccups defensively, to the point where, you know, early in the year they were moving on between third base and shortstop and And they kind of they knock that off, they let them focus on third base for a while so, but what’s been interesting is his dramatic, I don’t even want to say improvement, just adjustments, you know, just playing better. You know, I think we saw last year that the kid was capable of doing this and hitting for the power that he’s been hitting with here of late but of late we’ve seen him one that hit some in the leadoff role over the weekend, which I thought was interesting, again, that on bass potential that walk potential that he has, and to we’ve seen him play a little bit shortstop here of late which, this is where I transitioned to Jorge Mateo. And as great as Matteo was in April. I mean, my goodness, he was a top five player in the league in the month of April. Well, he has a 350 Oh, PS since then, not, not on base percentage, not batting average, he has a 350 Oh, PS. Since then, he’s been batting 147 Since May 1. So with Henderson doing what he’s done with Matteo struggling to the degree that he has enough, I’m not saying give up on Jorge Mateo right now, but at the same time, he’s got to start swinging the bat better. Even with his defense, even with his speed. He’s been unplayable. That’s how bad he’s been offensively that that it’s been a struggle to play him. But you couple that with Ramona Reyes swinging the bat better of late, you still have Jordan Westberg, who is doing everything he possibly can at Norfolk. I mean, go look at the numbers he’s put up over the last calendar year at triple A, I mean, the guys put up amazing numbers. He’s doing everything you can get everything you can to get a promotion. You consider all those factors. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gunnar Henderson continue to play some shortstop. I mean, he’s not the amazing Gold Glove caliber defender at short, that Matteo is, but he can defend there. I mean, he absolutely can. So if he’s going to give you that kind of offense, and Matteo is going to continue to struggle the way he has, think it’ll make things interesting here to see what they do, at least over the next few weeks. But, you know, to bring it back to what Henderson has done. I mean, this is why you have to be patient with young players. And this is the difference. And I don’t mean this as a knock on Adley rutschman. Adley. rutschman is 25. He played college baseball, he played college baseball at an elite level. You know, he was the one one pick gunner Henderson was a high school kid, you know, are you even at the end of the first round, you know, kind of that sandwich pick guy. So for him to do what he’s done. You see the upside. You see the age, you see how much better he’s already getting. But I think he is also really a testament and Mike Elias made this comment. I think it was last August when he said this, that Gunnar Henderson was really kind of the flagship guy for them as an organization as a player development department to develop this kid, no Adley rutschman didn’t need a whole lot of developing with the Orioles drafted him he was he probably could have played the majors right there. And then if he had to if the Orioles weren’t in a position where they didn’t want to start his clock, you know, he probably could have played within a year in the majors, let’s say at least, Gunnar needed some developing but boy, he has it’s come on quickly. And he has been so good and really seeing him not just the homerun that he had on Sunday, which was such an impressive blast. But he’s been doing it for a few weeks now we’re hitting the ball with authority. And just he’s been one of their absolute best players these last few weeks. And, you know, as we mentioned, it’s won them a couple games here over the last 10 days that they wouldn’t have won without him.

