Offense: Nate McLouth-LF, Manny Machado-3B, Nick Markakis-RF, Adam Jones-CF, Chris Davis-1B, Matt Wieters-C, J.J. Hardy-SS, Chris Dickerson-DH, Brian Roberts-2B. Bench: Taylor Teagarden-C, Alexi Casilla-INF, Ryan Flaherty-IF/OF, Danny Valencia-IF/OF.
BAL R/G: 4.94. CHW R/G: 3.77.
An offense firing on almost all cylinders? That's allowed!? Inconceivable! If I were a hitter whose career had fizzled out for whatever reason, I'd look into joining the Orioles. As of late, they seem to have discovered some sort of Fountain of Increased Competency. Nate McLouth is looking like the outfielder he once was with the Pirates back when you were young and in shape. Get off the computer and go for a run. Nate is walking almost as much as he's striking out, which is great because he's only striking out 11.7% of the time. He's just as quick as ever and still a terror on the basepaths while playing left field seems to be agreeing with him. He's more or less last season's Alejandro De Aza.
There aren't enough superlatives for Manny Machado. He's 20-years-old and leads the league in doubles and games played while sitting in second for hits. AS A 20-YEAR-OLD! This is the kind of top 5 draft pick talent you dream about. He's a short stop playing third base and playing it incredibly well. The only knock you could have on him is his low walk rate, but it was considerably higher in the minors so it should go up. When your BABIP is at .372, it's hard to be blamed for swinging at everything. He's going to be an All-Star for quite some time. Or if the O's are less fortunate, he becomes another Nick Markakis. Which isn't a bad thing so much as just a disappointing one. Markakis is yet to recapture the magic from his 2007-2008 seasons. When you're worth 11.7 bWAR over two years as a young hitter, expectations are going to be tremendous. But he slid into the 2.5-3.5 bWAR notch. His hitting is still good, but the power never developed and his defense began to slip as well. I'd be pretty okay with a right fielder who averaged 3.0 bWAR over eight seasons though.
Adam Jones is another Baltimore outfielder who is merely pretty good instead of amazing. Must be a pretty nice problem to have. He's not a very good outfielder and seemingly refuses to draw walks. He has cut down on his strikeouts a great deal since debuting with the Mariners and he's grown into the power that was always promised. He's also very talented when it comes to stealing bases. Chris Davis has transformed from a flawed slugger not long for the majors into 1993-1994 era Frank Thomas. I don't understand it either, but he's the best hitter in the American League right now and it's been pretty fun to watch. Stuff like this isn't supposed to happen! He's two homeruns away from tying his career high and it's not even the All-Star Break yet. He has a realistic shot at 50+ homeruns. This is one case where I wish regression wasn't a thing. I want this madness to continue because it's phenomenal. 201 OPS+!
After two strong campaigns in a row, Matt Wieters is having a rough 2013. He's still fantastic behind the plate, having thrown out 43% of would-be-thieves. ROBIN DO NOT SEND ANYONE. Even if Wieters only ends up an average hitter, his defense at catcher still makes him an incredibly valuable piece to have. Expect a solid bounce back season next year. J.J. Hardy is the reason Machado is playing third base and it's a solid decision. Hardy and Machado are a formidable defensive duo, more or less robbing opponents of the ability to use the left side of the infield to sneak hits through. The fact that Hardy has far more pop than your average short stop is just delicious, fattening icing over the cake that is his playing style. That was a weird sentence. We should prolly edit that out. NOPE! Thank you Minnesota for giving up Carlos Gomez to get Hardy only to trade him away for a handful of terrible one year later!
Chris Dickerson is doomed for some very painful regression in the near future. When you strike out ten times more often than you walk, you're not going to have a very good time. I don't know how he has a career .361 BABIP. It makes no sense. Maybe the Orioles can make like Cake and keep prolonging the magic, but just in case I have a very lovely Adam Dunn they might be interested. Just a thought. Brian Roberts is still playing? And isn't hurt? Huh. Oh, he just came off the DL and has only played four games this year. That feels a lot more right.
Pitching: Jason Hammel-RHP, Chris Tillman-RHP, Miguel Gonzalez-RHP, Zach Britton-LHP, T.J. McFarland-LHP, Jim Johnson-CL.
BAL RA/G: 4.60. CHW RA/G: 4.43.
Boy, sure looks like Baltimore could use another starting pitcher. Maybe one of the bulldog variety? Perhaps a combination of Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy? Pipe dreams are the best. Having Jason Hammel as your team ace is not a particularly good look for a squad trying to make a deep playoff run this year. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with Hammel. He's a good pitcher and all, but more mid-rotation than front line. His out of character strikeout rate from last season has returned to its normal levels. He's a groundball kind of guy, so a career K/9 of 6.55 is perfectly acceptable. He throws a sinking fastball in the lower-to-mid-90s, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. It's looking like Chris Tillman isn't going to live up to the hype. He'll be useful, sure. But how much of his moderate success this season is a result of a fluky 84.3 LOB%? We'll have to wait and see. It's dangerous living being a flyball pitcher at Camden Yards and Tillman walks that tightrope gingerly. It's a long fall down to Norfolk with the Freddy Garcias of the world. He throws a fastball in the low-90s, a curveball, a changeup, and a cutter.
Other than the injured Wei--Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez is having one of the better years on the O's pitching staff. Gonzalez is looking to be quite the shrewd scrapyard pickup, as he's managed to be worth 4.5 bWAR in 193.2 innings over the past two seasons. He's another groundballer with a strong 2.52 K/BB ratio, enabling him to succeed without overwhelming stuff. The league might eventually catch up to him as consecutive seasons with .260 BABIPs are worrisome, but for the time being he's holding his own in the middle of the rotation. Gonzalez's fastball sits in the low-90s and he mixes it up with a splitter, a slider, and a curveball. Zach Britton is yet another highly rated Orioles pitching prospect that hasn't lived up to expectations. While there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, one begins to wonder why Baltimore is having so much trouble developing talented youngsters into anything better than fourth starters. Britton has only pitched four games in the bigs this season, but the results are less than inspiring. Unless you like pitchers who barely strike anyone out yet walk more hitters anyways. That's an odd fetish, but to each their own I guess. The lefty throws a low-90s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup.
T.J. McFarland is a young rapscallion with a heart of gold and you can catch him TGIF at 7:30 CST. Sorry about that. He just sounds like a fictional character from harmless 90's family programming. The 90's were a better time for this franchise so maybe they're hoping for sympathetic magic to help them out. It's a bold strategy. The Palos Hills product is gamely stepping into the rotation from the bullpen because the gods don't like Baltimore being allowed good pitching. Or at least not for long amounts of times without injuries. PLEASE TAKE OUR JAKE PEAVY. McFarland's fastball sits in the upper-80s and is mixed with a changeup and a slider. I like Jim Johnson as a closer because he's an oddity. While his strikeouts are up this year, he usually sits in the mid-fives when it comes to K/9. He's a groundballer, not your typical flamethrowing closer. That's not to say he doesn't throw hard though, as he does have a sinker in the mid-90s to go with his curveball and changeup. He led the league in saves last season and continues to do so this year as well.
Outlook: One of these teams happens to be pretty good. The other team happens to be the White Sox. Four of the games not being played until September, when each team will look quite different does not make me more optimistic. Orioles win season series 5-2.