PiR: AL West’s Dominance of O’s is Nothing New

O's Steve Pearce reacts to a called third strike.

Reality: The Baltimore Orioles have struggled against the AL West all season.

Perception: This is not a rare occurrence for the O’s. The AL West has never been nice to the Birds. Since 2012, against American League teams only, Baltimore’s lowest winning percentage is against the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Their record against the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics is better. Their best winning percentage? Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians.

Yes, it would have been nice to not lose so many games against the A’s and Astros, but sometimes teams just have your number and right now it’s the AL West for the Orioles.

Their record against the AL Central is great, and it’s obviously good that they are above .500 against their own division, but they have to find a way to increase that percentage against the AL East. This division race is too tight and includes nearly four of the five teams in the division.

Reality: The Orioles pitching has taken a nose-dive.

Perception: For a couple of years, fans have known the weakest link for the O’s has been their starting pitching. But most of this season, I have been saying that I’ve felt it’s still their inconsistent hitting that has been their downfall. Before this Astros series, take a look at their offense this month. They have scored 5, 3, 3, 7, 2, 10, 2, 1, 0, 9, 5, 2, 8, 3, 3. That is an overage of 4 runs per game, and their record is 7-8. In their losses, they have scored an average of 1.75 runs per game. I don’t care how many runs your starting pitching gives up… scoring fewer than two runs per game is not going to win you anything.

Those stats defended my thought that the Orioles needed to add a hitter at the trade deadline, since they couldn’t get a top-of-the-line starter.

However, that Astros series proved just the opposite. With the Orioles scoring 13, 8, 2, and 3 and going 1-3, their pitching has been the reason for their losses, not their offense. The Orioles starters have pitched to a 4.99 ERA, which is 26th in baseball. That means, the offense has to score at least 6 runs to even have a chance to win. And with the Orioles bullpen struggling, they probably have to score even more than that. That is too much, even for this powerful offense.

Reality: Chris Davis had 5 HRs and 5 RBIs this past week.

Perception: The Orioles offense is so much better when Davis is hitting and we have seen him wake up this past week. He is only hitting .221 this season, but just as he hits five home runs in four games, we saw the entire offense come alive.

An issue might be that Mark Trumbo and Davis are all or nothing right now. Both of their last SIX hits have been home runs. We need to see more base hits for this offense to flourish.

J.J. Hardy is hitting better. Steve Pearce hit his first HR as an Oriole this season. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop are hitting. And, well, Hyun Soo Kim always hits. When this team is running on all cylinders, it really doesn’t matter what the starting pitchers are doing, because their offense can carry them. But if they crawl into another hole, their playoff hopes will go out the door.

Reality: The Orioles are 1-5 on the recent home stand.

Perception: For most of the season, the O’s had the best home record in all of baseball…that was, until this past home stand. They are now 0.5 behind the Royals for the best home record in the AL and 4 games behind the Cubs for the best home record in MLB.

The second half of the season has not been a good one for the O’s. They are 9-16 in their last 25 games. They have been held to three runs or less in 21 of the 35 second half games. They had a losing month in July and are having another losing month in August. Their dominance at home game them some hope even when they were playing so poorly on the road. However, if they want to win a playoff series, they are going to have to find that home field advantage once again. Then you are playing seven games below .500 on the road, you have to be nearly unbeatable at home in order to win a three, five, or seven-game series in the post season. A week ago, that looked good. But after losing six of their last seven at home, it doesn’t seem so likely now.

Reality: The Orioles have 39 games remaining and 22 of them are against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox.

Perception: If the Orioles do not make the playoffs, they have no one to blame but themselves. With 56% of their remaining schedule against teams they are fighting against in not only the division but the Wild Card race, they still have plenty of chances to get back into the driver’s seat.

Right now, they are the 2nd Wild Card, but they are still within striking distance of now only the 1st Wild Card and the AL East. There are way too many games left to freak out entirely. I know, I have been freaking out too. Each game the starters last two innings and the offense doesn’t score more than two runs, a lot of Baltimore fans freak out.

But when you back up and take a look at the overall picture, you realize they still control their own destiny.

Win and you’re in. It’s that simple.

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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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