Baltimore Orioles: Honestly Not Better than a .500 Team


May 17, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Wright (59) celebrates with teammates after being taken out of the game by manager Buck Showalter (L) in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

What do you mean, “The Baltimore Orioles are a .500 team?”  Well, they are; that is as good as they are right now. About half of the time they have a well-pitched game, and half of the time they hit the ball decently … so, put that together and you have a team giving you a .500 performance.

The paragraph that you just read was the first paragraph in my daily Orioles article exactly a year ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Actually, to be precise, the Orioles are not even a .500 team.  They had a shot at it yesterday. A win would have put them there. But, one of the most uninspiring O’s games I have ever seen saw them drop a 3-0 game to the Rays, getting but three base hits.

As at this point a year ago, I am struggling to be optimistic. Yes, it’s early; yes, the O’s put it together from June and following last year.

And actually, it is interesting to see some of the same points being made in my article a year ago that we are noting about this season. For example …

"Yes, there have been a lot of injuries. But like Buck frequently says, “Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.”  Lots of teams have lots of injuries."

Indeed, injuries are such a large part of the game in this era; and the Orioles have done a better job than most by having organizational depth.

Here’s another example, looking around the AL East …

"The Red Sox and Rays are in worse condition, and the Yankees are only two games ahead. I don’t know what to say about the Jays, nor does anyone else."

So at this same point, the Yankees were looking OK, but not stellar. The Red Sox and Rays – as this year – have even more personnel troubles than the Birds. And, as always, the Blue Jays are a confusing mess (which is why they covet Dan Duquette).

Here’s a third example, writing about how some of the O’s players should pick up the pace and perform better …

"One would imagine that Chris Davis will not continue to bat .237 and Manny Machado .216.  Matt Wieters is going to be throwing a baseball today and can hopefully return in a number of weeks."

Well, Chris Davis ended up batting .196, Manny Machado would end up on the DL with another knee blowout, and Matt Wieters is still in a state of hopefully coming back soon.

More specifically, through the same number of games last year, Davis had about the same average – just a bit better than this year – though he had three fewer home runs. But the strikeouts this year are nine more than over the same period in 2014.

So again, I don’t want to be negative, but there is enough to be concerned about that makes one wonder if the Baltimore Orioles have the opportunity and personnel to turn it around like they did in 2014.

I’m more encouraged about the pitching than the offense. But I am not expecting Bud Norris to make it back to anything like 2014. Showalter believes he will, and he seems to be making mental plans to have Norris back in the rotation before very long. He was not pitching well before this happened, and I believe the health problem is more difficult to come back from than is being portrayed.

But overall, there are a lot of good pitching options, even if Kevin Gausman does not become a lights-out starter as hoped for this year. Ubaldo Jimenez has been impressive, and Miguel Gonzalez is just a great TRUE pitcher. Tillman is going to be OK, and Wei-Yin Chen battles and gives the team a chance to win. There is the new option of Mike Wright (and maybe Tyler Wilson), while the bullpen is still among the better relief corps in the sport.

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It is the offence that has me far more concerned. Adam Jones will give us a Jones year. Manny Machado will improve a bit more – though this leadoff thing is not working out well. He swings at everything close to the strike zone, as do far too many O’s hitters. Jimmy Paredes has hit well, but I fear the league is figuring him out. Delmon Young gets his hits.

Beyond these players, there are reasons to worry. We want to think Davis has turned it around. Would you bet on it?  J.J. Hardy seems to be behind the speed of the game. Will Matt Wieters really perform better than Caleb Joseph? He might, but I have doubts about that. The corner outfielders have been uninspiring. Flaherty hits ground balls to second base. Will Schoop be back and able to contribute above the low .220s? Steve Pearce does not generally look anything like 2014.

It is going to take a number of these position players to once again perform at a level above their historic averages to make the Orioles a division winning team and playoffs contender. It could happen; I want it to happen.  I’m just not sure or confident it is going to happen.

Another quote from a year ago … in the middle of that article …

"But here’s the deal, did you think you were signing up for a .500 team in 2014?"

But here’s the deal, did you think you were signing up for a .500 team in 2015?

Next: Consistent O'Day - well, most of the time

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