It wasn’t real good and it wasn’t that bad, but it was consistently inconsistent. The O’s 44-44 record at the All-Star break smacks of ordinary. To get back into Postseason baseball for the third time in four years, the Orioles will have to do better starting Friday night in Detroit. The good news is the AL East is wide open and the Orioles are only 4 games back.
You don’t get points for last year, but recent history says the Orioles know they’re capable of getting much better in the second half. A year ago the Orioles were up a game with a 52-42 record at the break when they hit their stride, Buck’s Birds went 44-24 in the second half to finish 96-66 and win the East by 12 games.
Here are 4 key reasons why the Orioles could be back to back American League East champs.
Adam Jones — The 5 time All-Star is the unquestioned team leader and is central to all good things Orange and Black. He’ll need to improve over his last two and half months. After a torrid April the Gold Glove centerfielder has only hit .242 with 9 homers and 24 RBI. The Orioles hitting hasn’t been terrible, they’re 8th of 30 teams in runs scored and fifth in home runs but the bats have disappeared at times. Adam Jones can’t do it alone but if he has a big second half the offense should find the missing consistency.
Chris Tillman — He doesn’t have the Jones resume and he isn’t as vocal but he’s the leader of the pitching staff and his first half was, well, CRAP. After pitching over 200 innings in both of the past two years with a 29-13 record Tillman was the O’s closest thing to an ace. This season in a crazy role reversal he looks more like the bad Ubaldo Jimenez of a year ago and Ubaldo looks like the good Tillman. If Tillman doesn’t rebound from his ugly first half (6-7, 5.40 ERA) I don’t think the Orioles make the post-season. He’s only allowed 1 run in 2 of his last 3 starts so maybe he’s ready to take off.
Gausman/Norris — Lets call this a 2-headed monster the Orioles need at least one of the two to step up down the stretch. Norris has pitched himself out of a rotation spot (and probably a fat FA contract) with a train-wreck of a first half. He won 15 games last year and is an intense competitor just maybe he can make something out of this season gone bad. If Norris can’t maybe Gausman can, the right-hander has been up and down like a yo-yo and is still learning how to pitch. He’s got electric stuff and should get his opportunity.
Art of the Deal — With the entire division in contention it just might come down to which team can improve the most before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July. My hunch the Orioles won’t make a big splash but will make a deal or two to improve the club. Dan Duquette says the priority is pitching, a year ago he traded for bullpen star Andrew Miller, in 2013 Scott Feldman, Bud Norris and Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez all came to Baltimore in mid-season trades. An additional body or 2 will help but the roster as it currently exists is good enough to take Orioles fans on another wild ride toward the post-season. Fasten your seatbelts!