Baseball is weird and the Orioles are weird and I don’t understand any of it.
Had you asked me a month ago what I thought of the 2017 Orioles, I would have told you that I expected the team to win about 95 games. Somehow, they had managed a 22-10 record despite an injured “ace” in Chris Tillman, an injured All-Star closer in Zach Britton (and Brad Brach struggling as the replacement), two starters (Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman) with earned run averages over 6.00, a normally consistent Darren O’Day with an ERA over 5.00, the entire heart of the order (Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo) posting on base + slugging percentages (OPS) well under .800, and cumulative team defense far below the standard we have seen set in recent years.
I don’t think it would have been too far out of the realm of possibility to expect that once a few of those players returned to their regular form, a team underperforming but still winning would transform from lucky to legit…or something like that. Sure, Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley were both unexpectedly dominant. New acquisitions Seth Smith and Welington Castillo provided bright spots on offense while Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini both showed continued signs of promise. Aside from those six guys, the only things to really get excited about were some solid long relief appearances from Alec Asher, Gabriel Ynoa, and Logan Verrett, if you can really consider that “excitement.”
All things considered, the O’s seemed to be in a pretty good spot. With Tillman due back and Gausman sure to figure something out eventually, the rotation seemed poised to potentially return to as good a form as it had been in since 2014. O’Day and Brach surely would return to their old selves and Britton would be back soon. The middle of the order would start hitting, right?
Instead, Tillman looks hurt and Gausman has no idea where the ball is going when he releases it. Miley seems to have remembered that he isn’t very good. Britton returned to action and was promptly sent right back to the disabled list. Machado is batting .218 and Davis strikes out more than my friends and me at the bar. Castillo has been out with an unfortunate testicular injury a la 2016 Caleb Joseph and Smith’s on base percentage has dropped 60 points in the past three weeks.
In addition, not that All-Star fan voting matters a whole lot, but the Orioles have just three guys in the top five at their respective positions. To put it simply, the pitching has been abysmal and the offense has been uncharacteristically poor.
Put it all together and you have a team that sits at an even .500 with a run differential of negative 43, somehow just one game out of a Wild Card spot.
To make matters worse, the Yankees roster looks like it has reincarnated versions of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and DiMaggio.
One of the best running jokes of the past five seasons has been the preseason projections that consistently put the Orioles in last place. Numbers hate the Orioles. They are impossible to predict. It’s an anomaly for which I’ve sought answers but have yet to come up with anything plausible that makes the slightest bit of sense. Is it Buck? Maybe.
But right now it looks like those projections may be onto something.
A three-game series at Yankee Stadium in which the Orioles were outscored 38-8 sent O’s fans parachuting into despair this weekend. Starting pitchers surrendered 19 runs in 10.2 innings in the series and that includes Bundy’s quality start on Friday night. Mike Wright was bad. Stefan Crichton was worse. Edwin Jackson was so bad he got cut. Jimmy Yacabonis did not fare well in his debut.
Last night was not much better, as the O’s surrendered another ten runs, this time to the last place Chicago White Sox.
OH, and now Chris Davis is hurt! He’ll probably end up missing several weeks, if not months, with an oblique injury that forced him from last night’s game.
At least he probably won’t break the strikeout record now!
I haven’t seen the Birds in this much of a wreck since I watched one slam into my apartment window and drop 20 feet to its death. That makes for an interesting and graphic metaphor considering the team flew to a 22-10 start and has now lost 21 of its last 30 games.
The point of this article, I guess, is that baseball is incredibly dumb and my favorite team makes me sad. I’m not here to provide any answers or to suggest firing our GM or our manager. I haven’t been able to logically convince myself to start trading guys away. As much as I would love to pretend I know the first thing about running a competitive baseball team, there’s a reason other people are in charge while I’m sitting in a hotel room in Kansas City, still in my bath towel at almost 1:00 in the afternoon.
Sooner or later, the O’s will go on one of those week-long tears where they win six of seven and give us hope for the remainder of the season, only to crush that hope again the following week.
That’s how this goes, right? Tell me I’m wrong. Please. I’m begging you. I cannot take much more of this.
I just want to start winning again.