Nestor Aparicio  13:28

Luke Jones is gonna be doing all things ravens and you can follow him out of Baltimore positive and adult social media as well at Baltimore, Luke, as well as all things Orioles as we sort of, we’re about to put the Ravens away for a little bit, they’ll come back out and it’ll be interesting to see where they are. In August, I saw ro Quan Smith down there trying to throw strikes off the mound, you know, crossing sports and whatnot, but the baseball momentum and this time of the year to me they’re gonna make their hay in these American League East games as far as how you measure them beaten up the Royals is one thing, you know, and these opportunities come and they go and I mentioned in a prior segment, if you look at the Oriole schedule, it’s wacky against anything you would know the last 50 years of watching baseball in regard to the West Coast swings they’re going to have in August and September, where they’re not playing the Red Sox, the Yankees and you know, in the old days would be the Tigers because they were in the American League is that you’re seeing the same teams in September. That making up ground is not a real thing in September. It’s a real thing when you’re playing head to head because you play head to head so much less. And that would be true for the Blue Jays this week that if they want to make up ground, they may want to take care of business against the upstart Orioles here this week that this notion that the orals are full of all these young guys, these are now young guys doing things Cedric Mullins when he comes back he’s not a young guy anymore. He’s a veteran 3030 guy that’s now in a pennant race for the first time in his life. Say no to all of these guys right? It’s not I was a one one it’s a we’re in a pennant race are We couldn’t be better than the Yankees and the Red Sox and all of these pennants you had up on your wall when you were a kid five years ago, that the things that we’ve seen in the past that this organization is going to make it through a summer. And not just what the players they have in the management they have. But whatever these, these targets are for Elias to say, I want that picture in my rotation in September, in addition to Wells, or Gibson, or maybe it’ll be Rodriguez, you know, again, like football, there’s only one ball. I mean, they don’t need eight starting pitchers, maybe they do but it wants October comes around, they need four good ones, and they need a bullpen that’s not overtax all these things you’re talking about, to setting things up. When you’re 17 games over 500, you start setting things up and saying what do I want my team to look like in September. But more than that, beating these teams, these als teams, when you get a chance, two out of three, two out of three, you will meet low flying, right. But that’s pretty much where the Orioles are right here and they’ll go on the road this week play wacky games against the Cubs and stuff. But But beating ALS, when you get that opportunity, it’s a here and now issue. You don’t want to you want to go backwards in your own division.

Luke Jones  16:09

No question about it. I mean, we talked about this a couple of weeks ago, and what they had the five and one road trip against Toronto, and and playing in the Bronx, and how encouraging that was, but yeah, you need to take care of your division. You just said it. I mean, there are greater, you know, they’re greater stakes, you know, it’s not 18 or 19 games anymore. You play to home series to a series, it’s there’s not a whole lot to it in that regard. So as much as you look at that and say, Okay, that’s better, because you don’t want to play the race quite as much. You don’t have to play the Yankees quite as much, although certainly the Yankees with Aaron judge being on but you look at Toronto, they’re coming in are looking at this and said, Hey, we’re fly back of the Orioles, we need to make some hay here. Not Not that it’s over. Far from it. I mean, we’re still only talking June. But that’s the thing, you don’t have quite as many head to head opportunity. So it makes things that much more important. And it’s funny, and we’ve talked about this before, but where the Orioles are now, considering they’ve been this legitimately good for about a calendar year. Now it was last July, when they had the you know, they had that winning streak and they really took off, you know, they played like a a 90 plus win team since then. So they’re for real. And now all these other teams, whether we’re talking to division or other wildcard contenders, they’re all looking at the Orioles and saying, Hey, we’ve got to play Baltimore. They’re really good. So it is fun in that regard. But you know, something you mentioned, as you were kind of talking about as we get into the summer, and we’ll talk about the trade deadline, plenty. And there’s so much that goes into that. But it isn’t just that you said something interesting that you don’t need eight starting pitchers. And I understood what you mean. But what you meant by that, that literally you’re not going to have eight guys in your rotation. But you do need eight starting pitchers and how that factors in is yes, health and effectiveness being a huge part of that. But also, you get into September and October. And if you’re in a position where you’re not scratching and clawing just to get in as the wild the final wildcard but you kind of know you’re going to be in you know whether you’re not even talking about the division. Let’s say Tampa wins the division because it feels like they’re going to win the division. But let’s say the Orioles are in that top wildcard spot. For example. You start thinking about what October is going to look like so you want seven or eight starting options. Why? Because then you take your top four, and then those other two or three guess where they go. They go into the bullpen and suddenly, you have what Kevin Gasman was for the 2014 Oreos go back and look at what he did in the pen for that team. So you know that could be that could be Grayson Rodriguez, that could be DL Hall. That could be

