Now that we’ve got this website up and running, and are nearly two months into the podcast, figured it was about time we added some written content. And, with the draft behind me and a few months to go before I start making my training camp travels, well, this is the time of year where I tend to get a little free time. So, while I sit in the customer service area of Thompson Automotive, overlooking scenic Merritt Boulevard I figured this is as good a time as any to riff on the state of the 2016 Orioles.
For all of the talk about the starting pitching and how brutal it can be, my issue is the bats. Again. My biggest fear is that this team will fall into the prolonged scoring slumps that damned last year’s team, and the similarities can be striking. A few games here or there is the difference between hosting a postseason series and sitting it out, and I can’t help but flashback to some brutally frustrating series against the Marlins and Angels and Astros and Phillies early last spring and see the bats performing in an eerily frustrating manner already this season. Especially having just endured our second scoring slump of 20-plus innings already in this young season.
It comes down to approach and situational hitting. It can’t just be waiting for the three-run homer, because it leads to run scoring deluges and droughts that make it exceedingly difficult to sustain any momentum even when the starting pitching is over-performing (and it has been, big time) since Kevin Gausman returned to the rotation and even with Gallardo on the DL. No, the issue for me is a streak offense that often takes 4-5 innings to get cranking, that has repeatedly failed to get to struggling-and-or-bottom tier starters early in games when they are on the ropes, and thus which continues to thrust additional pressure on the O’s bullpen and largely mundane starting rotation.
Let’s be real about this team’s construction and asset allocation – it’s all in the bats. Period. The two biggest contracts in the history of the franchise, a $16M catcher, a $15M shortstop, adding Trumbo and Alvarez to what should already be a potent lineup. On the other side, they paid to keep a great set-up guy and have Ubaldo on a mid-level starter’s deal and Gallardo on a hope-and-a-prayer short-term deal after the failed physical, but the money is in the bats. This team has to mash. And it hasn’t with any regularity.
And I’m going to hone in on the early going of games. The Orioles enter play Friday with just 9 runs scored in the first inning (24th in baseball; ) and 9 runs scored in the second inning (19th in baseball) and 15 runs in the third inning (11th). This despite having the runners on all over the place in the early going again any number of laboring starters already (Kelly, Hamels, Lewis, Estrada, Young, Archer (the second time), Odorizzi, Severino, Sabathia off the top of my head. The struggle is real against a guy like Tanaka and you know that is going to be tough, but far too often we’ve failed to hammer a starting who seemed to be begging for an early shower.
I love that they are working pitch counts much better. I love them running up the pitch totals on a lot of these guys before the fifth inning … but when its 1st and 2ndand no outs on 1st and 3rd and one out in these situations some of the first-pitch hacking and swinging from the heels has killed them. When they look like a slow pitch softball team, they tend to either score five runs in one inning or they lose. Cutting down on the swings, putting the ball to the right side of the infield, manufacturing runs, getting that key sac fly remains a problem, and that’s what scares me. Sure, it can’t be as bad as last season, when they literally went a full season without legit corner outfielders, I tell myself, yet still I worry.
Sure, Adam Jones hasn’t gotten going yet and Alvarez has just found his swing, and Schoop is coming out of a prolonged slump. We have yet to see the best of this group. But given the way this team was put together, grabbing some early leads, helping out kids like Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson so they aren’t pitching with no run support for five and six innings at a time, putting up some consistent run streams so that the “A Team” of relievers (Givens, O’Day, Brach, Britton) can grab time off en masse will prove vital over 162 games, and now just over 25 games in, the bottom line to me is a handful of more sensible at bats and the O’s would have at least sustained that seven-game streak to start the season and they’d be at least seven games over .500 to this point.
Bottom line: Yeah they’ve faced some decent pitching – and also a bunch of guys the league has been pounding this season – but have already scored three runs or less 13 times through their first 27 games. That can’t happen. They have scored three runs or less 9 times in the last 14 games alone. And they rank in the bottom five in the league in GIDP.
And for all of those who want to bash the pitchers (despite most of these guys over-achieving thus far in my book), well, in 10 games since Gausman’s return the starters have a sparkling ERA of 2.85 and a WHIP of 1.01. The starters have struck out 54 batters in 60 innings in that span, while walking just 22. Yet the O’s are just 5-5 in that span. Again, not good enough and while some of it is on recent bullpen blow-ups (and Britton’s freak injury), I’d put the lion’s share on bats that have failed to take advantage of a plethora of potential game-changing situations.
- Give me more Kim, please, Hon. Lets get him a few games in a row and see how that goes. My ideal line-up to try to break this funk might be something like this – Reimold, Kim, Manny, Crush, Trumbo, Jones, Schoop, catcher, Flaherty/Janish. Mix it up some and see if we can get a few guys on base before Manny comes to the plate for the first time in a game.
- I’m not sweating this JJ Hardy situation all that much. I love Janish’s glove and I think he’ll be fine as a regular in a limited sample size (4-5 weeks). Even with Hardy’s renewed health this season, literally all of his power came in one Pesky Pole game at Fenway. Dating back to the start of the 2014 season, Hardy has 19 HRs and 97 RBI in 277 games, while hitting .247. That translates to 11 homers and 57 RBI over a full 162, while hitting below .250. If this line-up performs as it should, getting the occasional double out of Janish/Flaherty and strong fielding should be sufficient.
- I feel like Rickard coming off the bench for a series this weekend wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
- Don’t worry, Coleman won’t actually be trying to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) here and actually contributing to this site in the written form much. Promise. We wouldn’t do that to you guys. Though my bro-in-law, Jerry’s arch nemesis Uncle Tim, just might be adding some blogs. Jerry has already secured the much-anticipated exclusive with Kim’s interpreter, however, industry sources tell me, so start the hype machine for next week’s pod.
- On the Ravens draft, one kid I continue to hear rave reviews on is RB Kenneth Dixon. Even some evaluators I know who frankly didn’t love Baltimore’s draft believe that kid can be an outright feature back in the NFL if he cuts down on fumbled. “Best pick in the draft,” one personnel director told me who is lukewarm on other Ravens’ picks. “He is the second best back in the draft. There might not be even that much different from him and (Ezekiel) Elliott as long as he cuts down on the fumbling.” Big if, but still … Was surprised to hear Eric DeCosta talk about Nebraska OL Alex Lewis as a left tackle. Other teams figured he pushes early for a starting guard spot and works as a swing tackle if not, perhaps even more on the right side. Will be interested to see how that plays out.
- With Don Shula in declining health, this would be a great time for those with a deep appreciation for Baltimore sports, and who can remember the Colts in their glory, to tell these kids about Shula’s roots in this city. Used to love to hear stories from my grandfather about some of the greats he got to see up close back in the day. Those stories don’t live on unless they are told by those who lived them.
- Big shoutouts to Kevin Zwicker who has done tremendous work producing the pods thus far. Huge part of the B-more Opinionated team here. And, assuming this actually gets posted to the website and not lost in some internet abyss, then, well, welcome to the team Intern Joe as well. And a huge thanks to our sponsors who have joined us here at the very start – Jimmy’s Seafood, Otterbein Bakery, Natty Boh, and most of all to an amazing set of guests already.
- Ideas for a Baltimoron or Marylander you think we should have on the pod? Hit us up on Twitter (@BmoreOpinionate) and let us know. Thanks for your support!