Baltimore Orioles Mid-Season Report Card
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Record: 53-43 (4.5 GB)
Biggest Surprise of 1st Half:
There’s a few places to go with this. One of them is the pitching being so poor. That, however, will be discussed in the next section. A surprise on offense would have to be the emergence of 21 year old third baseman Manny Machado. Thus far this season, Machado is leading the Major Leagues in doubles with 39 two-baggers, alongside seven homers, 45 runs batted in, three triples, and a slash line of .311/.338/.472/.810. The average comes as a nice surprise for the Orioles, as Machado in his time last year hit .262/.294/.445/.739, and his Minor League slash line was .263/.344/.432/.776. However, the biggest surprise has to be Chris Davis going absolutely berserk with the home runs this year. Davis has “crushed” (quotation marks as his nickname is “Crush”) 37 long balls this year, averaging 404 feet. This comes as a surprise, as last year, Davis set his career high in home runs with 33, and that was over an entire season.
Biggest Disappointment of 1st Half:
As mentioned in the surprise segment, the pitching has been poor, and thus, they have been “awarded” the Biggest Disappointment thus far for the Orioles. This year, the Orioles overall pitching staff has taken a bit of a drop from last season. If not for the offense and defense being so great this year, the Orioles would possibly be staring up from the base of the American League East ladder, hoping for some way to go up a couple rungs. In 2012, the team’s pitching staff ranked sixth in ERA with a 3.90 mark, sixth in strikeouts, first in saves (mostly in due part to Jim Johnson), and first in innings pitched, while treading water in the middle of the pack in many other categories (such as hits allowed, runs allowed, and walks). However, 2013 has their staff sitting in 13th in ERA with a 4.39 mark, they’ve allowed the most home runs in the AL with 123 taters served up, and they’re second to last in earned runs allowed. They still lead the league in Saves, again, mostly due to Johnson, but on the same account, he’s not been the same as last year. After 51 saves and only three blown saves, Johnson has already doubled his blown saves total. He does have a chance to eclipse the saves mark he set last year, as he’s already notched 33, but with an ERA increase of 1.31, and an almost 300 point jump in WHIP, there has to be cause for concern overall for the Orioles pitching.
The choice here is pretty clear – Chris “Crush” Davis. A slash line of .315/.392/.717/1.109, 37 home runs, 93 runs batted in, 27 doubles, and 246 total bases gives Chris Davis the Team MVP trophy for the first half, and may very well lead to an American League MVP award come November. The 37 home runs before the All-Star break ties an American League record set by one Reggie Jackson in 1969 at the tender age of 23. Davis this year is 27, and with homers in his last four games before the break shows no sign of slowing down. Jackson, as it turned out, managed to only hit 10 out of the park in the second half to end up with 47 on the year. While Davis was rivaling Miguel Cabrera in all three Triple Crown categories by the end of May, his average has dropped from .357 on June 6th to the current .315 mark – a 42 point drop. From June 6th, he’s batted under .250, but in that time (36 games), he’s hit 16 homers and driven in 37. While the average may not be there, he may be the only threat to Cabrera’s quest to repeat for the Triple Crown due to his power surge this season, and his 93 runs batted in are second only to Cabrera. The next highest on the list for RBI in the Majors after Chris Davis is Paul Goldschmidt, and he has a measly 77 runs batted in. Look for Davis to challenge the 60 home run plateau in the second half.
Prospect Ready to Make an Impact:
This one took a bit of searching, but I think I found it. Right now, it can’t be young pitching phenom Dylan Bundy, as he’s been sidelined with Tommy John Surgery. It’s not Kevin Gausman, as he’s been up in the Majors for a little while now and has struggled both as a starter and a reliever. Jonathan Schoop (pronounced “Scope”) was a possibility, but I wasn’t too sure about him. However, after a bit of digging, I believe that international signing Henry Urrutia, age 26, has the potential to be a big bat for the Orioles down the stretch, if they decide to call him up. Urrutia was signed this year, and at a skinny 6’5 200, has hit for a very high average between AA and AAA. While not showing much in the power department (28 extra base hits in 288 plate appearances), the ability to get hit after hit would make him a valuable weapon in the top of the lineup or somewhere in the middle three. Combined between the two leagues, Urrutia is putting up a slash line of .365/.427/.531/.958, and that OPS is very impressive for someone with just 20 doubles and seven jacks. He’s shown a decent amount of patience, drawing 28 walks thus far, and I’d say the Orioles are a team that could use some patience, but they’ve been doing just fine being aggressive. However, to give one an idea, if Urrutia’s 28 walks were placed on the Orioles, they’d rank fourth, tied with Matt Wieters. Look for Henry Urrutia to be called up soon, probably to platoon between the outfield and the DH slot.
Contender or Pretender:
Playing in the toughest division in Baseball, the American League East, it had been a long stretch between Oriole playoff appearances until last year. With the team being just 4.5 games behind the best record in American League Boston Red Sox, there’s definitely a chance of them taking the division later on if things shape up all around. They’re currently a game and a half behind the second wild card slot, currently held by the Texas Rangers with the division rival Tampa Bay Rays holding on to the top wild card spot. The team is definitely a contender, especially after last year, and there’s a chance they could make another trade after the all-star break to bolster their pitching staff.
Overall Team Analysis:
The Orioles currently sit in third place in the AL East, and it’s definitely not out of reach. They have the bats to do it, with the team leading the league in homers, sitting in second in doubles, and standing firmly in third in hits and runs scored, as well as leading the league in team slugging and posting top five spots in average and OPS. Their defense has been spectacular, as well, leading the league in fielding percentage with a .991 mark, making just 30 errors in a combined 3,523 chances. Their catching corpse of Wieters, Taylor Teagarden, and a handful of appearances from Chris Snyder have combined to throw out 43% of would-be basestealers. Wieters himself has caught 46%. However, this team is in desperate need of another arm or two to push them forward and into the playoffs. The offense can only get them so far, and without a couple more quality pitchers, they may not make it deep into the postseason, or even fall just short of making an appearance in October.