Orioles Mid-Season Review

In last Thursday’s piece (here), I outlined why the Orioles need to be sellers as the trade deadline approaches, with basically everyone not named Mancini, Schoop, Bundy, or Gausman at least being put forward for discussion.

This view, to offload some talent and (hopefully) restock the farm, is a popular one too, with current polling indicating more than 70% of fans agree with this approach.

Whether or not Dan Duquette agrees with this approach, we’re yet to see, however he and the rest of the front office need to make a decision on whether to buy or sell soon. It’s a decision which in mid-May didn’t appear to be needed, as the Orioles surged to an MLB-best 22-10 record and looked set for another playoff run. However, just 20 wins in the 56 games since has left the team in a difficult spot – close enough to challenge in theory, yet miles off the pace in reality.

Through the first half of the season, the pitching has been nothing short of deplorable, ranking dead last of all 30 teams in each of the following statistical categories:

  • 5.07 earned run average
  • 470 runs allowed
  • .279 opposing batting average
  • 1.52 per walks/hits innings pitched
  • 14,002 pitches thrown

The major culprits have been Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.90 ERA) who just hasn’t bounced back from a shoulder injury which delayed the start of his season, Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 6.67 ERA) who has somehow managed to keep a spot in the rotation, and Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA) who’s regression from last season has been alarming at best. Thankfully, he’s shown signs of improvement in recent weeks.

Dylan Bundy (8-8, 4.33 ERA) started the year on a real positive note, yet has fallen apart in a big way these past two months – allowing 29 earned runs in 36.1 innings of work since the calendar flicked over to June.

The bullpen, previously one of the best in baseball in recent years, has imploded far too often, and enters the break owning a 4.11 ERA – ranked 15th in the major leagues. Injuries to Darren O’Day and Zach Britton certainly haven’t helped, however the lack of depth within the organization has been exposed, with the likes of Jayson Aquino, Vidal Nuno, Tyler Wilson, Oliver Drake (now in Milwaukee), Stefan Crichton, Edwin Jackson (now in Washington) all failing when given the opportunity.

Richard Bleier (1-1, 1.48 ERA, 30.1 IP) and Mychal Givens (6-0, 2.25 ERA, 44.0 IP), Brad Brach (2-1, 2.58 ERA, 38.1 IP, 15 Saves), and Donnie Hart (1-0, 2.96 ERA, 24.1 IP) on the other hand have all been solid in relief, albeit over-worked. How will this impact on their ability to perform in the second half? We’ll wait and see.

Offensively, the team’s been terribly inconsistent which overall, has lead to them ranking in the bottom half of many key statistical categories, including:

  • 392 runs scored (22nd)
  • .254 batting average (17th)
  • .308 on base percentage (26th)
  • .734 on base plus slugging percentage (22nd)
  • 18 stolen bases (30th)
  • 779 strikeouts (21st)
  • 12,882 pitches seen (24th)

The home run power, which saw them lead the major leagues in three of the past five seasons, has dropped off markedly, so much so they’re now ranked 11th with 123. They have however hit an impressive .286 with runners in scoring position, a figure bettered by only the Rockies, Nationals, and Astros. Had this mark been lower, they’d be far more than just four games below .500 at the break.

Youngsters Trey Mancini (.312 AVG, 14 HR, 44 RBI) and Jonathan Schoop (.295 AVG, 18 HR, 54 RBI) have been the only two shining lights throughout the entire first half, each proving themselves as leaders of the next generation. Manny Machado, who’s name is being spoken of as potential trade bait, has retained the power (18 HR and 17 doubles), however is hitting just .230 and is currently on pace to strike out more than 10% more than he did last season.

The experienced duo of J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis have each battled injury concerns and enter the break on the disabled list. Prior to that though, consistency was a problem, hitting just .211 and .226 respectively. The off-season addition of Craig Gentry (.175/.273/.263) appears to have failed, while a lack of playing time appears to be affecting Hyun Soo Kim, who’s hitting just .229. He has just four extra-base hits in 134 plate appearances.

Other off-season additions, Seth Smith and Welington Castillo, have each ridden their share of hot streaks and slumps, with the duo hitting just under .260 apiece heading into the break. Smith’s .329 on base percentage is 14 points lower than his career mark. Caleb Joseph, who had a horrendous 2016 season, has bounced back remarkably well, hitting .286 with three home runs and 17 RBIs from his 147 at bats. Filling in for the injured Castillo in late-May/June, he once again positioned himself as one of the better back-up catching options in the major leagues. A pleaseing return to form for one of the nicest guys around.

Defensively, the team has struggled to meet it’s typically high standards and is on pace to record 94 errors on the season – 18% more than last year and the highest amount since 2012. Furthermore, the team’s .676 defensive efficiency ratio is ranked last of all American leagues teams and 28th overall, worsened by just the struggling Giants and Mets. Fangraphs meanwhile notes that the Orioles own a -15 defensive runs saved mark, placing them 23rd.

Manny Machado, while continually wowing us with magical plays, has also made more errors this season (nine) at third base than he did in the 114 games he played there in 2016 (seven), while his fielding percentage is also 18 points lower. Jonathan Schoop is in a similar position, committing 10 errors on the season already, compared to the eight he made in all 162 games in 2016. His fielding percentage is also significantly lower, by 13 points. Another who has struggled in the field has been the infrequently used Craig Gentry, who has committed three errors and owns a .933 fielding percentage.

All in all, the Orioles have been plagued by inconsistency and sloppiness, and as harsh as it may seem, probably weren’t as good a team as the 22-10 record suggested throughout the first five weeks of the season. Since then, many flaws have been exposed and with a near-empty farm, there’s simply not enough stock on hand to trade for the upgrades required to make this team a legitimate contender. As such, it’s time to bite the bullet and see what they can offload – the first time doing so since 2011. While rebuilding is never fun, and typically means more pain is in store, if they don’t take this path the pain could be even greater. It’s no time to be foolish and hopefully, common sense prevails.


Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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