Look to the sky Orioles fans! It is falling! Everyone panic! We’re terrible again!
Clearly, most of the casual fans didn’t need that information because they had already made these conclusions on their own. But, seriously people, chill out. First, we are 7, that’s right 7 games into a 162 game season. I realize that their struggles are being overblown right now because it is the beginning of the season and everyone is still paying attention, but there are 155 games remaining. Secondly, if you expected this team to be good this year you are one, possibly two years premature. Yes, the front office said the rebuild was over and they intend to start improving in the standings. That could still happen, but I think people really ran too far with those comments. Despite what the front office and Trembley say publicly, they know full well this is still a development year and we aren’t winning anything. That doesn’t mean we can’t win more games than we did in 2009, which is their real goal. Finally, we are 7 fucking games into the season. The team has certainly been frustrating so far, but it is premature to see this much lust for blood.
I’m asking you to be objective for a second. I know, a tough request for most O’s fans. There have been positives in this 7 game stretch. Starting pitching has been our weakness for many years, and it was supposedly the reason we would continue to be held back this year, according to some analysts. Well, the starting pitching has been pretty solid through the first turn outside of Bergesen’s outing. The bullpen has looked decent aside from Mike Gonzalez, who has had too good of a career not to fix himself. The problem right now is we are not hitting, against anyone. Slumps happen, and sometimes you get lucky and the whole team falls into one simultaneously. It’s the nature of the game. The good news is that this team can hit, and they will hit soon. Some things need to happen, some I am confident about, others not so much.
The Good – The only two guys going good right now are Matt Wieters and Garrett Atkins, and only one of them I have any confidence will continue. I’m sure you can guess which one. The good news is there are hitters on this team and they will get better, we are not a dominant offensive club, but I still think we end the season above average. If the pitching stays steady, we will win some games. You could also make a case for Felix Pie, but his playing time has been so limited it hasn’t mattered much.
The Bad – Nick Markakis is not going to hit .167 this year, I will guarantee you that. He will be around .300 as he always is by the end of the year. If he keeps having good at-bats, as he is now, the hits will start falling and if he maintains anything resembling his current walk rate he will have another year as good as 2008.
The Ugly – Adam Jones is really scuffling right now, he looks a lot like the guy he was in the second half of last year. I have never been a huge fan of Adam. He seems like a decent dude and has immense talent. However, my fear is that he will never improve the glaring weakness in his game enough for his talent to be realized. The guy is swinging at everything right now and he continues to get himself out at-bat after at-bat because he can’t lay off garbage. If he doesn’t improve in this area, he could easily be a Corey Patterson. A talented and highly touted prospect who was completely destroyed by a lack of plate discipline that negated his tools. I am confident that he won’t look this bad all year but I still have my doubts he becomes the star Orioles fans are expecting. Watching him flail through every low and away breaking pitch thrown in his general vicinity is just brutal to watch right now.
Brian Roberts struggled while he was in the lineup. Now, he is hurt and I am not confident he will be the excellent player he has been upon his return. Even before the injury concerns there was a lot to dislike about his contract extension. All the major stats have been on a downward trend. His defense has slipped, he is stealing less bases, he is striking out more, and he is walking less. These are all very strong signs that his decline phase has begun and that trend usually continues downward. Hopefully when he comes back he can stay healthy and closely resemble the Brian Roberts we all know and love, but I wouldn’t bet a whole lot on it.
Luke Scott has started the year in one of his patented slumps. Almost the entire team is shooting themselves in the feet swinging at garbage. Even Jays’ catcher Jose Molina commented on continually throwing balls out of the zone because the Orioles weren’t laying off them. Adam Jones and Miguel Tejada have very typically walked 0 times in 26 and 25 at bats, respectively. We can’t expect much out of Lugo or Izturis so I will leave them alone. Everyone knows they can’t hit so I won’t pretend they have any chance of turning it around. This team certainly lacks much needed plate discipline. This may be a weakness all year, but they can’t be this bad all season. The Orioles as a team have hit .167 with runners in scoring position, since this is not a repeatable skill and is largely luck you have to believe that this will move back towards the mean.
Defensively we have had some good and bad performances, some surprising, some not. Miguel Tejada has been decent so far at third base, much better than I expected. Many people are blaming yesterday’s loss on him because he was charged with an error that would have been out 3 in the eighth inning just before Millwood gave up back to back jacks. I though it was a tough error, that ball took a wicked hop and it was a tough play. Calling it an error was defensible but the error certainly wasn’t egregious by any means. Millwood still has to pitch and he probably should have been yanked after the home run instead of being left in to give up another. Either way, the loss could be placed once again at the feet of the anemic offense we have been displaying so far this season.
Nolan Reimold has predictably been butchering left field, I’m not sure how anyone can continue to defend his defense at this point. He looked awful last year and so far he has been just as brutal, and the numbers bare that out. I love his bat and he is a good looking fellow and probably a decent human being but he will be DHing or playing first quite a bit in the future methinks. Luke Scott is even a much better option in the outfield. Felix Pie has shown flashes of being a good hitter and his excellent defense more than makes up for the offensive difference between the two. Everyone wants to argue for or against the other, guess what O’s fans and Trembley? You can have them both in the lineup! The AL added this position called DH a few years ago.
To go with the O’s fans in panic theme, we have this beautiful piece from our favorite blogger Russ Smith. Russ has already declared the Orioles season a failure, along with most of our dwindling casual O’s fans. The kicker here is that he is a Sox fan whose baseball knowledge essentially starts and stops with “The Red Sox are good”. Russ also goes on to blame Dave Trembley for the team’s poor start. Look, everyone knows I am not a fan of Dave Trembley at all. He seems like a decent fellow but he does a lot of stupid things that I don’t agree with, but blaming him for this early skid is comical. The only way it is possible is if Trembley literally shit in Mike Gonzalez’s cereal and he was so upset he wanted to pitch poorly to get back at him. Then we can go ahead and chalk up two losses to Trembley right there. Aside from that, there isn’t much Trembley can do to stop our hitters overly aggressive approach, bad luck with balls in play, injuries, and a general lack of talent. This team isn’t as bad as they have looked, things will break right. The team will score some runs ,the bullpen will get sorted out, we will see some new exciting young talent, and the starting staff will stay relatively stable. I predicted this team to win 79 games, and I still stand by it. In conclusion, at least we aren’t 0-7…
Save us Brian Matusz