The Baltimore Orioles are an average to slightly-above-average baseball team. As currently constructed and particularly as currently playing, this is a painful truth. And what is their record for the season? 24-23. Yep.
There are a lot of explanations and justifications for this, most of which are legitimate; but they don’t change the reality of the opening statement above.
But the deal is this: the hopes were that the 2014 Baltimore Orioles could be a lot better than average and would be good enough to compete at the highest levels. And that is still possible in this season of quantum change in the AL East where TORONTO IS IN FIRST PLACE!
It is all very, very weird.
And the weirdness continued on Saturday afternoon with a 9-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Though the Orioles tallied eight base hits, they were sufficiently scattered to never really be a threat to score and get back into the game.
Ubaldo Jimenez had another very poor outing. Though he held the Indians off the scoreboard for the first four innings, he had the characteristic elevated pitch count again, eventually giving up five walks. He was unable to get a single out in the fifth inning, as five consecutive batters reached base. Reliever T.J. McFarland was no better on this day, as two more reached and the Indians tallied five in that fifth inning. All those runs would be charged to the account of Jimenez, while four more Cleveland runs in the seventh inning would be credited to McFarland.
So What Is The Problem?
It is not a simple answer or a single issue. We could sum in up with three “ins” …
Though the Baltimore Orioles are far from alone in this category, they have indeed been affected negatively by the loss of a number of key players.
We knew that Manny Machado would not really be replaced until he returned, and though he has brought back with him the great defense, not surprisingly his hitting and timing has been inconsistent at best.
It has often been speculated as to what the cost in performance of the team would be if the Orioles did not have Matt Wieters. We may be finding that out right now, and we may be finding it out for a long time to come if this situation turns into a Tommy John surgery. Though Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph have provided very solid catching, their offensive production seriously pales in comparison to the wonderful start on the season that Wieters had put together at the plate. It is a shame that this injury has come at such a time.
Chris Davis had his turn on the DL, though he looks to be returning to better form. J.J. Hardy avoided the DL, though he missed a good bit of time earlier in the year. And now Tommy Hunter is on the list.
Again, everybody deals with this, though it was thought that the Baltimore Orioles had more depth built into the system to deal with this better than has been the reality. It is one thing to have Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, and Clevenger or Joseph in the eighth and ninth holes with a performing lineup one through seven; but when too many pieces are missing or underperforming, the order loses a lot of its teeth.
2. Inconsistent Play
It has so often seemed that when the Orioles hit will, the pitching struggles; or just about the time the Birds get a one-run, seven-inning start, the offense puts up nothing. The Orioles actually have the second highest batting average in the American League, along with the third most hits. Their pitching statistics are also, in the big picture of things, right around the league average. For example, they have given up 4.30 runs-per-game, whereas the AL average is 4.33.
One would expect a bit better overall record given the paragraph above, though again, the pitching and hitting has not been in concert on so many occasions.
Also, there is the issue of the home/away record. They are 10-12 at home and 14-11 on the road. When have we ever seen this sort of disparity with the Orioles?
3. Insufficient Performance
We don’t need to look much beyond today to see insufficiency in performance. Ubaldo Jimenez has so far this season evidenced the validity of the reticence of the Orioles management to give large free agent contracts to pitchers. A record of 2-6 and 4.98 ERA is not what the Birds thought they were buying.
David Lough has been a bust in left field, especially after looking so good in spring training. I cannot understand this, as there was every reason to believe he would really thrive in Baltimore.
Also, the second base and utility infield production has not been what was anticipated and hoped for coming out of the spring.
And everyone knew the starting pitching was somewhat likely to struggle with getting deep into games. This has been a mixed bag of performance, and just when it has seemed that perhaps a corner has been turned on this, we have the recent outings of Jimenez today and Chris Tillman’s recent one-inning start.
So, all in all, the bad news is that the Orioles are only a game over .500 at this point, though the good news is that the Blue Jays are the only team ahead of them, the Yankees have had an equal struggle, and the Red Sox and Rays are dredging the basement. It is not a lost cause, but this squad with all its talent needs to be better than slightly above average.
Tags: Baltimore Orioles