Barring any rain outs the Orioles will play game 81 of the 2014 season Sunday afternoon when they close out this 4-game series with the Rays. Sunday will mark the mid-point of the season and if the second half is similar to the first half it should be a lot of fun for Oriole fans. Going into Friday’s doubleheader the Orioles were in second place in the AL East and tied with first place Toronto in the loss column. The Blue Jays lead the division by 2 games but they’ve 4 more games than the Orioles.
To me it looks like the Orioles are an 85-90 win team, but that’s where it gets a little tricky. I think 90 games might win the division if not earn a wild card spot, 85 wins not so sure. Injuries, what teams add in trades and baseball luck will all factor in. Let’s take a look at some projections and over and under achievers so far this season.
Looking at over achievers the leader of the pack is Nelson Cruz. O’s Nellie has been sensational and is a legit MVP candidate. It’s highly unlikely he can maintain his current pace but if he did Cruz would wind up with something like 50 homers, 130 RBI’s and a .290 something batting average. So far O’s Nellie is an $8 million dollar steal.
How ‘bout Steve Pearce, didn’t see this coming. Pearce is hitting around .330, hitting the long ball and playing solid D in the outfield and at first base. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are both playing like the steady all-stars that they are. Jones looks like he’s headed for another 30 HR/100 RBI season and Markakis has been rock solid at the top of the order.
There’s room to improve for guys like JJ Hardy and Chris Davis. Hardy is hitting over .290 but his missing home runs might show up in the 2nd half. Davis’s first half has been a struggle that included a trip to the DL. He won’t repeat his off the charts 2013 season but he should be good for 30 home runs.
Manny Machado has a suspension to serve but I’m betting his second half will be better than the first. Matt Wieters won’t be back until next season and you don’t get better losing his assets but the combination of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley are capable replacements.
Pitching is the name of game and that will determine if the summer of 2014 will be one to remember for Orioles fans. The addition of Kevin Gausman could be a difference maker in the second half. Is the prospect ready to take off or will he be plagued with inconsistency like a many other young talented arms? Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are on pace to win around 15 games and both have earned solid grades. Chris Tillman hasn’t been as good as last year but he’s good enough.
The weak links in the rotation have been Miguel Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez. After a great second half in Cleveland last year the Orioles rewarded Ubaldo with a 4 year/$50 million deal. So far he’s been as bad as Nelson Cruz has been good. The bullpen has been solid; Tommy Hunter’s closing struggles were cleaned up by Zach Britton. They O’s can’t control the running game like they could with Matt Wieters but their defense is certainly good enough to win. So strap on your seat belt and be prepared for what should be a wild second half ride. The Birds should be right in the thick of it.
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