Thursday Thoughts: O’s Offense Has Been Biggest Problem in Slow Start

Jonathan Schoop takes a swing.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. This week’s Thoughts are going to start out with a shameless plug. Per usual, I wrote a piece over at MASNSports.com on Monday. I also joined the Locked On Orioles podcast with host Justin McGuire to discuss the piece, as well as the O’s early season attendance struggles. It’s a very easy listen of just over 20 minutes, so I encourage you to give it your time.

2. We’€™re two weeks into the season, and the Orioles are already feeling their comeuppance when it comes to their Rule 5 picks. Earlier this week, the team designated left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment. Cortes will now be claimed by a team or likely offered back to the Yankees if no deal can be worked out to keep him in the organization. He gave up four runs and 10 hits while walking four in just 4.2 IP. He also gave up two grand slams in his brief appearances.

Things also haven’€™t been all roses for outfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 holdover from last year. He’s hitting just .194/.256/.333 with one homer and two doubles and has also looked like a minor leaguer at times in the field. Santander and Pedro Araujo remain on the roster, but the whole idea of having three Rule 5 players on the roster to start the season is part of the reason the Orioles are so frustrating. It would’ve been nice to have seen them go out and put major league players on their roster to start the season.

Players like Jarrod Dyson or Jon Jay would’ve been better options in the outfield than Santander, or for that matter Colby Rasmus.

3. Speaking of Rasmus, is there a chance he’s already played his last game in an Oriole uniform? After going on the DL earlier this week with a hip issue, there’s still no clear timetable for his return. Originally, the team had said about a week. Rasmus’€™ start to the season couldn’€™t have gone much worse. He’€™s hitting .095/.174/.143 with 13 strikeouts in 21 at-bats. The only thing that could keep Rasmus around a bit longer is Mark Trumbo’s continued absence.

Rasmus was always a curious case to me. He walked away from baseball in the middle of last season when with Tampa Bay. He had been bothered by his hip then as well, but it seemed more like a pseudo-retirement than an injury. Then he all of a sudden reemerged this spring to join the O’€™s outfield battle.

I’m not questioning the motivation of Rasmus, but he’s surely going to have to show something if he wants to stick around. Fans are already restless.

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GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

4. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Andrew Cashner’s last two starts. He obviously didn’t get off on the best foot in his first game as an Oriole but has proven his worth since then. After allowing five runs (four earned) in five innings in his first start, Cashner has pitched to a 0.69 ERA over 13 innings against the Yankees and Blue Jays since, with an 11:6 K:BB ratio. Alex Cobb makes his debut for the Birds this weekend, and it’s expected he will inject something good into this rotation. But if Cashner can keep up even half of what he’€™s done in his past two starts, along with Dylan Bundy at the top, the O’€™s rotation has a chance to be decent.

There are still major issues to be worked out with both Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman, but having 3/5ths of a rotation is more than we’ve been able to say for a long time when it comes to the O’s.

5. The biggest storyline about the struggles of this Orioles roster in the early going is surprisingly not the pitching. The offense has been an unmitigated disaster. What’s most frustrating is that the problems the lineup is having are the same problems we’€™ve seen over the years. The Orioles are built on the home run. It’s something that works well in the middle of the season when the weather is warm and the ball carries. It doesn’t work as well on 40-degree nights in April or when the weather cools in September.

They have failed to go out and get players with high on-base capabilities to supplement the offense. The three-run home run approach only works when you get runners on base. The O’s have already been no-hit deep into games twice this season.

Until the weather warms up, and because of how this roster is built, expect that trend to continue.

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