PiR: It’s Going to be a Tense Final Week in Birdland

Wade Miley of the Orioles pitches.

Reality: Trey Mancini became the 3rd player in MLB history to hit a home run in each of his first three starts.

Perception: Mancini has been great so far. He is 4-for-11 with a double and three home runs. He has five RBI and two strike outs. Obviously, his career is not going to continue like that, but it’s a nice start and it’s been a good pick-up for a team that was really struggling offensively.

Mancini got his chance after spending three-plus seasons in the minors. He was always eyed as a future major leaguer as he hit .306 in his minor league career with 54 home runs and 275 RBI in 483 games. The biggest question is where will Mancini play when not batting?

For every single one of his starts in the minors, Mancini played first base. During his three starts for the Orioles he has played DH. When the Orioles signed Chris Davis to that long-term deal, the question for most fans was, what does that mean for Mancini and Christian Walker?

Walker, who is projected to be at least a serviceable major league hitter, was moved to the outfield in 2016 to try to find another position for him to play in the majors. It hasn’t been an easy transition and it seems as though his hitting has been affected by the move.

The Orioles did not move Mancini’s position, but he obviously won’t start at 1B in Baltimore. Davis will be in the running for a Gold Glove at first base, so you aren’t going to move him to RF or to DH. So you have to move Mancini from his natural position. Mancini doesn’t seem to be a stereotypical DH in the majors, and I would like to see them re-sign Pedro Alvarez to be the everyday DH next season. If they don’t do that, then you could rotate Davis and Mancini between DH and 1B next season.

Or… and I know this will be very unpopular… do the Orioles try to trade Mancini in the offseason for a starting pitcher? Davis’ contract will make him un-tradeable, so do you move Mancini, if there is no other position for him? His stock has never been higher.

Reality: The current six starting pitchers for the Orioles are all under contract for 2017.

Perception: I think most would agree that they are very content starting next season with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Dylan Bundy at the top of the rotation next year. But September has been pretty good for the Orioles’ other three starters.

Wade Miley pitched very well Saturday. Yovani Gallardo pitched six strong innings in his last start. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched seven innings twice in his last three starts, and pitched a complete game two-hitter this month.

Plus, Vance Worley might have been the Orioles most consistent pitcher not named Zach Britton this season, and he is arbitration eligible.

For all the fans that just want to cut ties with Gallardo, Jimenez, or Miley… it is NOT going to happen. There is a lot of money tied into those guys and the team will hope that with some rest and offseason work that they can provide some quality starts for the team next year.

It will be interesting to see what happens, especially if the Orioles try to find another starter to add in the offseason. If that happens, they will definitely need to move one or two starters.

Reality: The Orioles failures in the second half of the season start and end with the offense.

Perception: If you listen to the national media, the talk has been and continues to be about the Orioles’ (lack of) pitching. Watch any baseball show outside of Baltimore and they continue to question whether the Orioles can make the playoffs, and if they do if they can do anything in the playoffs, because of their rotation.

But in the past week, the Orioles have scored 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6, and 2 runs. That is simply NOT good enough to win games (unless you’re lucky enough to be playing Arizona). You can’t blame pitchers for that. That is all on the hitters.

Before the All-Star Break, the Orioles ranked 3rd in the AL (5th in MLB) in Batting Average and 3rd in AL (8th in MLB) in On-Base Percentage.

After the All-Star Break, the Orioles rank last in the AL and 29th (out of 30) in MLB in Batting Average as well as On-Base Percentage.

The Orioles pitching staff has held pretty steady with an ERA of 4.43 before the break and 4.23 after the break.

What does all that equal? A cold Orioles offense has cost them the AL East and might cost them the playoffs altogether. But keep listening to the national media, if you want, and blame the pitching staff.

Reality: The Orioles finish their regular with three games in Toronto, starting Tuesday, followed by three games against the Yankees in New York.

Perception: For as big as this past week’s series against the Red Sox was, this week’s series in Toronto means even more. The Sox series was for the division, but this Jays series is for the playoffs.

The Blue Jays currently lead the Orioles by 1.5 games for the first Wild Card, while the Detroit Tigers trail the O’s by 1.5 games for the second Wild Card.

The Orioles cannot be swept in Toronto, and they really need to win at least two out of three. The O’s cannot be content with winning the second Wild Card. They must fight for the first. Hopefully, the Birds offense understands that and shows up to Toronto.

The Yankees will then try to play spoiler to end the Orioles season. Most likely, the Yankees will be eliminated from playoff contention by the time Baltimore arrives, but that won’t make them try to win any less.

It’s the final week of the regular season, but it means the most for the Orange and Black. Take your headache medicine and clean your finger nails, because it’s going to be a tense week.

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About Joe Polek

Joe Polek
Joe Polek was born in Baltimore, MD, and was raised in Bel Air, MD. In 2001, he moved to Portland, Maine for a job in radio. In 2012, he moved to Columbia, SC for another gig in radio, where he currently resides with his wife, Nicole, and their two daughters....more

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