So what the hell is going on Baltimore??
A little over a week ago, the Orioles were a .500 team (44-44) in a tight East and giving the Yankees a little anxiety about their spot on top.
Since that week, the Orioles have gone 2-5, including a sweep at the hands of the f*****g Yankees, and are now seven games back of the division lead.
Needless to say, it’s not even August yet and the Orioles aren’t close to elimination, but momentum matters, and entering that series against New York, Baltimore had a real opportunity to begin a run. They wasted it.
So, again, what the hell, Baltimore? Well, where do we start?
Part of the issue is run production and home run dependency. The Orioles are nothing if they aren’t hitting home runs. They rank 5th overall in home runs hit (TOR and NYY are 2nd and 3rd) , but only rank 9th in RBIs (TOR and NYY are 1st and 2nd) and 10th in total runs scored (TOR and NYY are 1st and 2nd). The drop off suggests that while their division rivals are just as home run heavy as they are, Toronto and New York are finding other ways to score runs while Baltimore is not. Even when we consider extra-base hits in general, Baltimore is 10th with 273, while the Yankees and Blue Jays both crack the top four.
One weakness that plagued them last year still resides in their lineup and that’s a significant lack of speed. Adam Jones, Steve Pearce, David Lough, Manny Machado – they can all run well enough, but they aren’t stealing very often. Of all 30 teams, the Orioles are 28th is bases stolen, and when they do steal, they are only successful 65% of the time, an awful statistic if you’re trying to manufacture runs.
Now, while their OPS isn’t terrible at .728, they are still competing with the Yankees and Blue Jays (.747 and .770), and when your division rivals are out producing you in a handful of offensive categories, you’re not going to be able to simply out hit them.
So, if you can’t outhit them, maybe you can pitch better than them. Right?
Well, actually, this maybe where Baltimore has an advantage, and could easily improve if they want to start making a real run for October. In terms of ERA, the Orioles rank 14th in the league at 3.79, while New York and Toronto rank 20th and 22nd respectively and in terms of opponents batting average, the Orioles fall into 15th, with the Yankees and Toronto at 17th and 19th. While the advantage seems pretty distinct, 14th/15th is not a good place to be when it comes to making a playoff run.
Right now, Baltimore lacks a no-doubt ace in their lineup, and while Chris Tillman has been pitching well lately, they may need to trade away a handful of these moving pieces in their lineup for a number one pitcher.
Fortunately, the one thing we can count on is the defense to do their job. The Orioles have made the fewest errors in the majors are tied for first with the Dodgers at a .989 fielding percentage.
So What Should They Do?
For one, TAKE CHRIS DAVIS OUT OF RIGHT FIELD.
He’s not a bad fielder, but when we talk about lack of speed, this could be part of the reason. Put Steve Pearce there, instead when he returns from the DL. Travis Snider is another outfielder they could move to right, and keep Pearce in left, but he’s also another off season pickup that they don’t necessarily need. David Lough has proven he can play well, and while he doesn’t have as much power, he can run and offers the opportunity for the Orioles to improve their scoring problem.
Chris Parmalee came out hot, and is a talented first-baseman, but there is no dying need for him in the lineup. In 29 games, he’s batting .222, with four home runs and nine RBIs. Move Chris Davis back to first.
Now that JJ Hardy is healthy and Schoop has returned, I’m happy with the consistency in the middle of the infield, but as good Ryan Flaherty is, he isn’t necessary. You have Jimmy Parades, and he and Schoop can essentially switch back and forth between second base and DH.
Package Parmalee, Flaherty, maybe Snider, and one of the rotation guys. Go find yourself an ace, or something close to it, improve on what’s already your advantage. The runs will come, but good pitching will not simply appear. My vote is make an offer and a push for Johnny Cueto or David Price. Cueto might be a better shot, but either of these choices is a win-now type of move.
Will they do it?
Probably not. Baltimore doesn’t like to get rid of the assets is has in exchange for an unsure thing, especially since they could always start fresh next year with younger talent / prospects.
“Here’s to diagnosing an issue, prescribing a solution, and hoping for the best.” – My new baseball motto.