Perception is Reality: Buckling Up for the September Stretch Run

Reality: Chris Davis has 38 Home Runs on the year.

Perception: In terms of Home Runs, Davis has had a really good season. He is likely to hit 40 home runs for the 3rd time in his career. However, when you look inside the numbers a bit more, it has been a really frustrating year.

He is on pace to have the 2nd lowest number of hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, and second-lowest slugging percentage and OPS since his first full season with the Orioles (2012). He is also close to having the most strikeouts he has ever had.

He has been extremely streaky and unfortunately, he has had more lows than highs. His Gold Glove-caliber play at first is a huge plus to his not-so-great offensive season.

While Davis may not be trending up, Mark Trumbo certainly is. He now has career highs in Runs, Total Bases, Home Runs, RBI, Slugging Percentage and OPS. He may not be as good as Davis defensively, but he is everything Orioles fans want to see in Davis at the plate.

Jon Heyman, formerly of CBS Sports, puts Trumbo as the 10th best pending free agent. Heyman also put an early guess of Trumbo’s future contract of three years, $45 million, mentioning his big power and clubhouse presence. If that’s true, that puts Trumbo out of reach for the Orioles.

But you know who isn’t? Heyman says Pedro Alvarez is the 29th best pending free agents and guessing a contract of $8 million for one year. If that’s the case, the Orioles need to sign him to be their everyday DH next year. Alvarez is having a nice season while not playing every day.

But the Orioles also will be looking at pending free agent Matt Wieters and others. So Dan Duquette has a lot to consider.

Reality: The Orioles have a .500 or better season for the 5th straight year.

Perception: How great is that?! I graduated High School the last time the Orioles had a winning season before this latest streak. So I was an adult for the worst years of baseball in Baltimore. It’s nothing I care to remember, except for the fact that it makes these last five years so much sweeter.

But make no mistake of the things that have coincided with these winnings seasons… Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, and Manny Machado.

Duquette and Showalter changed everything about the Orioles. They changed the mentality of the players and the way things work in the front office. The way the 2011 season ended was a perfect foreshadowing of things to come in Baltimore.

Now, we need to make sure it continues. Last year, there were rumors that DD wanted to go to Toronto. An article was written this past week on ESPN that spoke about the Braves’ interest in Showalter as their next manager.

Heyman wrote:

Buck Showalter lent no credence to the rumor that the Braves (and old friend John Hart, the Braves’ president) might pursue him to be their manager, denying he had an out in his contract, and adding that he “wouldn’t want one.” Showalter explained that he is committed to the Orioles.

DD and Buck need to stay and that’s easier to get done than the third piece…signing Manny Machado to a long-term deal. Machado set his career high in home runs Sunday.

Ignore for a moment his sometimes terrible base running and take a look at his numbers. Machado is 10th in the American League in Batting Average. He is 8th in Home Runs. 16th in RBIs. 6th in Hits. 8th in Runs. 4th in Doubles. 5th in Slugging Percentage.

Unlike any of the other Orioles hitters, Machado, at 24, is only getting better. If the Orioles want to remain relevant for years to come, they have to open up the check book and make Manny the highest paid player in baseball. No exceptions.

Reality: Wade Miley pitched four shutout innings Sunday, before leaving with an injury.

Perception: Orioles fans were FREAKING out ever since Buck Showalter announced Miley would start on Sunday. But as I always say, “In Buck We Trust”. How can you do anything else? Nearly everything Buck touches turns to gold. Buck is one of the best managers in baseball and he continually shows why. He has a reason for every move and most of those moves pay off.

Miley had good stats against the Rays leading into Sundays game, so Buck went with the numbers. Miley showed Buck was right, when he retired the first nine hitters he faced. He gave up one hit and walked one in the 4th before leaving the game with an injury.

And as I said most of the week… who else were you going to start?

Tyler Wilson? Mike Wright? Some might say Vance Worley, but he has been so good as his long relief spot, that I’d rather pitch Miley and have Worley ready

Miley did his job and then the bullpen did theirs. So let’s stay behind our players. This is a playoff team with the players they have.

Reality: The Orioles host the Boston Red Sox for four games starting today.

Perception: The biggest series of the season starts tonight in Baltimore. If the O’s had no more games against Boston, then you might have to concede the AL East. But this series will make or break the division for the Birds.

The Red Sox lead the Orioles in the East by 3.0 games [update after Sunday night game]. Those two teams play four games. The O’s have to win three. If they win any less, you can pretty much count out a Division Title, and put all your attention at the 1st Wild Card.

And that is important. The O’s and the Toronto Blue Jays hold the two wild card spots in the American League right now, with Detroit and Seattle just two back of Toronto and Houston three back. The Orioles NEED to hold onto the first spot. With the huge difference in how they play at home versus on the road, they have to be the 1st Wild Card and host the game. Playing in Toronto (or Detroit, or Seattle, or Houston, or…) for just one game is not something I’m hugely confident about.

I’m not going to write about attendance woes (even during a weekend series with playoff implications), but these last seven games at home this week will decide a lot about the Orioles season, especially the next four. The team needs Baltimore behind them…not a half-filled Camden Yards with thousands of Boston fans.

Let’s pack the yard and help carry this team to the playoffs!

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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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