2013 Orioles Season — Main Surprises

The Baltimore Orioles continue to play competitive baseball as they compete for a wild card playoff spot into September.  The franchise that Buck revived has proved to be more than  a one season wonder.  Despite using more starting pitchers than any other major league squad, the Orioles have maintained a consistency of effort and defense and chemistry that has kept them in the hunt.  Without any dominant starting pitchers it still seems like the Orioles hang in there with overall team effort.  Here are my top surprises for the 2013 season:

1) The home run power of Crush Davis has to top the list.  His 48 homers to date highlight the fact that the Orioles depend on the long ball for most of their run production.  But given his prodigious output before the All Star break, I have to wonder if his torrid pace would have continued if he had not been involved in that Home Run hitting contest.  You have to also mention his surprising outstanding defensive play at first base.  Last year there were questions whether he would be a liability in the field as an everyday player.  He has certainly put in the work to raise the level of his play.

2) The disappointing seasons for the two very highly touted rookie sensation pitchers drafted by the Orioles.  Dylan Bundy went down with an injury and Kevin Gausman has been much more effective in the minors than playing up with the big boys.  It would be discouraging to do an exhaustive study of the high profile pitchers the Orioles have drafted the past 10 years and how their development has been stunted by injuries or ineffective performance.  It seems that every year we are talking about getting some major help from home-grown pitching talent … but it never materializes.  Chris Tillman (who came to the Orioles in the Bedard trade is the closest thing to one coming up through our minor league system.  Zach Britton is the latest in the long line of disappointments.  We gave up on Jake Arrieta earlier and traded him away.

3) The productive return of Brian Roberts.  I was one of the naysayers who doubted whether he had anything left in the tank.  I could see him recovering from the concussion problems … but at his age, once the hamstrings start to act up, it is very difficult to regain your form.  Brian has been a pleasant addition in the second half of the season.  It would be nice to make it to the playoffs just so he could experience them.

4) The lack of power for Nick Markakis — only 21 doubles and 9 home runs so far.  He topped out in 2008 with 48 doubles and 20 home runs.  He should still be in the prime of his career.  His batting average has also dropped back to .270.  I expected more from Nick the Stick.

5) Some of the pitching decisions of Buck mystify me.  But I am sure you could say that about most managers since hindsight is always 20-20.

6) The decline in the batting average for Matt Wieters — down to .233 at a time when he should be reaching his peak.  He brings so much more to the table that you can overlook this deficiency.

7) The late inning leads given up by the bullpen after their stellar performance last season.  There was no way the Orioles were going to duplicate their stats in one run games and no way Jim Johnson was going to maintain his pace as a closer .. but the extent of the drop-off has been surprising.  Overall, the bullpen has been disappointing.

8) How Adam Jones can hit for so high of an average when he goes through stretches where he over-swings and has so many awful looking at bats.

9) The fact that the Orioles after all of these years still have not figured out that it would make sense to invest some money (when is Angelos going to pony up?)  in a quality designated hitter rather than enduring another season of poor production from this free spot in the batting order.

10) Both the Orioles and the NFL should have worked harder to try to come to some type of compromise where the Ravens could have opened up the season at home.  I do not blame the Orioles as the bad guy here … but it is surprising that things could not have been worked out.

11)  Manny Machado has maintained a consistency both at the plate and in the field that is remarkable for someone so young.  It just looks like the game comes so easily to him.  The commentators were remarking that he has the ability to make the game slow down so that he can stay relaxed — rather than make mistakes because of taking things too fast.

12) Maybe the most surprising thing to me (and nobody seems to comment on this) is that Buck continues to wear long sleeves and even jackets in 90 degree weather.  What’s with that?  Does the guy never break a sweat?  Certainly he turns red enough when he wants to occasionally light up an umpire.  But he makes me sweat just watching him in long sleeves.