Nestor Aparicio  18:53

Kyle Bradish. I

Luke Jones  18:54

mean, again, how it shakes out we’ve got a long way to go but you’re looking at those spots. And even on the position player side as much as we’ve talked about Ryan O’Hearn being a good story and how well he’s played. We’ve talked about Josh Lester, a career journeyman minor leaguer, who’s gotten a little more than a cup of coffee and he’s helped the Orioles win a couple games here. Are those guys gonna be around for the rest of the season? If I’m betting I’m gonna say probably not. But that could be a Jordan Westbrook stepping into a role that could be Heston curse dad who just got promoted to Norfolk and has been as looked the part of the second overall pick that the Orioles invasion when they drafted him before he had the heart issue at the myocarditis and the injuries and everything that derailed him the last couple years. Now he could be there DH or part time first baseman depending on how mountcastle is playing all that. So you’ve got a lot of guys that factor in not just as potential trade pieces that could come into the organization. But you still have guys in the minor leagues at the triple A level right now that they could be here in a couple of weeks. So they could be here in July or they could be here in all guessed, and suddenly, they’re a really intriguing weapon for you that you haven’t had all year and they make you even better. So that’s where the Orioles are in a really exciting position because you look at the potential to Yes, make trades at the deadline, and I’m not going to back away from advocating for them doing that. But at the same time, they do have some really, really interesting internal options still, that boy, they’re knocking on the door and they’re knocking loudly at Norfolk. You know, when you’re talking about a Colton cows or you’re talking about Westberg. You hope Grayson Rodriguez, who was pitched pretty well, since going back down to Norfolk, as you’d expect right now he should, you know, you’re hoping DL Hall can refine that command a little bit more to the point where at the very least, he could be a really intriguing late inning bullpen guy for them this year later this year. So a lot options, a lot of excitement, still room for improvement. You know, we’re not talking about a team that hasn’t been playing their best baseball in terms of top to bottom from the lineup or the rotation, let’s say, you know, there’s some middle relievers that you’re still hoping can straighten things out. You know, we’ve talked about CNL Perez, Michael Gibbons is on the aisle right now. I mean, you’ll see what happens with his shoulder and everything. Doesn’t sound great right now, but you still have room to get better. And that’s what’s exciting. You know, it doesn’t feel like the Orioles have. We’ve talked about it a little bit with the bullpen. And that’s where I would even say, Hey, if you can, if you can add another reliever to the mix at the deadline, by all means. An Andrew Miller type addition like what he did for the Orioles and 14 If you can do that, by all means do it, you know so. But we’ve talked about the bullpen in terms of maxing out a little bit and how much they’ve leaned on Batista and Janja Cano and all that. But in other ways, it feels like there’s there’s still a lot of room for this team to get better. And that’s what’s exciting, about a team that’s 17 over and you feel that you can point to a b and c as far as things that can get better. And they even have options internally, let alone talking about the deadline. That’s when it’s when you know you have the potential to have a really not just a fun summer but potentially a fun, autumn. And that’s really what this is all about. At the end of the

Nestor Aparicio  22:14

day. A new day in Oracle baseball, Luke Jones is there to chronicle at all at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I’m gonna get the sunshine shout out the fun behind me. We’re doing the Maryland crab cake tour. Adela will be at spirits West next Thursday. We are kicking it off all summer long. We’re doing 25 oysters in September to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We’ll be kicking it off with the Maryland lottery as well as our friends at window nation 866 90 nation we’ll be doing that at costus on August the third that is our 25th anniversary we 25 years to the day where we had the basement full of food at the radio station and welcoming people in for the first ever sports radio station. So I’ll be spiking the ball on that a little bit on August 3 than or August 4 will be a drug city kicking off a month long celebration in August, and hopefully healthy football, which we hope we have this week in no training camp, as well as bad fake football in August and real baseball happening in August as well. I am Nestor he is Luke machi following him out at Baltimore Luke from Owings Mills to Camden Yards all week long if you follow me anywhere, the interwebs take you next at Baltimore I am Nestor. He’s Luke we are WNS TA and 1570, Towson Baltimore. And we never stopped talking Baltimore positive

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