When you think about MLB, a few teams come to mind. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and L.A. Dodgers are a few of the larger market teams, hence why ESPN chooses to cover them 99.9 percent of the time. Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit, but you get my point.
As a Baltimore native, I love the Baltimore Orioles. Even though I grew up with awful baseball, I still kept up and went to games. Obviously, it’s awesome to see my team doing well. It got to a point where the O’s name and the World Series were never in the same conversation. I believe that has changed as of this season.
I’m not going to sit here and say the O’s are the best and provide a biased article. I’m going to stick myself in the shoes of someone else and look at this team for what it is.
Are the O’s contenders or pretenders?
Over the past few years, this team has done well, but I would’ve said they are pretenders. Good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make a deep run. That changes this year. I think that Baltimore finally has a team that could push deep into the postseason and maybe even compete in the WS.
With that being said, here is why.
This team has maintained a top ten offense throughout the entire season and at times, been in the top 3. Right now they sit at eighth, but you can’t let that deter you from the fact that they lead the league in home runs with a total of 148. It’s clear that they rely heavily on home runs to win games, with 892 hits, they are almost 100 hits behind the Red Sox who lead the league in total offense, or “sortable batting” as many call it.
There are many occasions where the team does win from the small ball, loading up bases and using the field to win games. Usually, they smack them out and load up the score instantaneously, and that strikes fear in opposing pitchers. I will say this, that many of their losses have been because the team isn’t hitting homers.
Bullpen Is Stellar
The starting rotation is currently ranked 14th in the league. While that’s pretty good, the bullpen is where the strength of pitching resides.
Currently sitting at fourth best, the O’s BP is one of the best. They were recently ranked number 1, but these stats change week to week. What’s important to notice is that they have been consistently in the top 5 since week 1. Closer, Zach Britton, has recorded 32 saves with a super small era of 0.65. He is clutch in every way possible.
Relievers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day have been key pieces, providing the team with many wins and chances to stay in close games. Brach has locked in 6 wins to 1 loss with an era of 1.17. O’Day has recorded three wins and one loss, with an ERA of 3.00; he usually comes in to set up for closer Zach Britton.
Mychal Givens has been a surprise this year, recording seven wins to 1 loss. His era of 3.53 is a little high in comparison to some of the top relievers. However, he has helped keep this team in close games. With the glaring need of a decent pitcher in the rotation, former long reliever Dylan Bundy has been moved into the rotation. Before that, he was doing an excellent job coming in early and pitching deep into games. He should be able to help secure the rotation, which has struggled with consistency.
Buck Holds The Magic
Manager Buck Showalter was heavily criticized for taking the O’s managing position six years ago for taking over a team with an ugly 32-73 record. He made history by becoming the first manager in MLB history to take over a team in August and coach them into more wins for the rest of the season then what the team had before hiring him. There’s something magical about the man. He never shows emotions, unless he’s boiling red mad (lol). The very monotone sounding, easy-going fellow, always has something smart to say to the media, and I think that throws people off. He’s a great manager. He’s led this team to numerous playoff appearances in six years, the first being in 2012. That would mark the first playoff appearance by the franchise since 1997. I was six years old then!
He has his mysterious ways of being able to do more with less. He’s able to motivate his team, keep players confident and provide consistency all over, which has been a huge issue for years until he came along.
Are the keys to the World Series in Buck’s hands?
The only reason why people don’t believe the O’s can go far is that of the flawed rotation. I get it. If they can’t consistently pitch well through at least five innings on average, then they won’t make it far into the playoffs, right? I’ve heard people say that the home runs will slow down in the playoffs, and that will also be the downfall of this team.
It all makes sense really as to why people don’t count the O’s as true contenders.
Look at the Royals and their WS win. They had similar flaws, yet they pulled it off. What makes the O’s different?
Not much really because they too have a flawed rotation, but the offense and BP carry this team and will carry them into the playoffs. They are making a few small adjustments as August creeps up on us all. Adding Bundy to the rotation should help, they’ve been rumored to be interested in a few average pitchers, who could improve the rotation as well. Whatever they need to do, they will do it. As I mentioned above, Buck does more with less. They will find a way; they have the entire season with their flaws.
One thing that stuck in my head was when I read that several of the players have been on record saying that no matter what the score or how far behind in a game they are, they always think they can get back in it and win it.
That’s a little something called the heart. They have the confidence in each other, and it shows. They have come back and won games that they trailed by more than a few runs. It’s intangible, and I believe that heart separates the great teams from the good ones.
If you’re not feeling the magic, I suggest you take notice because Baltimore is rolling into the second half of the year as the top team in the American League and I don’t think they will stray far away from that, let alone the top 5. Their first WS win was in 1966, 50 years ago. Add that to the fact that they are one of the best this year; if that doesn’t spell magical and meant to be, then I don’t know what does!