Do you believe in fairytales? If Buck Showalter could be granted 3 wishes that would help the Baltimore Orioles make the playoffs he would wish for consistent starting pitching, improvement in hitting with runners in scoring position, and an error-free team for the second half of the season.
The Baltimore Orioles are 45-40 at the All Star Break. They sit in 2nd place in the A.L. East only 7 games back of MLB’s Best Record New York Yankees and a half game above the 3rd place Tampa Bay Rays. Not only are they still in the Division Hunt at the All Star Break but they are also the second wildcard team to the playoffs due to MLB changing their playoff format an adding a second wild card team this year. There is a lot of excitement about one of baseball’s historic franchises returning to postseason play!
With the 1st wish Buck would ask that the genie to provide him consistent starting pitching. The Orioles ERA as a team is 4.05 which is the 19th best in baseball. That doesn’t say much for a team whose only two consistent starting pitchers this year is a Rookie from Taiwan Wei-Yin Chen and a broken down former 1st round pick Jason Hammel. Opening day Pitcher Jake Arrieta along with Tommy Hunter and Brian Matuz has a combined Win Loss record of 11 – 23 with a combined ERA of 17. 66. They started the season in the five man rotation and those kinds of numbers don’t sit well with Buck or the fan base. It is pretty surprising to be in 2nd place in the AL East with numbers like that. Where do the Orioles turn to for some help in that department? The answer to that question lies with some other pitchers in the Orioles system, HOPEFULLY!! Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman who both had great outings in their call ups to the Majors already are part of the solution. They’re both young and talented and have the stuff that big league starting pitchers need to be dominant every 5th day. If these two guys along with Chen and Hammel can go out and at least put in quality starts, it puts this team in a great position to make a run at the postseason. As far as the 5th starter is concerned Zach Britton will get his shot but if that does not work out the Orioles will turn to Free Agency. The Orioles 5man rotation should look like this barring any injuries and/or trades…
1. Jason Hammel
2. Wei-Yin Chen
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. Chris Tillman
5. Zach Britton
597 That is the number of atbats the Baltimore Orioles have had with Runners in Scoring Position. Unfortunately, 145 is the number of hits the Baltimore Orioles had with Runners in Scoring Position. Along with the pitching the hitting is another area the Orioles need to improve on in the second half. Those numbers are good for 21st in all of Major League Baseball and 12th in the American League. It is clear why Buck’s 2nd Wish would be to improve those numbers. The Orioles have already somewhat addressed this issue with the trade for Jim Thome. Although he might be at the twilight of his career Thome’s bat will help make a push for the postseason. Unfortunately, he will not be able to carry the team. Currently the Orioles have no hitter batting over .300. On the opposite side of that spectrum they have only struck out 138 times, that is next last in all of Major League Baseball! The Orioles have a .704 On-Base percentage that’s 20th in baseball but still impressive for this team with all the hitting struggles they have had. All of these things still don’t address the issue with RISP, so how do they change that?
First you have to have a consistent lead-off hitter who gets on base. Xavier Avery and Brian Roberts are my first two choices, whoever is healthier or up with the squad will be there as long as they are consistent. (At the current moment Roberts is on the DL and Avery was sent down to Norfolk so in the interim Robert Andino will assume this role as well). Second are Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds. Nick Markakis is coming of the biggest injury of his career and is very eager to play. Markakis gives protection in the lineup to Adam Jones who hits cleanup and seems to hit better with Markakis in front of him. He also plays a solid Right Field and brings another weapon that teams fear when runners are on base; his On-base percentage is a solid .333. This is a huge role player this Orioles team needs to get in the playoffs this year. Mark Reynolds is another player that (if he is not traded for a real 3rd baseman) this team will need in the batter’s box in the 2nd half. Reynolds does not lead the team in strikeouts but does have 72 of them. (For those who wanted to know Chris Davis leads the team in strikeouts with 80). Back to Reynolds though, he does lead the team in another category that might surprise you and that is Walks. Mark Reynolds has walked 33 times this year that is tied for 45th in all of baseball and if you are a baseball fan you know that a walk helps just as much as a hit. If these things combined with less droughts of not hitting at all, this lineup is a force to be receckond with in the 2nd half of the season. Our A+ lineup at the moment should look something similar to this….
1. Brian Roberts/Xavier Avery/Robert Andino
2. JJ Hardy
3. Nick Markakis
4. Adam Jones
5. Matt Wieters
6. Jim Thome
7. Wilson Betemit
8. Chris Davis
9. Robert Andino/Endy Chavez
75 is the number of errors the Baltimore Orioles have committed this year. That number leads all of Major League Baseball, if the Orioles plan to make a run in the second half they must address this issue. This would be Buck Showalter’s 3rd Wish. In an earlier blog I wrote this year I explained the need for a corner infield and my position on that issue has not changed. The top 3 leaders in errors on this team are Wilson Betemit with 13, Robert Andino with 12, and Mark Reynolds with 9. All 3 of these players rotate 3rd base and 1st base as well. This is where the most errors have occurred on this team, free agency is where we address this issue. All of the fans are so focused on getting a starting pitcher that we also need to put our attention at the position of 3rd base. There is one big problem with this; there is not a lot of decent hitting and fielding third basemen out there to go get. San Diego Chase Headley has been the interest to a lot of rumors as a player that will be available in the coming weeks. He is the only guy who comes to mind at the moment but if the orioles do not address the errors and the other issues I have stated you can be sure about one thing they will miss the playoffs. As a true Fan I know that if all 3 of Buck Showalter’s wishes are granted then the Orioles will have a real shot at securing another World Series run. Do you believe and fairytales? I do.
The Second half of the Baltimore Orioles season should be fun to watch and it will also be exciting to see what the Orioles do at the trade deadline. In the meantime fans lets be happy with the way things are going and lets pray that we can make a run at this year’s postseason. Be sure to check out the Stephen D Report daily and follow me on Twitter @StephenDReport .Thanks for all your loyal support and Go O’s!