Monday, May 12, 2008

Baltimore Orioles: First Quarter Report

With an off day today, the Orioles have essentially wrapped up the first quarter of the season. So how are they doing?

First, let's discuss the record. The Orioles stand at 19-19. That's .500 at the quarter season mark for a team that was nearly universally thought to be well on their way to losing 100 games in 2008. Some thought it would be worse than the 1988 Orioles or at least in the ballpark. This team now has to go 43-81 the rest of the way to reach that goal. I just don't see it.

I thought this team would be slightly better than the 2007 version but figured they would struggle early and get better. They have been decent early with many indicators pointing to the team getting better still. Is a winning team a reasonable expectation? Maybe not. Flirting with .500 certainly is.

Pleasant Surprises

Brian Roberts remains with the team. He may not be here in August but I didn't expect him to see Mother's Day with the club.

Daniel Cabrera's performance.

George Sherrill. I liked the addition of Sherrill but had no idea he could be a closer or do it so well. Wayward O did though.

Brian Burres holding down a spot in the rotation and doing pretty well.

Jim Johnson, Randor Bierd, Dennis Sarfate and Matt Albers aiding the veterans to give Baltimore a credible bullpen.


The offense as a whole. I have detailed that they are hitting better than the numbers say but it is still pretty frustrating that these guys can't consistently get hits.

Adam Loewen on the DL. He'll be back but you have to wonder if he'll ever be healthy enough to learn how to pitch.

Steve Trachsel. Trax is a placeholder and that was the intent when he was brought in but he has done little to hold on to that spot in the rotation he has.

Shortstop. Turns out Luis Hernandez couldn't field either. He has looked good at second base though.

Luke Scott with only one homer. Leftfield in Camden Yards is cursed. It's the Curse of B.J. Surhoff. Ever since The Warehouse traded Surhoff to Atlanta at the 2000 deadline, nobody has given us consistent play in left. (OK, B.J. came back and did it for a couple of years but he was only a part-timer at that point.) Granted, Scott is still an upgrade from what the O's have trotted out the past few seasons but I expected the guy to slug at least .400.

In my pre-season look at the Orioles, i identified 5 reasons to be optimistic:

Improve Outfield Production

Although I am a bit disappointed with Scott's bat so far, he is OPSing .727 which is a big improvement from the .631 OPS Oriole leftfielders put up last year.

Adam Jones isn't there yet. He's OPSing .631 compared to .713 from Oriole centerfielders last year. But he'll get to at least that production by season's end.

Markakis has struggled a bit with his average but is still OPSing about what he did last season (.852 vs. 847).

Jay Payton? He's been bad overall (.655 OPS) but against lefties is OPSing .792. I really wish Dave Trembley would stop giving him ABs against righthanders.

The outfield isn't there yet but Adam Jones will improve.

The Bullpen Can't Be Any Worse? Right?

Correctamundo. Trembley has handled the pen better and managed to build a pretty effective relief corp.


Aubrey Huff has rebounded a bit. Still waiting for Ramon Hernandez.

A Better Bench

Kind of a moot point with the team carrying 13 pitchers until very recently but no it's not any better than last year. We shall see what Freddie Bynum and Alex Cintron can do.

A Decent Manager

Considering that very few things have been clicking at the same time this season, Trembley has done a pretty good job. He has the team at .500 (which is one game above their Pythagorean Record) while still getting the youngsters the majority of the playing time.

His recent decision to go with a four-man rotation (for the time being) shows he's willing to make unorthodox decisions to mask his team's weaknesses.

The Next Quarter?

They survived the road but now you have to survive the AL East. Over the next month there will be lots of games against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. No pushovers (save Washington) until the Pirates come to town a month from tomorrow. The good news is that outside of the Red Sox, all the teams in our division are pretty flawed right now.

It's a tough task but the next logical step for the Baby Birds to get this team back to respectability.

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