11 Pop-Tarts down, and still no repeats! Today we’ll look at the often inconsistent yet always entertaining Baltimore Orioles.
How’s It Going?
The O’s are clinging to a .500 record at 44-44 in the mediocre AL East. Due to the ineptitude of their divisional foes, the O’s are still only 4 games back in the division and 3.5 back of a wild card. Amazingly, the Orioles have no players on the disabled list.
The Orioles are an incomplete team from top to bottom, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their share of All-Stars. Young third baseman Manny Machado is having a breakout year. Machado has cracked 19 home runs and driven in 48 RBI while stealing 13 bases. Machado, a converted shortstop, is having a rough year in the field to the tune of 12 errors, but he didn’t win the Platinum Glove award last season for nothing; the man did not forget how to field. His supporting cast consists of the usual suspects. Adam Jones is having an average year by his standards, but is still an All-Star Game starter with a .816 OPS and 14 home runs to go with plus defense. Chris Davis has bounced back from his disastrous 2014, but is still not the player he was in 2013, when he blasted 53 round-trippers. Still, 19 home runs at the break is a respectable total. His low AVG and OBP remain troublesome though (.235/.318). A surprise has been the play of utility man Jimmy Paredes. Paredes has found a major stroke at the plate, hitting .299 with a solid .475 SLG. Paredes is capable of playing second base, third base, or either corner outfield spot, but is most commonly used batting second at designated hitter. The rest of the Orioles’ offense is a bit lagging. Matt Wieters has come back from Tommy John Surgery with a return to his usual self: low average and OBP, but high power numbers for a catcher. J.J. Hardy has fallen off a cliff in regards to his offense. The former 30 home run hitter has just 5 this season and falls to the same plague that falls almost all of the O’s: a ghastly OBP. Travis Snider and Steve Pearce are bland as outfield corners; neither has an OPS greater than .700. The Orioles’ bench isn’t horrible though. Ryan Flaherty isn’t an automatic out as backup infielder, David Lough offers great speed and defense, and Caleb Joseph can rake as a backup catcher. Nolan Reimold is useful in a platoon role vs lefties as well. The Orioles cannot get by simply on Machado, Jones, and Davis mashing taters. The problem is that aside from Machado and Paredes, no one on the Orioles can get on base at a decent clip. Oriole Park is a launching pad for homers, but not all stadiums in the postseason are, which is why the O’s could use a corner outfielder with solid on-base skills at the deadline.
The Orioles’ pitching staff is similar to their offense in that while some of the members are quite good, there is one defining, negative trait that kills their value. For the pitchers, it’s the constant home run problem that sinks the O’s. In the rotation, Wei-Yin Chen and Ubaldo Jimenez have been surprisingly good, even posting decent strikeout numbers. However, Chen has allowed 17 home runs despite a 2.78 ERA (figure that one out). Jimenez has quelled his homer problem, but he is not far enough removed from his past struggles for me (or most O’s fans) to feel comfortable with the volatile starter. Chris Tillman was expected to be the ace, but has been absolutely rocked this year time and time again. He is allowing more than 1.5 baserunners per inning, not a recipe for success. His BAA is a high .291, and his ERA sits at an expected 5.40. Miguel Gonzalez is a decent 4th starter but nothing more, and Kevin Gausman has major talent but also major struggles in his brief trials in the bigs. Gonzalez has allowed 17 homers, Bud Norris has given up 13, and Tillman 10. The bullpen is at least consistent after years of undulating performance. Zach Britton and Darren O’Day, two deserving All-Stars, are money in the late innings. The game is over after 7 innings if the O’s have a lead. Between O’Day’s submarine antics and Britton’s high heat, this is one underrated bullpen tandem. The bridge to these two is wobbly, but serviceable. Brian Matusz is an effective LOOGY, Chaz Roe has a nasty slider, and Freehold-born Brad Brach can do it all. The struggles of former ace setup man Tommy Hunter are confusing, and Bud Norris was kicked out of the rotation for his poor performance; he now resides as Baltimore’s long man. The Orioles still don’t have a true ace or a strikeout king, and that is why they are a .500 ballclub. A shrewd upgrade or two could help save the Orioles.
The Orioles, as I said before, are an incomplete ballclub. Buck Showalter is a great manager, but he needs some better players to work with. The O’s are far too dependent on dingers to get anywhere in October. As Billy Beane once said to much fame, you need to get on base to win ballgames. The Orioles miss this lesson. Their pitching is just ok and one injury away from total shambles. The Orioles are good enough to tease, but aren’t anywhere close to the total package.