This post is a follow-up to an earlier post (http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/?p=4301) this morning, looking at the numerous things the Orioles Front-Office has to be considering as the Non-Waiver Deadline appears.
My conclusion in that post was that the supporting data does not show the Baltimore Orioles as likely to contend over the remaining two months of the year. However, with their performance to-date, I think the O’s roster has earned the opportunity to stay in-tact.
What I want to discuss in this post, is the idea of no external additions, nor the removal of any existing pieces. The idea being, with the players currently existing within the Orioles organization, what has to occur for Baltimore to continue to contend during the remaining two months?
1) Hammel has to be ready to go by September 1st, and be strong that last Month of play.
2) Chen is 8-5, with a 3.80 era. In his 116 ip, he has allowed 106 hits, 15 hr’s, 36 bb’s, with 88 k’s. His OPS against is .702, and his G/F ratio is 0.63. His numbers in May, June, and July have been fairly consistent. He has to maintain his current level of production.
3) Tillman, and Britton have to perform down the stretch.
Going into 2009, Tillman was the 16th ranked prospect (http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/minorleagues/prospects/y2009/profile.jsp?t=p_top&pid=501957) according to MLB.com. In ’10, Tillman was 11-7, with a 3.34 era at AAA. In ’11, he was back in the Majors, trying to get by with an 87 mph fastball. In ’12, he was solid at AAA (while rebuilding his mechanics), and has looked good in 2 of his 3 ML starts. He has shown a return of his velocity, with better movement. Now 24, he has 39 Major League games under his belt. If he can show an ability to consistently maintain his new mechanics, and stuff; he has a good chance to help. The O’s need him to perform.
In ’10, Britton was the O’s Minor League Player of the Year, and named the 10th best prospect in baseball (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/2010/2610314.html) by Baseball America during the middle of that season. In ’11, he was 11-11, with a 4.61 era in 154.1 ML innings. After looking horrible in July, he rebounded with a competitive August and September. The shoulder injury was scary, but he is back in the rotation and apparently healthy. His start yesterday was very promising, with Britton utilizing his 2 seam fastball to force 13 grounders from the Indians lineup. That start can not be the occasional reward, it has to become the expected norm.
4) I think Matusz, and Arrieta need to bang down the door at AAA.
Matusz (3 AAA starts): 1-1, 3.68 era, 22 ip, 18 hits, 1 hr, 6 bb’s, 10k’s
Arrieta (2 AAA starts): 2-0, 3.18 era, 11.1 ip, 13 hits, 1 hr, 4 bb’s, 11 k’s
If these two force their way back to Baltimore, the pitching staff become deeper and improves as a whole. Do they get to the point where they can re-join the roster, and help over the last 6 weeks?
5) Hardy has hits in last 6 games, but still has an OPS of just .638 (.261 OBP). He is certainly due for a run of sustained production. Would be a major lift to the lineup if he can finish at (or above) his career OPS of .742.
6) Reynolds is currently getting a lot of credit for his defense at 1st, but his UZR/150 there is (-13.9). He has to help the roster with his bat. In 2,700+ ab’s, his career OPS is .806. This year it is .707. He’s had 8 homers in 230 ab’s, after 141 total homers the past 4 years. If there no additional moves, it appears that Reynolds will get the chance to play everyday at 1st the rest of the year. He can basically double his current total ab’s. The O’s need Reynolds to add another 15 big flies to his total.
7) Thome is now at an .824 OPS for the year. Basically identical to the .827 OPS he had in 206 ab’s for the Twins last year. If he can maintain that playing everyday these next two Months, that is a major upgrade to the middle of the O’s lineup.
8) Even with Betemit’s horrific numbers vs. LHP (.485 OPS, in 71 ab’s), his overall offensive numbers (.748 OPS) are liveable. Getting the opportunity to play everyday at 3rd, his defense is not good (or even average), but his UZR/150 (-4.2) is not quite as poor as one might expect. In ’08, he played in 87 games. In ’09 he played in 20 games. In ’10 he played in 84 games. In ’11 he played in 97 games. The O’s need him to avoid hitting a wall, and seeing his production (offense and defense) falling off any further.
9) Following a strong April and May; Davis struggled in June, and has been poor in July (though he has hits in 3 of his last 4 games, including a double, and a HR). I’m still pleased with his season as a whole. He has hit LHP and RHP equally. The poor walk to k ratio can not be ignored, but neither can his 28 XBH’s. He is not a strong OF, but I don’t think he is showing to be a liability either. As the O’s have the option of using Chavez as a defensive replacement in games close and late; I don’t see Davis’ defense in LF as a huge issue for the O’s. What does matter is his bat. Can he again catch fire for another 4-6 weeks?
10) Markakis has provided a lift to the team since returning from the DL. He has hits in 8 of his 10 games played, including 5 multi-hit games. He has also walked 4 times. However, after 4 doubles in his initial 2 games back, he has not had an XBH since. His OPS for the season is back over .800. No matter what, he has to continue to get on-base. His legs should be fresh, and I think that will help him to finish strong. The O’s need him to be an impact player.
11) Wieters had a .937 OPS in April, a .605 OPS in May, .822 OPS in June, and has a .662 OPS in July. Last year, Wieters hit much better in the 2nd half (crushing in August and September) than he did in the 1st. That gives me he hope that he will not wilt as he goes through another full-season of catching. We’ve talked about the ancillary players on the O’s roster, and needing more from them. Wieters is one of the O’s stars. He has to play like one.
12) Gonzalez and Hunter have to continue to give you something. I have no idea what to expect from Gonzalez. Right now, he is giving the team some quality outings. He’s not someone I feel comfortable relying on, but he’s also gaining my confidence that he can keep the O’s in games. I do think Hunter can help a staff. While I would prefer him in the pen for a couple of innings at a time, he is pitch efficient, and he limits his walks. Obviously he allows a lot of hits and homers. If he can spend the next month being productive starting, that would help a lot. Just give some innings, limit the damage, and turn the ball over to pen.
13) The O’s have won 5 games in a row, because the starters have combined to allow 7 er in their last 27.2 innings of work. The rotation does not have to be that good. They do have to provide a similar amount of innings, each time through the rotation. If that occurs, the bullpen gets the chance to catch their breath, and match-up. In September the pen can be bolstered by the expanded rosters.
14) Right now, this is Adam Jones’ team. Some will debate how good of a thing that is, but that is a different discussion. Jones has seemingly gotten past the wrist injury, and is again back on the up-swing. For the year, Jones has a .290 baa, with 22 homers, 50 rbi, 21 doubles, 3 triples, 20 bb’s, with 67 k’s. His OPS is .871. His wOBA is .371. His fWAR is 2.9. On August 1st, Jones turns 27. This is the prime of Jones’ career, and he is the leader on a team that has a chance to play their way into the post-season. He has had a very strong year. The O’s need him to have a great year. That can only occur with Jones turning things back-up a notch, and finishing the season on another tear.
15) This is the first year of the 2nd Wild Card, but history shows that 89 wins is typically what will be required to reach the Playoffs. If 89 wins is the goal, the O’s have to go 38-29 the rest of the way. I think you have to step-back and not look at it in those larger terms. It gets back to each individual series, and putting series wins on the board.