The All-Star break will officially come to an end for the Orioles Friday when they begin the second half of the season against the Detroit Tigers. And since the Mayan calendar didn’t predict an early end to the baseball season, playoff teams will not be determined in July but in October. Fortunately for Baltimore fans the Orioles find themselves squarely in the conversation. Unfortunately only three teams in the American League are under .500 so the fight for a postseason berth is going to be dog fight to the end.
Are the Birds contenders or pretenders? Two things for sure they need to be spenders and better defenders.
Three words seemed to dominate the vocabulary when baseball experts would describe the Orioles first half success, smoke and mirrors. The smoke could be defined as the vapor trail left by the home runs the Birds hit. The O’s were third in the A.L. with 103 jacks. The O’s seemed to live and die by the home run to begin the season. Late inning heroics by Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Adam Jones were common place in the box score. Mirrors would describe the bullpens effort game after game. The Baltimore bullpen is an American League best with their 2.75 ERA. Even Kevin Gregg has been consistent making Twitter less entertaining than last year. Add in Jim Johnson’s All Star closer performance and this year has provided us hope. But is it false hope?
With the trade deadline approaching it’s time for Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to get the checkbook from Uncle Peter. Duquette who already made the trade for Jim Thome, has said that he has ownerships support to get the pieces necessary to compete this season without sacrificing the future.
Clearly first item to go in the black and orange cart is a starting pitcher. The current starting rotation has been shuffled more than stack of cards at a blackjack table. Only Chen and Hammel are reliable in their starts and average six innings plus during each outing. If the bullpen is going to continue their premium performance the starters have to go deeper. Quality starting pitching is available with Greinke, Marcum, and Hamels available for the right price. Now there are rumors coming out of Seattle that the Mariners are shopping Jason Vargas. Whichever pitcher gets off the plane at B.W.I. will be an upgrade and help turn the dreams of postseason play closer to reality.
Pitching isn’t the only issue the Birds have to address. The Orioles continue to lead all of Major League Baseball in errors with 75. I wrote about this last week, if the O’s are going to compete they have to play better defense. The hunt for October would be more tangible if they could wake up the bats. The offense ended the first half in a tough three-week stretch with no runs scored in their final 22 innings, and 31 of 32. They have also been held to single-digit hits in 19 of its last 22 games. Regardless of how good the pitching is you have to score runs. Maybe Duquette could fly in Jobu for a visit.
The O’s will play 23 series between Friday and October 3rd. They will face A.L. East opponents in 12 of those series including three against the Yankees, the only division opponent to best them thus far. Every team in the East is currently .500 or better and poised to make moves necessary for a postseason run.
Will the Orioles give an entire generation something they’ve never seen before, playoff baseball in Baltimore? Or will they turn into the same old O’s we’ve gotten to know over the last 14 years? As fans we would prefer the former but the latter is what we’ve grown accustomed to. For me I’m consulting with the Mayans, rumor has it they know the secret to pitching like R.A. Dickey.
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