I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we are halfway through the 2012 baseball season and Baltimore is holding the final regular wild card spot. The bad news is that there is still a half left to play, and with the way the O’s have been playing lately, that might not hold up, but before we turn into Negative Nancys over here, let’s celebrate a successful first half.
Baltimore sits in second place with a 45-40 record, seven games behind the New York Yankees and a half game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the final playoff spot. Not bad, especially when you consider they didn’t win their 45th game until August 10 last year.
The O’s sent three players to the All Star Game this year: Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Jim Johnson. The last time they sent more than one player to the All Star game was 2005, when Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora, and B.J. Ryan represented the O’s.
Speaking of Roberts, it was nice to see him return, although he has found himself back on the disabled list again. He has battled a myriad of injuries and has worked very hard to get back to the Orioles, and even though he is currently on the DL, I definitely consider that a bright spot of the first half.
Jason Hammel has made fans completely forget about Jeremy Guthrie. Hammel, who was almost the fourth Oriole to go to Kansas City for the All Star Game, has been sharp this season. Hammel, who was acquired from the Colorado Rockies with Matt Lindstrom, in exchange for Guthrie, is 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA. Guthrie, meanwhile, has struggled in Colorado, going 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA, and is struggling to stay in the rotation.
Chris Davis is starting to fulfill the potential scouts saw while he was a Texas Ranger. Davis is currently hitting .271 with 14 home runs and 40 runs batted in. Did I mention he can also pitch? In case you missed it or have forgotten, back on May 6 against the Boston Red Sox, Davis pitched two shutout innings as Baltimore went on to win 9-6 in 17 innings.
With 106, the Orioles have the third most team home runs. Not bad when you consider Mark Reynolds has yet to heat up this year.
More importantly, Baltimore’s pitching has been better. During the 2011 season, the Orioles had a combined ERA of 4.89, which was dead last. The Minnesota Twins were next to last, with a team ERA was 4.58. That’s how bad Baltimore’s pitching was last year. This year, it’s closer to the middle of the pack and a vast improvement over last year, as they currently sit with a 4.05 ERA.
As a team, the O’s have 30 saves. Jim Johnson has 26 of those. Last year, they had 32 as a team—for the whole season.
Wei-Yin Chen has been a nice surprise. One of Dan Duquette’s offseason pickups, Chen has pitched well this year, going 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 starts.
Baltimore’s bullpen has been fantastic this year, which is the main reason they are in second place. Johnson, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Lindstrom, and Darren O’Day have been a breath of fresh air for a team that has had their fair share of issues closing out games.
So as you can see, there is plenty to be happy about as we look back, but the road will only get tougher as the season wears on. Nick Markakis was activated from the DL on Monday which is a great start. If this offense can get going, they will be downright scary for opposing pitchers.
On a final note, it will certainly be interesting to see how Duquette handles the trade deadline this year. For as long as I can remember, the O’s have been sellers come the end of July, but this year they look to be active buyers. Zack Greinke has been mentioned, but the main question is, “what is the asking price for a pitcher of that caliber?” No matter how you slice it, things are finally interesting in Baltimore!
by Andy Mindzak