The Edge of the Abyss: the Orioles in the Second Half

July 12, 2012 | Mark Brown

DEFENSE

Whether you want to use the raw number of errors, newer defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) or Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), or simply the eye test – how does this guy look out there? – the Orioles do not come out looking good.

The return of Markakis and Chavez from the DL should at least mean the end of the patchwork outfield alignments, unless the Orioles decide to play Chris Davis in left field to keep his power threat in the lineup.

As for the infield, Hardy and Andino should continue to be acceptable up the middle, though Andino’s 12 errors at second base are frustrating. The corners are another story. Reynolds is an error machine no matter where you play him, Davis occasionally seems incapable of scooping a baseball out of the dirt, and Wilson Betemit at third base displays range and reflexes that make me think of molasses. Betemit has cost the Orioles outs on multiple instances by not having the instincts or footwork to break towards a base and get his feet on the bag to tag or record a putout of a runner.

Those three players all “must” be in the field since the acquisition of Jim Thome means the DH spot is occupied with a left-handed power hitter who can’t play the field. This would also describe Davis or Betemit if they were a full-time DH.

On the bright side, there is Matt Wieters, on whom no one should run, ever.

OUTLOOK

Some of these things will improve, but probably most won’t. The return of Markakis and the potential of one of the three new starters to be decent means that the O’s shouldn’t go into the same free fall we are used to – or, if they do slip, they are starting from a better place than usual.

Barring any acquisitions heading into the trade deadline, I believe the O’s will end up with a 77-85 record – a wild success compared to preseason expectations, if disappointing compared to how things looked in mid-May. A trade may help the Orioles to end the consecutive losing season streak, but I don’t think there’s any way they make the playoffs, no matter whom they acquire.

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