Baltimore Orioles: Searching for some optimism


Jun 1, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Delmon Young (27) hits a single during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

At varied times in recent years, I find myself feeling both overly optimistic about the Baltimore Orioles and overly pessimistic. And I try to not have those ups and downs coincide exactly with the wins and losses on the schedule.

I don’t want to be in either of those states of mind. The desire is to be reasonably objective. But the inner fan gets in the way for all of us, causing either blindness to glaring faults out of love run amuck, or relentless criticism of insignificant blips of failure out of fear that the little lump will metathesize into inoperable cancer.

To say this squad would not win even 81 games seemed preposterous to Orioles fans in the offseason

I was among those who wrote critically of the abundance of national baseball prognosticators who called for the Orioles to have a sub-.500 season this year. After 96 wins in 2014, even with a few pieces not re-signed, there was an entire rotation returning and plenty of the power and muscle that made last year happen. To say this squad would not win even 81 games seemed preposterous to Orioles fans in the offseason.

Do those writers seem quite so stupid at this point?  The Orioles are at 23-27.

Yes, it’s early. But that excuse is starting to get late. And yes, the rest of the AL East is not much better off, if not completely worse. But folks, 50 games is more than a small sample; and frankly, my standard for the Baltimore Orioles is not based in any one-to-one comparison with any other team in the AL East!  Really? We should want to be compared to those outfits and the way they have each done business in recent years? In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, they are Joke 1, Joke 2, Joke 3, and Joke 4.

More from Baltimore Orioles

So where is some optimism around here?

Well, can you believe this?  The starting point for such is the starting pitching. That used to be the #1 whipping boy for the Orioles. Ubaldo Jimenez has been really good, along with Miguel Gonzalez. Wei-Yin Chen battles well to keep the O’s in games. I am guessing that Mike Wright will continue to learn quickly on the job and be effective enough to not be removable. Who knows what is wrong with Chris Tillman, but you would hope that he of all people would be the most likely to figure it out and fix things before too long. Kevin Gausman should contribute again this year. However, as I’ve written several times, I see no future for Bud Norris this season. Too much has happened, and that is unfortunate for a guy I love as a great competitor.

The bullpen is reasonably solid, certainly in the top third of pens in MLB. Zach Britton is a legit closer, and unless you’ve followed my writing for a long time, you don’t know how rare it is for me to write that – not generally believing in “designated closers” unless you have a fairly rare talent. Some of the relievers are going to blow a game here and there, as Brad Brach did last night. This seems like a more glaring problem than it is, since the O’s simply do not score many runs on too many occasions.

And therein is the problem – not scoring runs. The Orioles have scored two or fewer in 19 of the 50 games played so far this year … winning only one of them. So, in order to have a winning percentage equal to 2014 (.593), the Orioles would have to have won 28 of the 31 games in which they scored three or more runs!  That is a huge expectation. That they are 22-9 when scoring three or more is truthfully quite a good statistic.

But where is the optimism for scoring more runs? Let me look around for it.

Okay… here is what I found: Delmon Young is hitting much better, as is Chris Davis. We know that Adam Jones goes through ups and downs, and he has had one of each this year – time for a new up. Manny Machado is not going to totally flame out, so he won’t be worse than he is right now and will likely be better – just wish it wasn’t in leadoff. Jimmy Paredes was due for a downturn, but he’ll contribute again. Matt Wieters gives the O’s a chance for more from the catcher position … a chance.

I can’t point to much else, sorry. Travis Snider is my best hope for the rest of the gang currently in Baltimore. Caleb Joseph is about adequate. I think if Steve Pearce and David Lough were going to find it, they would have found it by now. I never thought the Everth Cabrera acquisition was that great, but, with injuries past and future, the Orioles need him around. I’m infamous (or something like that) for having zero confidence in Ryan Flaherty. And how much of an offensive hole does J.J. Hardy leave behind if he ends up on the DL? Well, .190/.209/.274 to be exact. Ugh.

It will take more than a couple of these characters to light up to bring the Orioles to the top of the AL East through the end of the season. But it really could happen. This is not the 2010 or 2011 Orioles. But this team needs some offensive fire.

Next: Can't expect this current O's team to be better than .500

More from The Baltimore Wire