It didn’t take much to get Earl Weaver worked up. Among his many pet-peeves was that innocent question from a reporter about his team’s start. Earl would huff and puff and say something like “What the hell is a start”, is it a week, two weeks, a month, two months you tell me what the hell a start is.” With all due respect to the late Orioles Hall of Fame skipper I like to use the Preakness or Memorial Day as a gauge. By the third Saturday in May or this Memorial Day weekend we’ve reached the quarter pole in the season.
With between 25 and 30 percent of the 162 game schedule in the books, what have we learned about Buck’s Birds who enter the Holiday weekend with a pedestrian 23-22 record? Here are some things I like at the quarter pole. Like their breakthrough season of 2012 the Orioles have been good in 1-run (10-6) and extra-inning games (4-1).
After a slow start the starting pitching, while not spectacular, has been solid. You won’t confuse the O’s rotation with the Tigers, there’s really no ace in the group and yes you’d like to see the starters go deeper in games but I think collectively there’s enough there to win.
The Oriole defense is still among the best in the game, the early loss of Manny Machado caused some problems at 3rd base and if Matt Wieters is lost for the season his defense will be hard to replace. David Lough is an outfield highlight reel but he needs to end his season long hitting slump to stay on the field. The gloves may not be quite as good as the record setting 2013 Orioles but defense shouldn’t keep the Orioles from being contenders.
The Orioles bats have been spotty, terrible weather and good pitching had them sputtering in April and May wasn’t a lot better until they broke out with heavy lumber this past week. The best should be yet to come, other than Nelson Cruz most Orioles are well below their career numbers. They’ll miss some pop as long as Matt Wieters is out but Chris Davis, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop could heat up with the summer weather. So let’s pass out a few awards as we pass the quarter pole on this ’14 Orioles season.
MVP- It’s Unanimous, O’s Nellie!! Nelson Cruz has been a God send. He’s not only the Orioles MVP he’s a top 5 candidate for American League MVP.
Cy Guy- Zach Britton has been filthy. Set-up or closer his 95mph sinker has been unhittable. His ERA is the 2nd lowest among AL relief pitchers.
ROY- Jonathan Schoop is the only Orioles rookie playing every day, his batting average is on the wrong side of .230, but I like his future. His glove, his arm his power potential make him an intriguing prospect.
With 45 down and 117 games to play the Orioles like the rest of the pack in the American League East look ordinary. They’ve overcome closer issues and injuries to key players like Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters and are a tick over .500. I’ll give the O’s a B-minus for their start but only if Earl Weaver allows me to call this a start.
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