Not exactly the start most Oriole fans were anticipating , now is it? Orioles are one (1) game above .500 at 15-14 and tied with the Yankees for first. Really? The Orioles have the same amount of wins as the last place team Toronto at 15-17. Grant it the Orioles got a taste of all the teams in the East in the first month. Two-thirds of their games were against AL East. The entire division was going after each other in that first month. That is no excuse. Early in the year is no excuse. If you saw some of the games and not just O’s, you should agree, the caliber of play in the East is sub-par. The AL East has started out looking like the battle of mediocrity.
The AL West may have surfaced as the more dominant division. Oakland, Texas and LA Angels are making a case as formidable opponents. Pitching is usually ahead of hitting and the Oakland A’s pitching staff is on fire. 4th in the Major Leagues with a 3.03 ERA, while the O’s are 22nd at a 4.28 ERA. The O’s pitching is suspect and the hitting comes in spurts, leaving to many runners in scoring position consistently. The way the O’s have started out, it looks like most teams are going to be formidable opponents this year.
After almost 30 games, let’s give an assessment, position-by-position:
Left field: Looks like we are going to have all hit and questionable fielding (Cruuuuuuuuz). Or all fielding and no hit (Lough). Cruz – is a bright spot. His hitting has saved many a game. Hopefully Brady has him on the “non-detectible juice diet”. Lough has been a disappointment. Needed him to step up as lead-off and that is not happening by a long shot.
Centerfield: Jones – I’m not a fan. He is over-rated as a fielder. He’s not hitting and he continues to be fooled by the low outside sinker/curve ball. He has gotten paid an awful lot of money to lose that habit. You would think after 8 years – he may have learned something. Clean-up hitter cannot be batting .250 with 1 HR.
Right field: Solid. Best right fielder in baseball. Has been robbed year after year on Gold Glove award.. Hitting over .300. Doing his job. He should not be leading off, but they have no one else to do the job. Nick is a better 3 or 5 hitter.
Third base: Heeeeee’s baaaaaack. They sure did lead us on that Machado was going to be ready for Opening Day, now didn’t they? That was an un-welcome surprise. When ole Manny jogged out onto that field on Opening Day, let’s just say he wasn’t looking sure footed. We’ll see how it plays out. Nice timing with him coming back and Davis going out. Flaherty and Schoop performed well. They just aren’t Manny.
Shortstop: The DL is inevitable for Hardy. You can see the pain and stiffness as he runs. Lower back spasms and hamstring problems. It’s only a matter of time. One of those two nagging ailments , is going to blow. That could hurt. He is the elder statesman and rock of that infield. His bat can do some talking also. Potentially another Flaherty/Schoop /Lambardozzi tandem.
Second base: Ouch, another questionable position. Schoop is close, but he’s not there yet. He needs to get through that first round of at bats. He’s another one fooled by the low sinker and steady diet of curve balls. He needs to make adjustments. I like Flaherty. Problem is you have to eat his bat. Just not consistent enough. I like Lombardozzi, but he is strictly a utility guy also.
First base: Just ouch -
No HR or RBI title this year. Let alone will the threat still be there, when he gets back. When Davis gets back? That could be at the All-Star break. Team will miss his glove at first. He had a gold glove performance last year, but he fell victim to the unscrupulous GG voting also. Pearce is not the answer. Markakis should stay in right. Although, I believe first base is his ultimate position.
Catcher: Major surprise offensively. A blessing we were not expecting. Weiters, I don’t believe, has ever had a hot April. Well he had one this year. A pleasure to watch at the plate. Confident placing bat to the ball. What a relief when he comes up to the plate. The Orioles needed that. Defensively, still one of the best in the business. Don’t agree with him looking over at the dugout to get pitch call though. Maybe it’s to early, maybe him and some of the pitchers are not seeing eye to eye. But something isn’t right with the pitching.
Pitching: I’ll just keep it brief - Has NOT helped my blood pressure. Starting pitching has left us with “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis. Tilman is the only one who has come close to looking confident. Ubaldo finally had a decent outing last time out versus the Twinkies. Thank you Zach Britton for giving the middle relief some creds. I still don’t know half of the middle relievers. And I prefer a lights out closer. Hunter is no intimidator. That is not going to bode well, second time around.
Some positives and negatives to feed on. It seems like the O’s are hanging on a thread. I know it’s early. I know it’s going to be a long rough roller coaster ride. Maybe it will all come together in September? Your thoughts? Go O’s!