Known for its beautiful views and fan friendly environment, Camden Yards is often regarded as the nicest ballpark in the MLB. The only problem for Baltimore fans has been the Orioles themselves. In the 20 years the team has been at Camden Yards, only the 1997 season, when the O's posted a 98-64 record and won the AL East, has produced any sort of positive memories. Now, after 14 consecutive years below .500, the Orioles are finally showing signs of a turnaround.
Many are speculative about the Orioles hot start, believing it will soon end. In 2005, the O's gave fans hope after they held first place in the AL East through 62 days. 2008 also showed promise as they started off well and remained around .500 for much of the season. Both years, however, ended in a complete collapse and Orioles fans were left with their usual disappointment.
Is this season different? Could this be the year Baltimore finally has a winning season? Through 72 games, the Orioles are 41-31 and still among the top in the American League. As some are awaiting the collapse, many believe the O's will finally prevail this season. Here are some reasons for the success:
Two-time AL Manager of the Year Buck Showalter has beaten the Orioles into shape, and expects big things from his young team. He demands unorthodox moves from his players, and as injury strikes the O's, he continues to get the job done. As a result, the Orioles have shown their versatility.
Players such as Robert Andino, who knew he was playing second base temporarily until the return of Brian Roberts, has accepted a utility role and still contributes for the O's. Mark Reynolds, although a terrible fielder, told Showalter he would play anywhere in order to help the team. He has moved from third to first base and is actively working to improve his fielding. After Nick Markakis suffered a wrist injury, Showalter moved first baseman Chris Davis into right field, and the young player has responded well to the change.
Players are showing willingness and enthusiasm in accepting new roles, and Showalter is holding them accountable every step of the way. The manager claimed, "We're going to use the versatility of our team," so when players need days off and things are expected of others, "it's not something new." Unlike their 2005 collapse, which many feel was the result of injuries to six key players within the span of a few weeks, this Orioles team has proven they can work through problems.
It’s hard to remember the last time Baltimore had a solid bullpen. Being among the bottom of the league in pitching has become normal in Baltimore, and the 2011 team defended that reputation with a league-worst 4.89 ERA. 2012 has been completely different. Through 72 games, the Orioles have been flirting with the top ten teams in pitching and currently sit at #11 with a 3.67 team ERA.
This is the result of smart signings and trades, probably the most important being for Jason Hammel. In 14 starts, Hammel is 8-2 with an impressive 2.61 ERA, showing the league that he deserves to be an All-Star. The best part about him is that the Orioles acquired Hammel from the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie, who has since been moved to relief after posting a 6.34 ERA to begin the season.
Other big moves for Baltimore's bullpen include the siging of Wei-Yin Chen. The Taiwanese pitcher is showing a lot of promise in his rookie season and is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA. Darren O'Day, who was claimed off waivers from Texas, has provided solid relief, and through 32.1 innings has a 1.67 ERA. Luis Ayala, who signed for $925k this February, has also been a strong relief pitcher with an ERA of 1.89 through 33.1 innings.
Aside from the big moves that added depth to the struggling Orioles bullpen, closer Jim Johnson has been having a career season. With 22 saves and a 1.10 ERA, Johnson is second in the league and a top candidate for the AL All-Star team.
After seasons of horrible pitching, the 2012 bullpen is providing the Orioles with the extra boost they need to succeed. Baltimore has won a number of close games this season that in previous years would have probably been lost due to poor pitching. Ascending from the bottom of the league to having multiple pitchers considered for the All-Star team is not the result of luck; it is the product of good coaching and smart moves made in the clubhouse.
Youth Slowly Growing Up
When building a team, it is important to focus on young players. The Orioles have centered their lineup around Adam Jones (age: 26), Matt Wieters (26), Nick Markakis (28), and J.J. Hardy (29), and will have them all through at least 2014. This has been successful, as they all are having outstanding seasons. Aside from Markakis suffering a wrist injury, they have been consistent and provide solid offense for the O's.
Although they are among the worst in the league in on base percentage, Baltimore has hit the third most home runs in the league. Similar to the Yankees, they are relying on long balls to carry their offense. Although this strategy can be risky, when paired with Baltimore's pitching it has proven to work.
Although winning a World Series this season is highly improbable, the future looks very bright for the Orioles. As the trade deadline is approaching, there is a lot of talk that Baltimore will be buyers this season. One big move could be for Cubs ace Ryan Dempster. After 12 starts, he is second in the NL in ERA (2.11) and could be a huge pickup for the Orioles. Aside from Hammel and Chen, the rest of Baltimore's starting rotation is not much to brag about. Although the relievers have helped the O's stay ahead in tight games, their starting rotation needs to improve if they are to keep winning. Dempster would provide Baltimore with top pitching, and if he continues his recent success, would give the Orioles a good chance to stay among the best in the league.
There is also great room for improvement on defense. Allowing 63 errors has put the Orioles at the bottom of the league in fielding and cost them many runs. The Yankees have allowed half the amount as Baltimore but are only three games ahead of them in the division. If Baltimore improves their fielding, they could see a lot more close losses turn into wins.
As the young players continue to mature and work on their games, the team's on base percentage will also rise. This will allow Baltimore to not rely on the long ball and bring in more runs against top pitchers. With contracts through 2014 and a lot of room for improvement on an already successful team, Baltimore's core will develop great chemistry and bring success for years to come.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
May 16th, 2013 12:13 PM
May 14th, 2013 1:28 AM
May 16th, 2013 9:45 AM
ALL TIME FAVES
April 16th, 2013 12:15 PM
April 9th, 2013 11:57 AM
March 1st, 2013 8:37 AM