Jun 25, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) is interviewed after a game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 5-4 in twelve innings. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Surveying the Orioles Near the Halfway Mark

It’s hard to believe, but the Baltimore Orioles have played 77 games at this point, and by the time they finish their four-game set with the Rays this weekend, which includes a doubleheader on Friday, the O’s will be right at 81 games.

So, at the halfway point, what can we say about the Orioles? The O’s right now are 1.5 behind the Jays, and that will soon be 2 games. But they are right in the thick of the division and also the wild card hunt.

Hitting: B

Let’s first look at some numbers. The O’s are third in the majors in batting average and third in home runs. Neither of those numbers are shocking, the O’s were expected to be a good hitting team. The O’s are right near average at on-base percentage, which is notable for the team of sluggers.

Nelson Cruz has carried the offense so far this year. Manny Machado is struggling after coming back from his injury, and hasn’t performed as expected. Adam Jones surged through June and is playing at his normal level. Nick Markakis is having his best season in a few years. Chris Davis’ average is much lower than last year, and it has been a bit of a struggle for him as well, although it appears that is changing. Second base has been a bit of a struggle, but Steve Pearce has been a revelation for the O’s. Overall, the team needs to do a better job of manufacturing runs, as they are relying on the home runs too much, as usual.

Starting Pitching: C

Everyone questioned whether the Orioles could pitch their way to the pennant this year. And after the first two months, the answer appeared to be no. But in the last month, the O’s starting pitching has done pretty well. The O’s starters are one of the worst rotations as far as striking batters out, which is partly because their pitchers aren’t strike-out pitchers. Their ERA is 22nd overall, but let’s be honest, in the AL East that is not surprising.

Ubaldo Jimenez has been the worst pitcher on the staff, Chris Tillman has been inconsistent, and so has Miguel Gonzalez, although not as drastically as Tillman. Wei-Yin Chen has been quite good, despite not going deep in games. Bud Norris has been fantastic, but is dealing with a groin injury right now. However, he has been excellent for the O’s. Kevin Gausman currently is pitching the way the O’s expected him to, and if he can keep it up, the O’s have a great chance.

Relief Pitching: B

I originally gave the bullpen a B, but then I remembered the early season closing struggles. Since Zach Britton became the closer and Tommy Hunter healthy and back in a 7th inning role, the Orioles’ bullpen has been good. The Orioles have the 6th most innings pitched among relievers, and rank around the middle in every statistic. However, there are a few particular outings that have brought those numbers down a good bit.

Now, the long relief continues to be an issue, but that is a problem many teams have. Darren O’Day has been excellent and Ryan Webb has rebounded from his tough start. The O’s pen isn’t exactly where it was in 2012, but it is better than 2013, and has been quite good.

Fielding: B-

This B-minus is not compared to everyone else; it is compared to the standard the Orioles have set for themselves defensively. The O’s are third in fielding percentage, have the most double plays by quite a margin, and lead the majors in outfield assists.

But J.J. Hardy has struggled for the Orioles compared to his normal Gold Glove level, and Manny Machado started slowly as well, although his defense is now back to normal. Nelson Cruz has been pretty good at LF compared to what many expected, and Caleb Joseph has been a revelation in place of Matt Wieters, showing the O’s backups at catcher are not a black hole.

Overall, missing Matt Wieters is going to hurt the O’s as they move forward. But if they can get Manny Machado and Chris Davis trending back toward last year’s numbers, it will be a good sign. But, it all hinges on the starting pitching, if they keep up what they have been doing, the team will likely be headed to the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Bud Norris Nelson Cruz

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