• Jul

    Future looks bleak for the Orioles, but there may be a hope

    So what was worse yesterday, those horrible 4th of July hats the teams wore or the Orioles pitiful performance?

    I’m as patriotic as the next guy but goodness gracious those hats are just horrible. I don’t know if it was the white panel fronts or the ugly red, white and blue logos, but baseball needs to find another way to celebrate Independence Day than those hats.

    As bad as the Orioles are right now, and let’s face it, they are bad, Mark Reynolds has been a lot of fun to watch over the last month or so and especially over the last week. When I was on Bob Haynie’s show (105.7) on opening day I mentioned that I thought Reynolds would struggle for a while as he adjusted to a new league but would heat up as the weather did. It sure looks like I hit that one on the head.

    Reynolds put up a .566 Ops in April, .778 in May, 1.112 in June and has upped the ante in July with a 1.976 Ops through the first four games of July. With that trend he won’t make an out in August! Seriously though, Reynolds has hit seven homers in his last eight games and is now on pace for nearly 40 home runs this season. Not surprisingly his strikeout rate has increased as well, but you know what, who cares? If he hits you 40 bombs, walks 95 times, and puts up a .871 OPS, he can go ahead and strike out 200 times, I don’t care.

    Right now Reynolds is clearly the hottest Orioles power hitter and he needs to be batting no lower than 5th in the Orioles lineup.

    Another hitter who heated up with the weather is Nick Markakis. Although the doubles have been slow to come, Markakis is getting back to the spray it around hitter the Orioles need him to be. He started out ice cold putting up a .561 OPS in April before hitting a marginally better .708 in May. He finally got hot in June batting .351 with a .830 OPS and so far through the first four games in July he’s batting .444 with a 1.111 OPS. He’s hit seven of his 11 doubles this year in June and July so hopefully the double will start to come. To me, Markakis just looks like he has finally accepted the fact that he’s not a power hitter and that he’s better at just being a high average doubles guy then a 25-homer guy.

    It appears the Orioles will promote Mitch Atkins from Norfolk to start tonight in Texas. Atkins has pitched decently at Norfolk (3.11 ERA in 8 starts overall and a 2.86 ERA in 6 June starts) and at 25 years old, he’s not some journeyman like Chris Jakubauskas, but let’s not fool ourselves here, he’s only getting a shot because 3/5th of our projected starting rotation has pitched their way to Norfolk this season. He doesn’t miss bats and he’s a bit of a flyball pitcher, two things that makes his start against the Rangers tonight concerning at the very least.

    Speaking of the rotation, this season has been nothing short of a disaster. Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen pitched their way to the minors earlier in the year and now Brian Matusz lost his velocity and command to the point he was banished to AAA. Bergesen is back up and pitching out of the pen for now, but you have to imagine he’ll get another shot in the rotation since Jakubauskas has been lit up like a roman candle over his last few starts.

    Things haven’t been that good for rookie Zach Britton since May either. Over his last eight starts he’s gone 1-4 with a 5.23 ERA with a batting average against of .299.  How about Jake Arrieta since mid-May? He had a nice June going 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA but in his last eight starts going back to mid-May he’s 4-4 with a 5.66 ERA.

    So to recap, the cavalry has arrived and three of them have pitched their way back to the minors and the other two have ERAs over five in their last eight starts. The minor league system has nothing but guys like Jakubauskas and Atkins ready to step in with the closest true starter prospect being Bobby Bundy in Frederick.

    Don’t get me wrong, Britton will be fine and Arrieta is a solid number four starter, but Matusz and Tillman’s velocity decreases and Bergesen’s lost sinker are concerning.

    Add in the fact that Derrek Lee (.644) and Vladimir Guerrero (.689) are over 35 years old and putting up sub .700 OPSs in traditional power positions and there’s little to think the Orioles are going to suddenly turn things around in the second half. J.J. Hardy (.878) has been great this year and should have been the Orioles All-star representative, but he’s a free agent at the end of the year and he may be more valuable as a trade chip this season.

    Adam Jones (.785 OPS) and first time All-Star Matt Wieters (.709 OPS) are two young players who the Orioles hope will continue to improve, but there’s little to suggest that this team is on the cusp of becoming a contender and they are certainly looking at a 14th straight year of sub .500 baseball.

    I wish I could find us a silver lining but it appears these Orioles are a lot like the other ones we’ve grown accustomed to watching, and the sad part is there no new cavalry on the way to give us hope.

    This offseason, the Orioles have to be major players for Prince Fielder as he’s the only impact player that could help change this team’s fortunes for next season and beyond. The Orioles have to sign him then hope that Britton, Arrieta, and Matusz (BAM) can bounce back and become the real deals while Guthrie continues to anchor the rotation.

    Without Fielder, I don’t see how the Orioles can realistically talk about contending in the next three years or more and even with Fielder, BAM has to step up and be the guys the Orioles hoped they were when they made them the eggs in their future basket.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.