Many of us at Eutaw Street Report started writing about the Baltimore Orioles because of our love for the team. We were fans before we became journalists. In some cases, like mine, we went to school to become journalists so that we could write specifically about the Orioles.
At times, our fandom comes out, the same as you. Knee jerk reactions are part of the process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed at my television, or told Chris Davis or any other struggling player that he sucks, knowing full well that nobody can hear me.
It is because of this fandom that often, for the sake of staying away from bias in journalism, I tell myself to take some time before writing an article after an Orioles cold streak, and even hot streak; it goes both ways. At this moment, however, no amount of time between the end of the last miserable loss and the writing of this article will cause me to venture from the cold, hard truth, and that is this:
The Orioles are a lost and foundering franchise.
At 5-11, the Orioles are off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. It should tell you all you need to know that Dylan Bundy has a sparkling 1.40 ERA in four starts covering 25.2 IP, yet has a 0-2 record to show for it.
Chris Tillman, perhaps saddled with some bad luck having to face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in his first three starts coming off a disastrous 2017, has an ERA of 11.91. Meanwhile, Alex Cobb allowed seven earned runs is his first turn with his new team after being labeled by many as a savior of sorts for the franchise.
The best options in the minor leagues to help the backend of the rotation are David Hess, who leaves much to be desired (read his scouting report here), and Hunter Harvey, who has logged just 146.1 professional innings since being drafted in the first round in 2013.
As per usual, the Orioles turned to the Rule V draft in December to try to bolster their pitching staff. While most teams make just one selection, the Orioles made three selections in addition to their Rule V layover from last season, Anthony Santander.
For the math whizzes out there, that’s four Rule V picks on the spring roster, and three of them actually made it to Baltimore for Opening Day. Pedro Araujo and Anthony Santander remain, but Nestor Cortes, Jr. and Jose Mesa, Jr. have both been returned to the New York Yankees. Still, two Rule V picks on one roster is not a way to chase a pennant.
Look at all the playoff teams from 2017. Only the Twins and Angels have a Rule V player on the roster. The Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies didn’t even make a pick. Neither did Toronto, who didn’t make the playoffs in 2017 but are currently in second place in the AL East. Again, the Orioles took three.
Offensively, the Orioles seem to go ice cold as a unit for extended periods. If the ball doesn’t leave the ballpark, the team doesn’t win. Only four teams have hit fewer home runs than Baltimore in the American League in 2018, not a good sign for a team that relies so heavily on the long ball.
The Orioles rank 29 out of 30 teams with a .216 batting average and are hitting .217 with runners in scoring position after finishing second in the AL in that category a season ago (.287). Their .286 OBP is 28th in the league and they are averaging just 3.19 R/G. In fact, the Orioles have scored three runs or less in 11 of 16 games this season.
Chris Davis is hitting .132 with two extra-base hits and 18 strikeouts in 53 at-bats. Adam Jones’ average is down to .221, and that average dips down to .118 with RISP. Jonathan Schoop’s bat heated up just in time for him to go on the disabled list with a strained oblique, an injury known to keep players sidelined for up to a month.
The two bright spots in the lineup have been Trey Mancini (.349/.429 in 10 games batting leadoff) and Manny Machado (.308/.392 in 16 games), the latter of which has been at the center of trade speculation for the better part of the last two seasons.
Speaking of trading Machado, does anybody have heightened expectations of what the Orioles could get for him? The team and its collective brass haven’t done much to instill confidence that they can competently get a return to match the caliber of player Manny has become.
Dan Duquette admittedly hasn’t talked to Machado or his representatives about an extension in a couple of years, and Duquette himself appears to have one foot out the door as his contract expires at the end of the season.
In addition to the possible (probable) departures of Duquette and Machado, Buck Showalter, Adam Jones, Brad Brach, and Zach Britton all have expiring contracts after the season, and Schoop’s is up after 2019. Are the Orioles going to make the same mistake with Schoop that they made with Machado? They seem to be venturing down the same path.
Now look, it is entirely too early to write the season off after a 5-11 start, just like it was too soon to crown the ball club after they started 22-10 in 2017. The Orioles most certainly will play better baseball as 27 of the team’s next 38 games are against sub-.500 teams, and 18 of the next 27 games will be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We could be having a very different and very refreshing conversation about the Orioles by the time the Nationals come to town on May 28th.
Still, a 58-88 record since May 10, 2017 speaks for itself, and the lack of starting pitching depth in this organization remains a huge problem. One injury to Cobb, Cashner, Bundy or Gausman could be the final nail in the coffin for the Baltimore Orioles.
The season is by no means over on April 16, but as Yogi Berra used to say, “it’s getting late early,” here in Baltimore.