Like 2005, This Could Be A Defining Time For Orioles
A few weeks back, I drew up a cautionary tale of how the Orioles were starting to play like the 2005 Orioles, a team that jumped out to one of the best records in baseball before spiraling out of control midseason.
In 2005, the Orioles reached the All-Star break with a solid record, but after rolling in April and May, June sent signals that the honeymoon was coming to a close. July was a nightmare month, during which the club went 8-18.
The Orioles were 16-7 in April and 15-13 in May of that year, but 12-15 in June. The key month when they faltered was June.
Similarly, the 2012 Orioles surprised in April and May with winning months. The Orioles are reeling right now, having been outscored, 27-6, during the last three games. They're 12-12 in June and are five games out of first place, the farthest they've been all season. They've lost three in a row and have won just three of their last seven.
The Birds of 2012 are starting to turn in all-around miserable performances. Only two regular hitters -- Wilson Betemit and Matt Wieters -- have batted higher than .300 this month, while two -- Brian Roberts and Chris Davis -- are lower than .200. Roberts had a sparkling debut June 12 after a year's absence, but has since been pretty awful. When your leadoff hitter has a .233 on-base percentage, it gets pretty concerning.
Although J.J. Hardy has hit the ball relatively well during the last three games, he's still batting .210, with a .217 OBP.
This is a collective effort, though, as Dan Connolly pointed out in The Sun this morning. The O's, as he noted, are 3-for-52 during their last 10 games with runners in scoring position.
Roberts hasn't provided the spark at the top of the order.
The pitching rotation has its own role to play in this current mess. Wei-Yin Chen is the only starter with a .500 record in June, but his 4.34 ERA this month is his worst since the season began. He gave up six runs in 6.1 innings last night against the Indians. Jason Hammel, who had a poor performance Wednesday, is the only member of the rotation with an ERA less than 4.00 this month.
Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter all have plus-5.00 ERAs in June. The fortune of the Orioles is tied directly to the growth -- or lack of it -- of those three men. As Rick Peterson, the team's director of pitching development, said during a presentation earlier this week, good pitching beats good hitting every time. The Orioles have neither right now.
Manager Buck Showalter has his work cut out for him. Right fielder Nick Markakis should be back around the start or end of the All-Star break.
Markakis is a stabilizer, but he's not a next-gear guy. The Orioles need a guy to put them over the top, and right now, there is no such person in the rotation or the lineup.
Here's a potential danger in this dip. Last week, general manager Dan Duquette said the Orioles would make a move for a playoff push. If the club continues to stumble badly, Duquette is likely to see what so many others do -- it'll take more than one guy to give the team a legitimate push for the playoffs. The odds are good Duquette could see it's not worth it, and remain inactive before the trade deadline. Instead, he might consider this season a success if it gets to .500, and wait until the end of the season to make legitimate moves.
That could take some wind out of the sails of the Orioles fans hoping for an interesting summer and fall. The answers to the Orioles' issues for 2012, contrary to what Duquette said last week, are not inside the organization. If the Birds are going to avoid something similar to 2005, they're going to need some wholesale moves during the next few weeks.
Posted June 29, 2012