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. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver–Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
What that move is, remains to be seen.
Jimenez is due for his next start on Sunday, but that might not happen. There’s a good chance Showalter tries to throw Jayson Aquino or Alec Asher into the role, and shift Jimenez to the bullpen. There’s a large contingent of fans who simply want to see the O’s cut their losses with Jimenez and send him packing.
In years past, the argument against that was what it would cost the club. Being in the last year of his contract, the cost is already sunk into Jimenez and the Orioles wouldn’t be losing as much. This would be all fine and good if Dan Duquette had gone out this offseason and actually found better options. Maybe Aquino and Asher can be that, but I have little to no confidence in it happening.
Instead, the team has signed and traded for a number of AAAA pitchers who aren’t sure rotation bets. This is what makes cutting ties with Jimenez so risky. He’s only going to give you a good outing once out of every five or six turns in the rotation.
Can the O’s rely on someone else giving them a better chance every fifth day? If so, then cut ties.
But no one (and that includes you, me and Duquette) can guarantee that’s the case.
2. Chris Davis has been another hot topic of conversation, and unfortunately it’s not for the massive amount of power he puts behind the ball when he connects. Instead, it’s for the lack of swinging he’s been doing.
Davis has struck out looking 31 times this season, which is staggering. It’s so staggering because the person in second place in that category (San Diego’s Ryan Schimpf) has struck out just 22 times looking. That’s a large gap.
It’s frustrating to see Davis swing through pitches and miss, but at least he’s trying to make contact. Since 2013, Davis has K’d looking an astonishing 269 times. Second place in that category goes to Justin Upton, who has just 206. Baseball God Mike Trout happens to be third with 201.
Davis seems to be at his best when he’s keeping his head down on the ball and driving it the opposite way. But he can’t do that if he doesn’t swing the bat. Lately it’s been on his shoulder far too often.
Plate discipline is one thing, but what he’s doing is something totally different.
3. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Manny Machado this season. He started out the season very poorly, seemed to get a bit of a spark right around when the Red Sox decided to throw baseballs at him, and has gone back to playing fairly poorly.
No one expects him to hit .300, but he’s nowhere close to that this season. The only saving grace is that Machado’s walk rate is much higher than in previous seasons. Despite hitting just .218, his OBP is up at .309 due to an 11.3% BB rate. He’s never even cracked 10% in his career.
Machado’s line-drive percentage is also down, though his BABIP is also super low. He’s basically an enigma at this point, and it’s easy to think he’ll eventually turn things around offensively. But it’s also entirely possible for him to have a down season, similar to what happened to Bryce Harper last year. Even with a strong on-base percentage of .373, Harper hit just .243 with 24 home runs. That followed his NL MVP campaign of 2015 when he hit .330 with 42 round trippers.
What is somewhat bothersome about Machado’s recent play is an apparent lack of interest. He’s been called out plenty on social media and by others for it recently. All of this is going to spark more talk about how he won’t re-sign here and should be traded.
I just want to see him play well for however long he wears an Orioles uniform.
4. I was somewhat surprised to see Michael Bourn depart the Orioles quietly yesterday. I got the vibe that the O’s really wanted to see if they could fit him into the picture with the big league club. The broken finger in spring training simply derailed his chances. Bourn was a small contributor late last season, and possesses the tools to help out, even at the age of 34.
The issue of course, is that there are too many corner outfielders in Baltimore. Unless there was another injury to Joey Rickard or Hyun-soo Kim falling off the Earth (as if he hasn’t already), there wasn’t going to be room for Bourn. Back in 2011 and 2012, I remember Bourn being a player I really wanted the O’s to focus on in their search for outfielders. At the time, he was impressing for the Braves. Instead, he went on to Cleveland and broke my heart.
There’s always a chance he latches on to another team, but it could also very well be the end of the road for him.
5. I can’t help but think that the Orioles really started this downward trend they’ve been on during that Yankees series in New York during the last weekend of April. It felt like a turning point at the time, and it’s only reaffirmed when I glance back at what’s happened since. The O’s have had a six-game winning streak that included a sweep of the White Sox mixed in there, but they’ve gone 10-12 since the end of that series.
You remember, that’s the one where the Birds blew a 9-1 lead and lost 14-11 in ten innings on Friday night. Then on Saturday they came out and allowed Ubaldo Jimenez to get his face beat in to the tune of a 12-4 loss. Sunday looked like more disaster as the Orioles coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth but went on to win 7-4 in 11 innings.
That series seemed to drag a lot out of the team, and it also seemed to change them a bit. There’s obviously still a lot of time left, but it’s going to take some kind of spark to get them going again.
Playing sub-.500 ball the rest of the way isn’t going to get it done.