The 2013 season for the Baltimore Orioles is now exactly 80% in the books. The current record is 70-59. They were 71-58 at this same point last year. So can it be done? Are they really able yet to realistically make a return to the playoffs?
In 2012, the Orioles did indeed win two out of every three games over the final 33 – for a record of 22-11 and seasonal total of 93-69. It will take at least that same effort this year … maybe even more. Nate McLouth was asked about the team needing to win two of every three for the rest of the way, and he said, “We just have to play well. We played well this series (against Oakland). We got on a roll offensively (speaking of Sunday) and it’s something we’ll be looking to continue to do on this road trip.”
The final 20% of the season last year featured win streaks of six and four consecutive games. And as with each year, the final stretch features AL East opponents (26 games), along with another contending team – the Indians (3 games, with the remaining 4 games against the White Sox). Buck Showalter spoke of the portion of the season already completed as playing to get yourself into a position of contention over the final five weeks.
I cannot get myself out too far on any limb on this one … as I can see scenarios where the Orioles have a really strong shot at repeating 2012, yet others where it is not at all unreasonable to have grave concerns. This is a better offensive team for sure, the greatest defensive team ever, but also a team where the bullpen has killed them over and over.
There is no hope for the Orioles unless the bullpen improves over their performance covering the first 80% of the season. Though a repeat of the incredible pen of 2012 was unrealistic, I doubt many Orioles fans, observers, and writers actually thought the drop in performance would be this severe.
Jim Johnson is a mystery. If there is someone who can explain the funk he fell into this year … well … I’ve not read anything about that. Even before he started getting shelled and blowing games, even I could notice on TV that he was not right – that the ball was just not moving enough on any of his pitches. However, this past Friday night, his stuff was as good as I’ve practically ever seen it. If he can bring THAT stuff into each game the rest of the way, the Birds have a real shot at getting somewhere. If Johnson or Bill Castro or anyone else around the team can identify what it is that was different this past outing, well, that would be critically valuable information.
Speaking of closers (a category of player I think is about as rare as sighting Elvis Presley or a unicorn alive), I always was a fan of Koji Uehara as a closer candidate. He was never really given a shot at it in Baltimore, and I certainly don’t begrudge a trade of him to Texas that brought back Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. But has anyone noticed how well he is doing in Boston? Among AL closers, his 1.24 ERA is the best, as opponents since the All-Star break are hitting but .111 against him. He has not been scored upon since June 30th! A writer on our network reported that he has posted the best strikeout to walk ratio in Major League Baseball history! I did not verify that, but that he practically never walks anyone was very evident when he pitched with the Orioles. And that is why I like the guy as a closer (if you have go with the lemmings crowd and designate a specific person as filling this mythical role). He would have been a nice addition to the Orioles, and he would have liked to play again in Baltimore. But, the need was not evident at the time. Now he is on an opponent’s team whom the Orioles have to play nine times over the final 33 games. It is enough to make you wish to have Jonathon Papelbon back! (Actually, there is nothing that could make me want to see pucker face back again, other than that the Orioles could beat him around the yard.)
Markakis and Performance Enhancing Drugs
How’s that for a heading? Yes, after 31 games without an extra base hit, Nick Markakis breaks out with a double and homer. How do we account for this sudden outburst of power? Well obviously it has to be PEDs – just ask that crew that accuses Chris Davis of the same!
The Return of Betemit
There is an extended discussion on Roch Kubatko’s MASN page about Wilson Betemit coming off his rehab assignment and the complications it presents for the roster. It involves the sort of technicalities about which I have no patience to understand let alone write. So O’s fans out there – are you pumped up to get Wilson back? Apparently he is projected to be the DH against righties the rest of the way, since he posted a .302 average against them last season. I can’t dispute the statistic, but he must have gotten all those hits over the 30% of game times when I was not watching and made all his outs on the 70% when I was tuned in (Just like, I swear, Derek Jeter is batting about .600 to .700 when I’m watching). I am willing to come back in mid October and beat myself with an iron pipe if I’ve been ungenerous and the Orioles owe their World Series victory run to the bat of Betemit! But I’m not excited about it right now … just sayin’. Apparently he is not running well – another thing I have little patience with as a running coach over the years!
Former O’s and Hoes
Jake Arrieta is getting the start tonight for the Cubs against the Dodgers in LA and Zack Greinke. Good luck with that Jake (and I’ll bet he’ll be doubling down on adjusting his cap three, four, five times between every pitch!). He has only pitched 17 innings in Chicago, starting 3 games, with a 1-0 record and 3.71 ERA. I’m picking on him here, but I really do wish the guy well – he’s a really nice person.
Kevin Gregg, also with the Cubs, is having a fine season. Over 51 games he boasts a 3.18 ERA, which would be the best of his entire career. He has 26 saves, though he still gives up 4.6 walks per 9 innings. I’m happy for Gregg – really, I am … as critical as I was of the guy. But I remain happy that he is wearing someone else’s uniform too.
L.J. Hoes is succeeding in Houston, batting .329 in 88 plate appearances. He also has seven stolen bases over that time. And to all of that I say, “Good for him!”
OK … so, two of three the rest of the way. They are 11 games over .500 for the first 80% of the season, and will need to be 11 games over for the final 20% … not a worry, just a fact. Win now!