Orioles' Lack Of Depth Is Starting To Show
Dennis Green once ranted after a loss in the NFL that his opponent was "who we thought they were."
The same could be said of the Orioles, who are looking more and more like the team projected back in March.
Chris Tillman didn't just get hammered Monday by the Minnesota Twins. He got demolished. After pitching one of the best games of the year for the Orioles almost two weeks ago, Tillman delivered one of the worst, going two-thirds of an inning during the 19-7 loss. He gave up five hits, two walks and an earned run. But, in total, he allowed seven runs. Tillman was all over the place during his brief outing, and it didn't help that Mark Reynolds' two-run error helped make some of those runs possible.
When the Orioles played the Twins to open the season, Minnesota scored just six runs during the entire series. That's one fewer than the Twins scored during Monday's first inning.
The Orioles were telling themselves during the last two weeks that Tillman was a repaired man with better mechanics. They were banking on him becoming a third reliable starter (before Jason Hammel's right knee injury flared up again) for the rotation.
Zach Britton could be spectacular during his first start of the season and give the Birds hope, but make no mistake about it, this club has one pitcher it can count on every five days now. Wei-Yin Chen is what's keeping this enterprise from completely driving off the road, and he hasn't been getting run support lately, either.
The Orioles once led the AL East, but are nine games behind the Yankees now. They are just three games better than .500 after being 13 better two months ago. They won just four of their last 12 and 17 of their last 38.
This isn't just a team with a rotation problem. It is 19th in runs scored, 26th in batting average and 26th in on-base percentage. They've been outscored, 423-368. Granted, a game such as Monday's might make those numbers look more bloated. But, the big losses are becoming routine.
Good teams simply don't do that. The Yankees, for example, have outscored their opponents, 437-368, a near-perfect flip of the Orioles' numbers.
As constructed, this is a team that is starting to balance itself out in the most disturbing ways at the worst possible time. The Orioles bragged about their depth at the start of the season, while most questioned it. This stretch right here is why. The Orioles were always a club with unproven pitchers and little depth behind them. They always had average players at the corners and lacked a leadoff hitter. They still do. They're just plugging holes, and manager Buck Showalter's job is nothing short of remarkable most nights.
All of this can make it seem as if the sky is falling after a bad loss. The Orioles are still in second place in the AL East and are just a few wins behind the Wild Card-leading Los Angeles Angels. The problem is a team such as the Tigers is surging. Even the Oakland Athletics are on the rise, with an identical record to the Orioles. Cleveland also has the same record.
The Orioles were once in rarified air. Now they're keeping the wings on the place with band-aids.
Heading into the All-Star break, general manager Dan Duquette said the Orioles would enter the trade market like contenders. Duquette would be wise not to think that way. The Orioles won't find answers to their myriad of problems in the organization, let alone ones that will make them surge in the AL East.
The Orioles made great strides earlier during the year. They should continue to think of this as a development year with plenty of good teases and ride out this campaign with the tools they have. That sounds as if I'm encouraging the team to throw up its hands and accept defeat. I'm not. I'm saying that the team has gotten this far by fighting and scratching. Showalter won't have them do anything less, but fans shouldn't expect them to be capable of more.
Posted July 17, 2012