PiR: O’s Bats Cool As Summer Sizzles On

Manny Machado finishes his swing and watches as the ball flies, while the Blue Jays catcher stands behind him.

Reality: The Orioles have struggled to score runs since the All-Star Break.

Perception: Before Thursday’s win, the Orioles had scored just two runs in the previous three games. For a team that leads the league in home runs and is in the Top 10 in baseball in average, runs, and RBIs, the Yankees series was just not a good one.

Only three players are hitting over .231 since the break. They have only had 13 extra base hits in seven games. Outside of Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy, no one is hitting well in the last week.

Now, you can find excuses. Chris Davis missed a few games. Manny Machado missed a game. Matt Wieters and Adam Jones missed some time. Heck, even their manager missed a game.

We’ve seen in the first half of the year that the Orioles are a good team and seven games into the second half doesn’t change that. They were in a big slump in New York – hopefully it ends at home.

Reality: The Orioles have not hit well with the bases loaded.

Perception: With the bases loaded, the Orioles are 23rd in baseball (and 13th out of 15 teams in the American League) with a .259 on-base percentage. The Orioles have the 7th most (2nd most in the AL) strikeouts with the bases loaded.

Surprisingly, however, is that the Orioles rank 6th in the fewest runners left in scoring position per game, with 3.16. They are 15th with 4.15 runners left on base per game.

The O’s also have the 7th highest batting average (.276) with runners in scoring position.

As I watch each game, I would never have said the O’s were doing that well with runners on, but the stats don’t lie.

Reality: The Orioles bench is struggling.

Perception: The Orioles bench is short with the injuries and flu bug that’s going around. Seeing the outfield, Thursday consist of Ryan Flaherty, Julio Borbon, and Nolan Reimold had me worried for the future. When the outfield is Hyun Soo Kim, Adam Jones, and Mark Trumbo, you are talking about a great offensive outfield and an average defensive outfield.

But with Kim on the DL and Jones hurting, I’m left to think about the bench and the playoffs.

If the Orioles need a pinch-hitter, who are they going to get? If Pedro Alvarez is not playing, then he’s a good option. He reminds me of Delmon Young in that position. But what’s after him?

Ryan Flaherty is hitting .077 since the All-Star break and just .221 overall. Nolan Reimold is hitting .071 since the All-Star break and .254 overall. They have also tried Borbon, Fernando Pena, and Paul Janish and they are strictly defensive replacements.

As much as we talk about finding pitching help over the next nine days, I’m beginning to think we need to find bench help too… although I don’t see it happening. Where is Delmon Young when we need him?

(This never gets old)

Reality: Chris Tillman is tied for the most wins by a starting pitcher in all of baseball.

Perception: Chris Tillman is tied with Chris Sale for the most wins by a starting pitcher. They both have 14 wins. Tillman is 14-2 in 21 games, while Sale is 14-3 in 19 games. They have given up equal amounts of hits and runs. They are equal in the amount of ground outs and fly outs they have. The biggest difference is that Sale has struck out more, walked less, and has three complete games.

Is Tillman an ace? That debate seems like the same thing as is Joe Flacco elite?

For the Orioles, Tillman is an ace. The Orioles haven’t had a pitcher like this since Mike Mussina. In the last four seasons, Tillman has been a clear ace in three of them (2013, 2014, 2016).

J.J. Hardy likes him. He said Thursday, “We needed [him to throw like that]. That’s what ace’s do. He’s our ace and that’s what they do. Every time they take the mount you’ve got a good chance to win.”

Caleb Joseph said, “He’s been kind of our stopper the whole season and he proved that again today.” Joseph defined a stopper as “a guy that can come in and shut the door down. A guy who can come in after a few losses and just right the ship.”

Whether he is a “pure ace”, meaning he would be #1 on any team, doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is a good innings eater and a stopper for the Orioles. He has pitched 7.0 innings in each of his last four starts. He has an ERA of 1.29 and has won each of them. He has also ended an Orioles losing streak of at least three games four times this season.

Could he be the first Orioles pitching since Mike Boddicker in 1984 to win 20 games? He has a good chance.

Reality: Zach Britton is 30-for-30 in save opportunities in 2016.

Perception: 30-for-30. 0 blown saves. 0.66 ERA. 0.80 WHIP.

Seriously… I’m not sure you can pitch any better.

The Mets Jeurys Familia is 33-for-33 but has an ERA of 2.44, and has given up 15 more hits and nine more earned runs in just three more innings of work than Britton.

Over the last four seasons, Britton has 103 saves in 111 opportunities. He is the best closer in baseball right now.

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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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