Baltimore Orioles: What to Play for in Final 10% of the Season


Sep 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; The Baltimore Orioles celebrate after defeating the New York Yankees 5-3 at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles are pretty much down to playing out the final 10% of the 2015 MLB season. Entering Friday night’s game against the Rays, the Orioles have a current record of 72-74. There are 16 games remaining—nine on the road, and seven at home.

It goes without saying that this has been a rather disappointing season, as both 2014 and 2015 were to be the years where the Orioles were positioned to go for it all. These were the final years of Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen and Matt Wieters, along with a few others. But it did not happen due to a whole host of reasons we’ll talk about in more detail once the final pitch has been thrown in this campaign.

So what do the Baltimore Orioles have to play for over this final 10% of the regular season? Is there anything at all of interest for fans to watch? Let me list six categories for consideration …

The Outside Shot of a Playoffs Berth

The opening paragraphs probably tell you what I think about this. Yes, it is theoretically possible; but so many things have to go well … like winning pretty much every remaining game. And that does not account for the fact that they are 4.5 games behind the second wild card with three other teams ahead of them.

Other things that could theoretically happen:  Donald Trump might become a humble man; Barack Obama may embrace his inner Republican; Jeb Bush might change his last name; and Hillary Clinton might find the lost emails from her private server.

A Winning Record

Perhaps it is academic as to whether the final record is 82-80 versus 80-82, but I think it does matter and have significance. Others can, and will, argue the opposite point of view. But statistics hounds look back at such things as consecutive winning seasons, etc.  And I would think it is a matter of pride for the players and organization to avoid a losing record.

Third Place in the American League East

Again, for a team that was fresh off a 96-66 season wherein they walked to the A.L. East title with hopes of doing the same this year, it may beg the question of “what difference does it make at this point?”  After all, finishing third isn’t even high enough to call yourself “the first loser.” But as in item #2, it is a matter of pride to finish ahead of the Red Sox and Rays—two teams that are admittedly not the best at all.

Right now, the Orioles are two games ahead of the Rays and 2.5 ahead of the Red Sox. Stated another way, the Birds want to make sure that they don’t go down in history as finishing last in the division in 2015.

Yes, it is pitiful that we are having this discussion in mid-September.

Personal Goals and Achievements

There is interest in seeing various players achieve some personal goals and standing in the American League, even if they are fewer in number as compared to what we hoped to see this year.

Chris Davis has a shot at being the leader in both home runs and RBIs. He is tied with Nelson Cruz with 42 homers and is second to Josh Donaldson with 107 runs batted in, though he trails by 13. Davis has already guaranteed that he will be the strikeout king, having 193—which is 32 ahead of J.D. Martinez. He is, however, fifth in walks and fourth in extra base hits.

Manny Machado is the other name most often seen on American League statistical leaderboards. He is actually #1 in an odd category on called “power-speed number,” which is a factoring of stolen bases and home runs. He is also tied for top position in games played (a real tribute to his knees), and he is #2 in plate appearances, fourth in total bases, sixth in hits and runs scored, and seventh in total bases.

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Machado and Adam Jones are both shooting for 30 home run seasons. Manny needs just one more, Adam needs three.

Just about the only Orioles pitcher on the leader lists is Zach Britton. With 33 saves, he is fourth in the League, though just three behind the leader. Chen is #9 in ERA among starters and sixth in fewest walks per nine innings, but he is also #2 in home runs allowed at 32—only one behind the leader.

Evaluating Veterans for 2016

By this, I mean more than evaluating the pending free agents like Gerrardo Parra, Darren O’Day or Steve Pearce. For example, should the Orioles work to retain Nolan Reimold?

Beyond this, there is the matter of evaluating the condition of J.J. Hardy. The O’s are going to need to get the bang for their buck over the next three years. I’d shut him down and get him started on resting/rehabbing for 2016.  And what about Miguel Gonzalez; what role will he have in 2016? We could mention Caleb Joseph as well, though I think the jury has already answered on this one—that he is a big asset for several years ahead.

Evaluating Younger Players for 2016

The end of the season always gives an opportunity for a look at some pending big league players, along with younger players that have contributed through much of the year. Things look good for the future for Mychal Givens and even Jason Garcia. Dariel Alvarez looks to be on the cusp as well.

The Orioles may need to get several starts out of Tyler Wilson. And other relievers of interest are Oliver Drake and Jorge Rondon.

So there is plenty to still find interesting for the true baseball fan, even apart from the largely shattered hopes of postseason play.

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