Pitching is about two things: stuff and moxie. If you don’t have the necessary arsenal of pitches, you’re not going to be able to make it in the major leagues. However you can have the pitches and not be able to carry yourself on the mound, and that can be just as detrimetal (see Daniel Cabrera). Most of the Oriole pitchers have both of these aspects, which is to their credit. That aside, Oriole pitching coach Rick Kranitz has said in the past that out of approximately thirty starts in a season, a pitcher will be really on for ten, really off for ten, and somewhere in the middle for ten. Those “other ten games” are generally what will decide a pitcher’s season.
In my opinion, Jake Arrieta gave us one of those “other”performances in last night’s 11-3 victory. If you look at the box score, you might scratch your head and ask why I would say that. Arrieta pitched six innings of four-hit ball, gave up no runs, walked one and struck out five. That would appear to be a pretty solid performance, and in fact it is. However this is where that comment about holding yourself together on the mound comes into play. I noticed that Arrieta seemed to fall behind in counts by going 1-0 and 2-0. Now admittedly, he was able to pitch himself out of those holes, however that gives an advantage to the hitter. The Blue Jays also hit more home runs than any other team in the league; Arrieta seemed to live on the corners of the plate, and his hooking slider appeared to be more of a curve than anything else. I’m not saying that Arrieta looked bad out there by any means, because that’s not the case in the least. I like Jake Arrieta, and I think that he has an extremely bright future with the Orioles. But as Rick Kranitz said, there’ll be ten games where you’re not totally on but not necessarily off either.
With last night’s win, the O’s have won four consecutive series’ for the first time since September of 2004. So much for the annual second half swoon for the O’s, huh? Oriole fans should be really stoked for next season, which in my opinion can’t get here soon enough. This team has really taken to Buck Showalter as their manager, who is also very quick to point out that he has most of the horses that Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel didn’t necessarily have at their disposal due to injuries. Showalter appears to be the type of guy who’s program players seem very willing to buy into. No longer are they showing up at the ballpark to collect a paycheck and go home; they’re there to play ball. And Showalter also seems to “get” Baltimore; when he walked into the media room after Monday’s game and asked what the Ravens’ score was, he showed that he wanted to be part of this community.
Similar to the beginning of the season when you can’t believe that baseball’s coming back, it’s hard for me to fathom that in a few weeks the gates to the yard will be locked and my beloved birds of summer will go away for awhile. However with every action there’s an equal and opprotune reaction. Not only will they be back, but they’ll be back with a renewed sense of how to win. At the end of last season I felt that this team had learned how to lose together. I was wrong, as that continued into 2010. However somewhere between 2-16 and Buck Showalter’s arrival, they figured out that losing wasn’t going to cut it. So in the last two months they rededicated themselves to learning how to win. I often said that 2010 would be the year the magic returned. I felt that would be a process that would last the entire season, but ultimately I’d like to think that I was right; the magic is back and better than ever.