Baltimore Orioles: Not a Lot to Like Right Now


Apr 22, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Kevin Gausman (39) walks off the field at the end of the sixth inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

It would seem that the time has come for Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter to have a team rant, or at a minimum a Dutch uncle talk. After a third consecutive loss in style that is not known to be characteristic of the O’s, there is a need for some measure of intervention.

At the same time it is only 15 games into the season. And though 7-8 was not the target at this point, the Orioles are still only two games behind the Red Sox. A total of 147 games remain. The Orioles were 8-7 at this point last year. All is not lost.

Speaking of 2014, it is the slow start with mediocre pitching of a year ago that gives Birds fans hope that once again a change is in the wind. I will say that I believe that. But some fear of negative trend lines is not unreasonable either.

If “fresh eyes” was the phrase of a year ago, this year it is “track record.” Having coached that sport, I’m all about track records and can spew them out as well as baseball statistics. But this is of course a metaphor for the historic performances of players. And indeed, that tends to be the baseline toward which either over-performing or under-performing players gravitate over time … most of the time.

But a team still has to win on the field, and that is not something the Orioles are doing here in recent days, dropping a 4-2 game to the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Here are some of the reasons seen in the most recent outing that contributed to a loss … ingredients seen in other recent games as well …

Plate Discipline – Actually, it is the lack thereof that is seen too often. How does a team lose a low-scoring game when the opponent’s starter walks seven batters in 5.1 innings? Beyond that, he departed the game only throwing 83 pitches, with 43 as strikes. It is possible because, in spite of those who worked counts and let themselves get on base, too many others were hacking away. Three Orioles hit a first pitch, three others hit a 1-0 pitch, and another hit a 2-0 pitch. So that is seven batters seeing only 12 pitches.

And then when the Orioles have a shot at gaining some runs with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, Ryan Flaherty swings at the first pitch he sees and pops out harmlessly. He must have thought he was still at Fenway. And the final outs of the game come on a first-pitch double play grounder by Delmon Young. In fact, the Orioles went from having runners at first and second with none out in the top of the ninth and a 2-2 count on the batter, to two pitches later ending the game via a strikeout and 6-4-3 play. Don’t look now, but the Orioles lead the American League in grounding into double plays. 

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(Additional added note – I saw this after publication on Roch Kubatko’s blog and simply had to add it – is an incredible stat: “According to Sportsnet Stats, Aaron Sanchez is the first Blue Jays pitcher to walk at least seven batters and record a win since Jeff Ware on Sept. 8, 1995. Too much first-pitch hacking with runners on base. Too many runners stranded.”)

Stupid Base Running – Alejandro De Aza. Wow. He ran the Orioles out of an inning by trying to steal third base with two outs and Chris Davis at the plate. I’m sure he was sure he would make it. Not a sure thing! It is so rare to see the Orioles do stupid things on the basepaths, except for this road trip.

Striking Out – This is not an entirely new thing, nor is it the end-all of an offense … better to strike out than hit into a double play. But the Orioles are second in the league in this category, though they have somehow offset that by being third in on base percentage. But speaking again of De Aza – the leadoff hitter – he now has 17 strikeouts and is on pace to record 184. That is the exact number of the highest strikeout total for a player in the American League last year (though to be fair, that player was Mike Trout!). But with Chris Davis on the team and Chris Carter of the Astros flailing away, he probably can finish no higher than third at the end! So be encouraged.

At ‘Em Balls (by Adam and others) – Again, in the category of hope, some of the Orioles are hitting very hard-hit line drives right at people. Jones was highly frustrated by a total screamer hit right at the center fielder. Before that, Smoak smoked him in the first inning with a diving catch to double off Jimmy Paredes at second for another double play.

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Pitching Woes – Again the starter did not go deep enough, as Ubaldo Jimenez only finished five innings, giving up the pair of two-run homers. His control was missing again, as the longer he went, the less he commanded his pitches. As I’ve written many times in the past about UJ, there are going to be good streaks and bad streaks. Three innings of relief tonight was well-done by the bullpen, and honestly we can’t lay this game on the pitchers; but the pitching staff has a lot of headroom for improvement.

On to Chris Tillman and the final game of the series. We need an ace to step up. The Orioles need a big win.

Next: Lots of bad blood between the Orioles and Jays