Despite difficult July, Orioles should still feel good about chances

August 01, 2016 | Luke Jones

July wasn’t much fun for the Orioles.

Sure, there was a five-game winning streak that included a sweep of Cleveland to temporarily give Baltimore the best record in the American League only a week ago, but the frustration certainly outweighed the prosperity. After just one losing streak as long as four games over the first three months of the season, the Orioles suffered three stretches of four or more losses in July alone.

A historic June in which the Orioles hit a record 56 home runs and averaged a whopping 6.6 runs per game was followed by a July in which they scored 3.4 runs per contest, which was 13th in the AL. The offensive futility has been even worse since the All-Star break at just 2.9 scored per game, which is last in the league.

Yet Buck Showalter’s club still turned the calendar to August in first place. A 12-14 record in July shrunk the Orioles’ AL East lead from five games at the beginning of the month to just a half-game — they did briefly fall out of first on two different occasions — but the win-loss mark was hardly catastrophic when you realize how poorly Baltimore hitters fared by on-base plus slugging percentage over the last month when the club sported a minus-26 run differential.

July OPS Season OPS
Matt Wieters .327 .678
Chris Davis .543 .783
Jonathan Schoop .714 .808
J.J. Hardy .841 .720
Manny Machado .625 .908
Hyun Soo Kim .679 .851
Adam Jones .719 .769
Mark Trumbo .784 .863
Pedro Alvarez .824 .775

A 12-14 record feels pretty fortunate when examining just how ugly the numbers were, especially from three All-Star players in Wieters, Davis, and Machado. Davis’ struggles have predictably received plenty of attention, but Wieters going 7-for-60 with only one extra-base hit is just alarming.

Only two regulars — Hardy and Alvarez — outperformed their season OPS, which means the Orioles are certainly due to bounce back significantly. That’s not to say another onslaught resembling June is on the way, but there’s no reason to think the Orioles offense won’t perform closer to the 5.1 runs scored per game in the first half of 2016 than the scuffling group we’ve seen since the All-Star break.

There are just too many good track records in that bunch.

Of course, the starting pitching remains the bigger question mark going forward.

After posting a 5.15 starter ERA in the first half, the Orioles rotation has pitched to a more acceptable 4.28 mark in the 17 games since the break. The rotation performing closer to that second-half mark the rest of the way would be key in not only wearing out a superb bullpen but keeping Baltimore in good position come late September.

The addition of left-hander Wade Miley should bring some more stability behind Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, but how the Orioles manage the workload of the talented Dylan Bundy and account for the inability of Yovani Gallardo to pitch deep into games will be worth monitoring.

The Orioles certainly don’t feel great about their July, but the results in the win-loss column could have been much worse. The mark of good clubs is finding a way to not let the inevitable tough times spiral out of control as the 2015 club did with a 1-12 stretch in late August that took them out of serious contention.

Immediately after their first two losing streaks of four or more games in July, the Orioles rebounded to win six of seven and five in a row, respectively. We’ll see if that trend continues when the Texas Rangers arrive in town for a three-game set beginning Tuesday.

The Orioles have mostly weathered the storm of a prolonged offensive slump without losing too much ground in their quest for the postseason. Now the Orioles just need their talented bats to awaken in August while hoping the recent improvement — as modest as it might be — with the starting rotation continues.