Apr 7, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (31) reacts as he is taken out of the game against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Early season struggles still mean something

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The Orioles (5-7) have struggled on both ends of the field so far in 2014. Whether it be pitching or hitting, there is certainly room for improvement as we head into the third week of the season. Many fans feel it is still too early to accurately gauge either side of the field and will argue that there is still plenty of baseball left to play, but I argue that this stretch of disappointing baseball should still be considered significant.

Yes, there is plenty of time to turn the ship around. The Orioles could go on a win streak and make fans forget all about the past two weeks. But fans really shouldn’t forget this stretch moving forward, because these problems could pop up periodically throughout the season.

Through the first 12 games, Orioles pitchers have a combined 4.50 ERA (13th in AL) and the starters have contributed the most to the struggles.

Ubaldo Jimenez (0-3, 7.31), Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 9.64), and Wei-Yin Chen (1-1, 6.75) have been the weakest links thus far. Most recently Jimenez lasted just 5.1 innings and gave up five earned runs on 10 hits and two walks against the Toronto Blue Jays. The rotation’s struggles, especially Jimenez’s, demonstrate the type of struggles the Orioles’ rotation is capable of falling into. They could implode at any moment and bring on a losing streak right in the midst of a playoff run, and that has to worry the Orioles’ brass.

But then again, it’s hard to win at all if your team doesn’t score runs. 

The Orioles are right in the middle of the AL rankings when it comes to scoring runs, tallying 46 runs (T-7 in AL). Combined with a .256 team AVG (3rd in AL), their numbers don’t seem all too disheartening, but a closer look reveals some early weak spots. In eight of their first 12 games, the Orioles have scored three or less runs. It is hard for any pitcher to win on a team that struggles to get more than three runs in a game.

Chris Davis (.279/.353/.419) just hit his first home run on Sunday in a mop-up scenario and has struck out 12 times already, Nick Markakis (.269/.278/.327) has just two extra-base hits and has failed to be an adequate leadoff hitter, and the combination of Jonathan Schoop (.244/.244/.415) and Ryan Flaherty (.152/.200/.212) has failed to give the bottom of the order any stability.

Obviously, injuries to J.J Hardy, David Lough and Manny Machado have made for an inconsistent bottom of the Orioles’ order, and forced some players into positions that they should not be. But the struggles seen so far don’t happen to too many championship-type teams. The Orioles scored just five runs in the entire Blue Jays series, a testament to the type of offensive funk this lineup can fall into in the snap of a finger.

The Orioles are far from perfect, yes. Thankfully, most of the teams in the AL East have problems of their own that should help the Orioles from falling too far behind the pack if their struggles continue. However, it is clear that the Orioles’ hitting and pitching have some serious issues that could create problems at any given point in the season.

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