The Orioles are turning into an enigma again, or should I say still? After a 6-1 start, they have gone 2-11, with those 2 wins coming this week against Minnesota. Losing 2 to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium at Camden Yards this weekend is not where Buck Showalter wants his team to be at the 1/8 pole.
What’s wrong? Although only playing in 11 games thus far, Robert Andino leads the team in hitting with a .310 average and only he, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters have an OBP of .300 or more. Wieters, Jones, Scott, Lee, Markakis, Reynolds are all hitting under .242 (Reynolds last with a robust .179 and 21 K’s) Luke Scott has 2 HR’s and 4 RBI, not what you’d expect from the 2010 Most Valuable Oriole. Is it me or does that title come with a built in curse? We know the guy is a streaky hitter, but consistent is what the O’s need right now. The big guns brought in are not getting the job done.
The starters aren’t faring too well either, with only Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton averaging more than 6 IP per start. If not for the Matusz injury Britton would still be in the minors. He leads the team with 3 wins and has a very good ERA of 3.16 Guthrie is 1-3 with a 3.13 ERA but lack of run support (sound familiar?) doesn’t help his effort much at all. We’ll see how he fares against the Red Sox this week, a team that has rebounded from a miserable start this season.
The bullpen is lethargic. In 20 games there have been 3 save opportunities and only 2 saves in the 8 wins. Koji Uehara has pulled a disappearing act again because Buck doesn’t want to risk using the “fragile one” in back to back games. He’s thrown 6.2 innings in 7 appearances and and has given up 3 hits, 3 walks, 1 earned run and has struck out 7 for an ERA of 1.35. So, instead, he goes with the most experienced closer in Kevin Gregg (who happens to have the 2 saves to go along with 1 blown save) Gregg has been shaky at best at times but has a respectable 3.86 ERA and has only given up 3 runs in 7 innings. The rest of the bullpen is not very dependable and has often thrown gasoline on the fire when called upon. Jason Berken was virtually unhittable early on, but has gotten shelled in his last few appearances. Jeremy Accardo (hardly a household name) has been respectable in his 7 outings. Jim Johnson has been up and down. Rupe, Rapada and Gonzalez shouldn’t even be on the team but who else is available for mop-up duty?
The hiring of Buck Showalter made everyone breathe a sigh of hope this season after the team finished the 2010 season 34-23. There were lots of predictions this spring of an Oriole team with 85+ wins and a wild card spot in the playoffs, both breaking miserable streaks of 13 straight losing seasons and non-post season appearances. We had every right to be happy with Buck’s arrival. He is a no nonsense type guy and a good baseball mind. With the white hair peeking out on the sides of his hat, he almost looks like Earl Weaver at first glance and there have oddly been a few 3 run HRs hit so far this season.
Markakis, Reynolds, Scott, Lee and Vlad better get rolling or this team is in deep, deep trouble.
It’s not time to panic, but if they aren’t careful with 3 games this week against the Red Sox, followed by road trips to Chicago for 4 and Kansas City for 3, before they return home against Tampa, the Orioles can find themselves once again out of serious contention by mid-May, leaving the black and orange faithful to root for 75 wins and another losing season is in the books.
The NFL better get its act together or it’s going to be a long hot summer in Baltimore.
(update 4/25/11 8am..A friend who predicted 89 wins and a playoff appearance this season called me out last night after I wrote this blog. He said there’s no reason, with the way the O’s finished 2010 and improvement of the lineup over the winter months, 89 wins is not attainable. I reminded him that the 25 man active roster is not the 25 man roster that finished 2010 at 34-23. The only position players still here are Roberts, Wieters, Jones, Markakis, Scott, and reserves Pie , Fox and Izturis. The only pitchers left over are Guthrie, Arietta, Tillman, Koji, Johnson and Gonzalez. That leaves 11 new faces on the 2011 team. It takes a while for team chemistry to develop when 45% of your roster are re-treads that no other team showed interest in during the off-season. He’s still drinking the orange kool-aid, but I said adding a little vodka might make it taste better.)