A comment on the last post apologized for going off-topic by mentioning the Orioles’ recent slide; but that’s what I was going to write about tonight, anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I was going to write a post complaining about how people kept describing the Orioles as “trying to avoid a 100-loss season”; at the time, they were 60-85 and seemed well on their way to beating their history of bad Septembers, having already won more games than they did in the dismal September of 2008. I didn’t get around to writing that post; and twelve straight losses later, a hundred losses seems more likely than not. But I feel good about this team, even better than I did last August. Hereunder find the argument that the Orioles are not really that bad.
- First of all, the Orioles are plain unlucky, playing 5 games worse than their Pythagorean record of 65-92. They might be the worst team in the league, but it’s not clear they’re much worse than Cleveland or Kansas City. Unfortunately, they’re nowhere close to catching the Blue Jays or the Rays, let alone the Yankees or Red Sox. Which brings us to:
- The unbalanced schedule. The Orioles are 20-47 against the AL East, the toughest division in baseball. Against the rest of the league they’re 40-50. Put the Orioles in the Central, with 18 games each against the Indians and Royals, and I think they’re 15 games behind the Tigers instead of 40 behind the Yankees.
- Every team has injuries, but the 2009 Orioles are surely missing more key parts than anybody. Our two most effective starters, Koji Uehara and Brad Bergesen, missed most of the season. Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, two young pitchers who came up midseason and made effective starts, are done for the year, as is Kam Mickolio, the only guy who’s pitched well out of the bullpen since we traded George Sherrill. Two-thirds of the outfield, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones, have been gone for more than a month, and one of their replacements, Felix Pie, is hurt too. The guys on the field right now are the third choices of a third-rate team. It’s not shocking they can’t beat the Red Sox.
- Dave Trembley is probably going to get fired for the Orioles’ bad performance. And for the first time I can remember, I actually do think the manager deserves some blame. He loves to use lots of relievers, carefully selecting for platoon advantage or just because he thinks one inning, even an eight-pitch inning, is enough. But with a bullpen like this one, stocked with guys who could be good or terrible on any night, I think a different strategy is called for. The strategy is “If a reliever is getting people out you leave him in until he stops getting people out.”
- Players on the Orioles who are very likely to produce more in 2010 than in 2009: Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Koji Uehara, Brad Bergesen. That’s most of a team right there. And kind of a good team.
But not as good a team as the 2010 Yankees or the 2010 Red Sox. And that’s the one thing that’s hard about being an Orioles fan — and, I imagine, about being a Tampa Bay or Toronto fan. The best-case scenario is the 2008 Rays — absolutely everything goes right and you make it into the playoffs and after a couple of short series you win a pennant. And then the next year you’re 10 games back and stuck in third place again. I can see the Orioles winning a pennant in the current system. But I can’t see them (or Toronto, or Tampa Bay) building a team that can contend long-term under current conditions.
Prove me wrong, Orioles!