Baltimore Orioles: Doing the Expected in the Playoffs


Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2), first baseman Steve Pearce (28), and designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) celebrates after scoring on a three RBI double by pinch hitter Delmon Young (not pictured) during the eighth inning of game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

After two games of the ALDS playoffs between the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers, most of the primary themes about the strengths and weaknesses of both teams have been true and evident for all to see. Let’s review some of these …

The Detroit bullpen is terribly weak. Looking at the long-term resumes of the starters and the statistics of the their relievers made it obvious that a key to winning was to get the starters out of the game. And this has been true.  Even so, the Tiger starters have not been lights out, as they have given up eight runs on 13 hits in 12.1 innings. But the bullpen has yielded 10 earned runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings, and that includes two clean innings by Anibal Sanchez – the best-looking Detroit pitcher so far. 

The Tigers’ bullpen is the Orioles’ 10th man.

One of my sons said that it is like the Tigers’ bullpen in the Orioles’ 10th man! Joakim Soria improved his series ERA from 108.0 to 45.0 by walking the winning run onto base and allowing the double to Delmon Young.  And Joba Chamberlain is delightfully completely lost. His ERA now stands at 108.0. The problem there is that his beard is just so 2013.

The top five batters in the Tigers lineup pack a lot of power, especially against left-handers. This is an impressive row of hitters, as Wei-Yin Chen found out in the space of 10 pitches yesterday. The combination of Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez are 12-for-38 with four home runs. Take Kinsler out, and they are 11-for-30.

Over the course of the regular season, these five batters were .284 with a combined 114 home runs. Watching these two games really does support the decision of the Orioles to go strong on the roster with right-handers.

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  • But here is a question: Is Miguel Cabrera always this angry? Is he just annoyed by the performance of his team’s pitchers and the manager’s decisions? Is he being severely heckled by the fans? A combination? He’s a pretty angry guy right now.

    The Baltimore Orioles are an explosive, big-inning offensive team. Having led the major leagues in home runs the last two years, this would be expected. Actually the Orioles have a drop-off in HR production over three seasons – from 214 to 212 to 211 … just kidding. That is an impressive average.

    And sure enough, the Orioles offense has twice exploded in the eighth inning of the two games to win them. However, though the O’s are on pace with their three home runs in two games, the 12 runs scored in 8th innings have been by bunching hits and maximizing opportunities. And that is gratifying.

    The O’s defense is a team strength that can be game-changing. Though the value of defense for the Baltimore Orioles is becoming a nationally well-known feature of the team, there were concerns coming into the series about a hole at third base. Ryan Flaherty has done everything asked of him, and he started a critical double play yesterday that is, so far, the defensive play of the series.

    The critical nature of the defensive side of the game was evident in the Friday game with one relay play by each side. Even when discounting the foolish nature of sending Miguel Cabrera in an effort to score with none out on a Martinez double over Adam Jones’ head, the relay throw from Jonathan Schoop had to be executed well. And it was – nailing Cabrera. By contrast, the Tigers failed to get a perfectly accurate relay throw on the game-winning double by Young. It would have still been a close play, but if the throw was as good as Schoop’s had been earlier, Hardy would have likely been out.  

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    The Orioles bullpen is extremely good. During the offseason, I am going to write an extensive baseball philosophy article on the theme that a championship team needs to be built (and invested in) from the bullpen out. Shutting down tack-on runs and giving time for the offense to win the game … well … it wins games. The Orioles bullpen has given up two earned runs on seven hits in the 9.1 innings they have pitched in the first two games. Against an offense like Detroit – take it and run with it!

    And finally, there is one theme that has not proven true – The Orioles run the bases like a slow-moving freight train… There is no doubt that the Baltimore Orioles were pretty much the least-threatening team in the American League in terms of speed on the bases. They ranked dead last in stolen bases with only 44, which was 19 less than anyone else.

    In the first two games of this series, the Orioles have been consistently challenging the arms of Detroit outfielders and taking the extra base. Alejandro De Aza scored from second on an error with a very aggressive run in game one, while Adam Jones followed with a stolen base that set him up to score what was (at that moment) a critical tack-on run. And J.J. Hardy scored from first base on Delmon Young’s double to tally the winning run with a perfect fade-away slide to the outside of the throw.

    Final thoughts – These two ALDS wins have been simply extraordinary, and to do so at Oriole Park in front of the faithful there truly vindicates the work of so many to extricate this franchise from the dustbin of baseball. This Detroit team is really, really good. There is more work to be done before maybe seeing a Kansas City team that will be next (?) with a decidedly different look.