As we all already know, Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles pitchers are struggling on two-strike counts. Let’s take that a step further – they’re struggling in general while on the steps of success. This was a team that rose up and put their picture next to success in the dictionary last year. Not so thus far in 2015.
Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
When I say they’re struggling “on the steps of success,” I mean that in the sense that opposing hitters are thriving when there are two strikes and/or two outs. On Monday evening Kansas City staged a two-out rally and seized the lead and control of the game. So why is it that the O’s can’t seem to come through when the odds are so tilted in their favor? Are they letting their guard down too early?
I suspect that might be part of it. However even before Showalter arrived in town the Birds always seemed to “waste pitches.” Basically if the count is 0-2 or 1-2, the pitcher will throw a curve or slider out of the strike zone so as to try to get the hitter to chase. If you can get them to swing at balls, why throw strikes – right?
In general this makes a sound amount of sense. However when you do that again, and again, and again, teams catch on. Back prior to Showalter, teams would just sit on a fastball that they knew would inevitably be coming if the count made it to 2-2. So what’s going on now instead – or is that still happening?
In some cases it is still happening. However what’s also happening is that teams are anticipating that pitch being out of the zone. And the fact is that some guys are able to put it into play. We’ve seen this of late with Zach Britton, who’s sinker is darn near unhittable. However players know that also. So they’re swinging and starting to catch the top of the ball, putting it softly into play. And runners are reaching base.
But look at Mike Moustakas’ RBI-single last night. While that came on a 2-2 pitch, he knew that it was going to be a fastball (2-2 is a fastball count). However he correctly predicted that the pitch would be outside the zone, and he lined a single into left field. In many cases Oriole pitchers are making good pitches; they’re just predictably good pitches.
It’s easy for me to point this out from afar. Furthermore I also know it’s easier said than done to fix these issues. However the O’s are going to have to fix them if they want to stay in the race. And yes folks, they’re still only 2.5 games out of the second wild card. While it may be popular to say put a fork in them right now, this is far from over.