Orioles: Charlie Brown and the Football Gag

Watching the 2013 Baltimore Orioles play baseball is about like being Charlie Brown in the Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts. You remember the gag Lucy van Pelt pulls on Charlie over and over? It involves some version of Lucy telling Charlie that she will hold the football while he runs up and kicks it. At first, Charlie always refuses, but something Lucy says invariably persuades him to trust her again and give her another chance. But sure enough, she pulls the ball away again at the last second, while Charlie flies through the air before falling and hurting himself. And finally, Lucy makes some remark about how Charlie should not have trusted her.

Sep 7, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) is congratulated by Chris Dickerson (rear) and Henry Urrutia (right) after hitting the game-winning walk-off two run RBI single in the tenth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 4-3 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

I very often feel like Charlie Brown when I’m watching the Orioles. Game after game and inning after inning, runners get into scoring position and my hope is renewed. But it seems like I have a terribly high number of emotional bruises from flying through the air and crashing on the ground.

But you say to me, “Hey, lighten up; they won the game this afternoon in grand fashion!”  Yes, yes, you are correct, but understand that it should not have come down to 10th inning dramatics … and … I wrote most of this post while the game was going on and I was in the midst of my pain and suffering! But let me pause right here and saw to Matt “Lucy” Wieters, “Thank you, thank you for not moving the ball!”  Matt Wieters’ two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the 10th, after Tommy Hunter gave up a top-of-the-inning homer, may well have saved this season.

But let’s go back to some dispassionate statistics. The Orioles were 2 for 18 today with RISP. Not good! And forget 2nd base … let’s just talk 3rd base. The Orioles advanced runners to 3rd with none out on two occasions, with one out on two occasions, and with two outs in an additional inning. Before Wieters’ 10th-inning clutch hit, the Orioles were 0-9 with runners at third base – without a ground ball or sac fly to get a run scored. This seems almost impossible.

The RISP stats for the month of September are not glorious either. Even though the team is now 5-2 over these seven games, the RISP is 10-60 (.167).  If you take out the 7-2 and 7-3 wins on the first two days, the last five games have a combined average of 5-43 (.116). Yet somehow, the Orioles are third in the league with RISP! Of course, those numbers are inflated by the many games they won handily, whereas the average is very low by comparison in close contests. I have never seen a team defy statistical analyses and conventional baseball metrics as have the Orioles of 2012 and 2013!  That will be a whole article theme for the off season.

Having been a pitcher in my past, I probably have too much of a soft spot for the position. Generally speaking, the Orioles are evaluated by most people as a team that can score runs but are ruined by their pitching – especially the starters. Every time Duquette adds a position player, numbers of fans yell on the message boards some version of “We need pitching!!!”  And I confess it is difficult to support the notion that the Orioles pitching is any sort of strength, for it is not.

But here is my point: Though starting pitching has hurt the Birds much, and though the bullpen has not performed as expected nor anything close to 2012 standards, the lack of clutch hitting in critical, low-scoring-game situations has ultimately cost the team just as much. There is a regular failure to score early runs, or to accumulate “tack-on” runs, and it has been a deadly problem.

Before I close I would draw attention to my boy Henry Urrutia for starting the comeback rally. He has to be considered for a regular position for next year, in my humble opinion.

So, in spite of my “Debbie Downer” rantings and my “yeah, but” looks at cold numbers, Orioles fans can enjoy a rare comeback win while preparing to see a completed sweep tomorrow – all before the evil empire arrives for the first of four games on Monday.

Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Matt Wieters

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