I would venture to say that no one predicted the Orioles to do as well as they have to this point in the season, except for maybe some of the “homers” out there. It’s been a year of surprises and disappointments (those links courtesy our own Luke Jones) so far and right now the O’s are in somewhat of a purgatory or limbo. As I said in one my earlier pieces, the next two weeks or so will be a turning point for the team and will show whether they are ready to contend for a playoff spot or gear up for the future.
Here are my five predictions for the second half of the year:
1. The Orioles will not end up “buying” any great players – Even though Dan Duquette has declared the Orioles “buyers” at the trade deadline, I don’t buy this for a second. Up until this point, Duquette has given every indication that he believes the right way to build a team is through the farm system. He really didn’t take a huge risk on Jim Thome (which appears like a failure so far) and I don’t think he will be willing to give up what is needed to get someone like Zach Grienke, Matt Garza, or Wandy Rodriguez which would be some middle to high level prospects.
2. The Orioles will trade Wilson Betemit or Mark Reynolds – There are a few teams that are in need of a quality third baseman and there aren’t many of those around. The Orioles have two. To call them “quality” might be a stretch but they can certainly fill a void for a team in need. Nick Markakis’s (returning to the lineup Friday) and Endy Chavez’s (now on a rehab tour) returns will add depth to the outfield allowing Chris Davis to return to the first base position which will make a trade of either of the two third basemen even more logical.
3. Brian Matusz, Jake Arietta, and Tommy Hunter will not return to the MLB level – They may come back next year but if you look at Chris Tillman and the good that working with Rick Peterson in the minors did, I think the Orioles will be wise and keep them down to figure things out. The process of identifying their problems and fixing them is a somewhat lengthy process also. It requires in depth recording and analysis of the pitching delivery and then practice of the corrections made to it.
4. J.J. Hardy will continue to slump – I never thought that J.J. would be as good as he was last year. This year he is clearly fatigued and maybe injured, batting only .224/.262/.380. That’s bad any way you look at it. I have heard some things about him dealing with shoulder pain and if you have ever played baseball, you know how hard it is to swing if your shoulder isn’t 100%.
5. The Orioles will not finish above .500 – As much as I would like them to, I just don’t see it happening. The way the Orioles were having success (good pitching and hitting home runs) is not a sustainable winning formula, first of all, and it has completely unraveled in the past 20 games. Remember, this isn’t just a few game slump we are looking at. We are witnessing a bad baseball team at the moment and one that I think has reached its ceiling.
I know these predictions are a little pessimistic but I’m just trying to be realistic and look at the facts with this team. They aren’t playing well, no matter how you slice it. You can only go on history and if you do that, there is every indication the team will start trading away players at the first sign of trouble, thus making the team worse.
Extra credit prediction: Adam Jones will continue being a big mouth (and I’m putting that nicely). I’m really not sure why so many people like the guy. Since his new contract (all $85 million of it) he has been below average at best. He constantly mouths off at fans on Twitter and says how he and the team need to do better yet doesn’t make good on his statements. Adam needs to start putting his money (no pun intended) where his mouth is and play some good baseball.
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