Grading The Orioles' First Half Of 2013Posted on July 11, 2013
|Offense | Defense | Starting Rotation | Bullpen | What's Next?|
By Paul Folkemer
Coming off their unexpected postseason run in 2012, the Orioles entered 2013 with high expectations, aiming to build on last year's success with another strong season. Although the Orioles haven't recaptured all the same magic they had in 2012, they've shown themselves to be a competitive, hard-driven -- if flawed -- baseball team. As the Birds push into the later months of the season and strive for a postseason berth, let's look back at the season's first half to see what's gone right, and what needs to improve.
We'll start with the good news. The Orioles' offense has gelled nicely in 2013, despite few offseason additions, as several members of the young core have taken a step forward. The Orioles led all of baseball in several major categories -- including runs, home runs and OPS -- until falling into a slump in late June and July, which dropped them down a few pegs. Overall, though, the Birds' bats have been doing a nice job of keeping the team competitive in nearly every game.
Let's see ... I'm not sure whether there's any one specific O's hitter who is having a historic, eye-popping, MVP-caliber season. So I guess I'll just move on to the next categ --
Come on, are you kidding? Chris Davis is one of the best hitters on Earth right now.
After hitting 33 home runs in 2012, Davis matched that total on July 6 of this year, during the Orioles' 88th game of the season. His slugging percentage and OPS have outpaced the rest of the American League for the majority of the season. Davis is on pace to beat the Orioles' single-season home run record of 50 -- and 60 or more isn't out of the question. Davis is a big reason the Orioles' offense has been a well-oiled machine this year.
Another big reason has been wunderkind Manny Machado. Even Orioles fans have been surprised at how quickly Machado has developed with the bat during his first full season in the majors. Machado has been a doubles machine, leading all major league hitters in that category with 39 as of July 10 and making a bid to break the all-time record (67 doubles by Earl Webb in 1931). Machado has also been in a neck-and-neck race with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the hits lead in the majors this year. Oh yeah, and he just turned 21 years old July 6. The sky is the limit for the Birds' new young sensation.
It seems like a distant memory now, but there was once a time when Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was dubbed "Mauer with power." He was expected to be as good a contact hitter as Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer (who has a career average higher than .320), while also socking 30-35 home runs per year. Based on the way Wieters tore up the minor leagues, those predictions didn't seem outlandish.
But for whatever reason, the offensive side of Wieters' game hasn't yet developed as hoped in the majors, and 2013 has been his worst season yet. He has struggled to reach a .700 OPS this season, and too often his swings result in weakly hit grounders rather than stinging line drives. On occasion, Wieters has winced in pain while swinging, leading to speculation that he might be playing through an injury. The O's might have to consider giving Wieters a stint on the disabled list to try to refresh his body and his bat, or they can hope he'll heat up in August and September, as he's done during previous seasons.
The Orioles also face frustration with the enigmatic Adam Jones. Jones started the 2013 season like a house ablaze, with 11 home runs and an .882 OPS by the end of May while showing improved selectivity at the plate. But just as he was seemingly on his way to a breakout season, Jones reverted to bad habits that have plagued him in past years, becoming overly aggressive and getting himself out by chasing bad pitches. At one point, Jones went 43 straight games and 184 plate appearances without drawing a walk. The O's need Jones, their usual cleanup hitter, to show more patience and a better ability to get on base in front of Davis.
Issue 187: July 2013