MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo Day articlefeature--baltimore-orioles

Keeping Up with the AL East, May 15-21

Has it been a good week for the Orioles? It’s hard to tell. They’ve split, 3-3, against two teams from the AL West, Seattle and Los Angeles of Anaheim, neither of whom seem to quite know who they are yet. It certainly wasn’t a bad week — it saw Mike Wright’s fantastic career debut, for instance — but ultimately the gains Baltimore made have to be judged mainly against how poorly other teams in the division played. And that’s perfectly fine, because: the Baltimore Orioles enter Friday in third place.

Tampa Bay

23

19

.548

-

NY Yankees

22

19

.537

0.5

Baltimore

18

20

.474

3.0

Boston

19

22

.463

3.5

Toronto

19

24

.442

4.5

(Discuss this article on the BSL forums here.)

Yes, they still have a losing record, but we can’t get everything we want in seven days. Perhaps this series against the Marlins will break the .500 mark; perhaps it won’t. Onto the rest of the East.

Tampa Bay: Every week I cast more doom and gloom on the Rays and every week they continue to perform startlingly well. June is usually the point in the year where the narrative shifts from “hot start” to “pack leader,” and considering how well the Brandon Guyer/Kevin Kiermaier/Steven Souza continues to play, supported by Evan Longoria and a Logan Forsythe having a career year, this team is probably something everyone now has to take seriously. Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi continue to have some of the best outings in the AL, and if they could find a way to eliminate Erasmo Ramirez from the rotation — Matt Moore still looms on the horizon, even if he’s not the guy people once thought he’d be — the Rays could sneak out of a weak AL East. If the Rays hadn’t lost a pair of sharp Odorizzi starts where he gave up 3 runs in 12 combined innings by one run each, they’d be even farther ahead of the Yankees in the standings; thank goodness for small favors — especially that Odorizzi is still inefficient enough, and Tampa Bay is still concerned enough about his pitch counts, that most of his starts don’t reach the seventh inning. It’d be nice if the Rays then had an underperforming reliever in the pen other than Ernesto Frieri, but that’s why they’re called small favors.

New York: A bad week for the Yankees, which is always good for the Orioles, but especially right now. Michael Pineda ran into his first truly disastrous start of 2015; as infuriating as that 16 strikeout performance against Baltimore was, it’s good to know that he still has trouble stringing those kinds of starts together. The talent is still there, of course; if he does figure it out, the profile of the division changes. Masahiro Tanaka is on his way back, too; he threw three innings in a rehab start this week and will probably be back with the team by June. Chase Whitley’s season ending injury is bad news for New York, but Adam Warren is not a fundamentally different product in the fifth starter spot; the bigger concern is that Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia have not yet proven to be league average starters. With Ellsbury headed to the DL, the Yankees have three good regulars at the plate and a 4th OF in Chris Young having a tremendous year so far; without pitching to support them, they won’t be able to do much else but play spoiler. That’s pretty much what the Orioles are hoping for, though it sucks to see that happen via injury.

Boston: Panic’s beginning to set in here, but then, Boston always panics earlier as a fanbase than any other team unless the Cubs are expected to be good. The offense has slumped even harder recently, while also running into some bad luck — the team has scored 44 runs in May while allowing 73, and that never leads to good things. Lost in the panic — because after all, the team did just drop two out of three to the Texas Rangers at home — is the fact that between the Rangers and Oakland, Wade Miley finally put up two consecutive starts where he wasn’t a disaster. Sure, the one against Oakland was a fluke gift: Miley only struck out one and walked four, and managed somehow to strand runners almost every inning, but the Rangers start was a quality seven-inning effort at home, even if it was against a team that’s not competing this year. Miley’s a lefty with mediocre deception and stuff pitching in Fenway Park, too, so that’s not nothing. That said, the more Boston obsesses over the offense and doesn’t fix the pitching or defense, the better things are for Baltimore. The hitters are gonna hit, eventually.

Toronto: They haven’t been the most popular team among Orioles fans this season, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Jays and wanted them to do well. But if you’re experimenting with Todd Redmond as a starter in 2015 — and that’s what they were forced to do on the 18th against the Angels, when he allowed 3 runs in 4.0 IP — then at some point you just can’t be taken seriously as a club. Toronto has once path back to relevance in the AL East, even this early on in the season: a rising tide lifting all their pitchers’ boats. Every single pitcher just needs to pitch better. The team doesn’t have aces waiting in the minors; they can’t make a great trade. They need to field the best defensive team they can without losing their bats and just hope their pitchers suddenly start allowing 40% fewer runs. It can happen, sure. But it’s not a great thing to bet on. And frankly we’ve probably reached the point now where guys in the front office should start losing their jobs. A couple more 2-5 weeks like last week, and they will.

The Week Ahead

TBR: vs OAK, 5/22-24; vs SEA, 5/25-27

The same slate of teams the Red Sox got last week, but this time at home. The Athletics are utterly miserable at the moment, residing at the bottom of the AL West with a decimated bullpen that needs at least three new arms to recover; the Mariners, as the Orioles just learned, are an extremely uneven team that’s probably not a contender. Chances to build their division lead here for Tampa, if they can take them.

NYY: vs TEX, 5-22-24; vs KCR, 5/25-27

The worst team in the AL West, arguably the best in the AL Central. The good news for the Yankees is that Royals pitching has been a bit of a mess recently, and neither Edinson Volquez nor (the pitching) Chris Young are as good as their season lines say; the bad news is, maybe Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are.

BOS: vs LAA, 5/22-24; @ MIN, 5/25-27

One of these teams is in the top three of runs scored per game in the AL; the other is dead last. They’re not the ones you’d have expected, coming into the season. If current slugging holds true, the Sox will muddle through the Angels and get stomped by the Twins; if talent prevails, who really knows? Probably still a below .500 week for Boston.

TOR: vs SEA, 5/22-24; vs CHW, 5/25-27

A light week for the Blue Jays in theory — the Mariners remain a middle of the pack team with a few key players; if they don’t perform, the Jays can steal a game. The White Sox, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in baseball, especially at the plate. The Jays might be able to steal a few games there and clamber slightly higher in the standings. And hopefully they wear White Sox pitching out to the point where they come into the makeup doubleheader with the Orioles on the 28th with an already-short pen.

 

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