Last year had O’s fans and media alike hearkening back to the 1989 Orioles motto, “Why not?” and for good reason. Many picked the O’s to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2012. But with some unexpected contributions from nearly every position player and pitcher (and a lot of good fortune), the 2012 Baltimore Orioles were able to end 14 years of losing baseball and make take the New York Yankees to five games in the ALDS.
While last year’s O’s motto was “Why not?”, this year’s motto should be “Why?”. Why should the 2013 Baltimore Orioles make the playoffs?
This year’s Baltimore Orioles are a little less fortunate in the luck department. While there hasn’t been much regression from the players who unexpectedly produced last year, there have been some things that explain why the Orioles are in the position they are in at the All Star break.
Last year the Orioles finished just two games back of the Yankees in the AL East. They had an immaculate 29-9 record in one run games; just 13-14 in 2013. They were 16-2 in extra-inning games in 2012; just 5-3 this season. They finished 2012 with a 43-29 record against the AL East; this season they are only 23-21. Their expected win-loss for last season was 82-80. Clearly they had some luck in 2012. Don’t call me a hater, I’m just the messenger.
Jim Johnson’s struggles (his 6 blown saves lead the league and his WHIP of 1.28 is 5th worst in the league amongst closers) after an impossible to duplicate 2012 season have contributed to the regression in one run games. It seems as if the AL East is again the best division in baseball now that the Red Sox have emerged as a competitor again and the Rays and Blue Jays are better than they were last year. 2012 was a perfect scenario for the Orioles to make the playoffs and they took advantage of it.
The Orioles revolving door at starting pitcher has not worked as well as it did last year either. Orioles’ starters have given up the most homers and earned runs out of any team in the MLB and have the 6th most pitches per plate appearance. The Orioles own the highest homerun to fly ball ratio in the league as well as the second highest Fielding Independent Pitching. As a result they have pitched the 13th fewest innings in the league, leading to some fatigue in the bullpen. They made a deal for Scott Feldman, who is a quality start machine, a couple weeks ago which should help out the rotation a bit.
The news, of course, is not all bad for the Orioles. They have three All Star Game starters and one of the best up and coming players in the league with Manny Machado. Their offense is top five in nearly every major category thanks to the breakout season from slugger Chris Davis who is on pace to break the AL record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. The designated hitter spot, however, still remains a hole in the lineup. Orioles’ designated hitters have a paltry slash line of .197/.261/.382 this year with no help on the horizon unless a trade is made.
The Orioles defense has been downright ridiculous this season. They have the fewest errors in the league, are fifth in Ultimate Zone Rating and 10th in Defensive Runs Saved. Not to mention this play by third baseman Manny Machado.
The Orioles are a good baseball team with room to improve; and they need to in order to make a run at the playoffs. I’m hoping the Orioles are at least exploring more options at the trade deadline. They have a few prospects they could package for another starter, reliever, or designated hitter. They are well within the thick of things as it stands now and one move could put them over the top.