The Orioles come into town for the first time this year (thanks, unbalanced scheduling!) in a re-match of last year's American League Championship Series. The Orioles are coming off a 96-win season, but have hovered around .500 all season. We talked to Mark Brown at Camden Chat to get his take on the Orioles.
Royals Review: The Royals and Orioles match up for the first time since the ALCS last year. There was some minor animosity between the two teams last October after Jarrod Dyson's comments and Jeremy Guthrie's t-shirt gaffe. Do you think some ill feelings continue to linger?
Mark Brown: I don't see why there would be any particular animosity between the two teams over a hard-fought series in October, although it certainly seems to be the case that there have been enduring feuds born in MLB over less serious stuff than some of what happened during last year's ALCS. I guess if something happens, we'll know - but it would surprise me if something like that happened.
If you're asking about feuds as far as fans are concerned, well, I have a sneaking suspicion that, once you filter out the teams that Orioles fans hate for reasons of divisional competition and geographic proximity, the Royals are going to occupy the top spot for quite some time. Assuming we're not too busy collectively throwing ourselves flat on the ground as if there was an incoming artillery barrage every time there's another broken bat blooper, anyway.
Royals Review: The Orioles are still hanging around in the Wild Card race, just a few games out. Is there a feeling among Orioles fans that they can get to the post-season and make a run?
Mark Brown: After a particularly ugly four-game sweep at the hands of the Twins this weekend, I think large numbers of Orioles fans, myself included, have pretty much written off their chances of the playoffs this year. The team hasn't performed well on the road this year, and the only above .500 team the O's have played to an above .500 record is the Rays. They have a losing record against every other winning team they've seen, which makes a seven-game road trip against the Royals and Rangers a very crucial juncture for their hopes.
If the tailspin continues, turn out the lights and see you next year. If the Orioles do somehow rebound and get back into the picture only to narrowly miss out on the playoffs, which would surprise me at this point if they ended up the season that close, I have a feeling they're going to look at their 0-7 record against the Twins as one of the bigger regrets.
Royals Review: Baltimore dominated the East last year, winning 96 games, and have won 85 or more games in each of the past three seasons, but have had trouble getting much over .500 this year. What has held them back so far?
Mark Brown: It seems like there's a thousand reasons contributing to this year's team being a big disappointment compared to last year's Orioles. The biggest and most consistent problem throughout the season has been the starting pitching, though. Last year, once Ubaldo Jimenez was shuffled onto the disabled list with an ankle injury that may or may not have been caused by Dan Duquette digging potholes outside the driver's door of Jimenez's car, they had five solid starting pitchers who were able to keep them in the game most nights.
That just hasn't been the case this year. Wei-Yin Chen is the only one pitching with an ERA in the low-to-mid 3s. Everybody else is at 4+. Another problem is that while the Orioles numbers with runners in scoring position have been good overall, it felt like they basically went 0-for-May (13-16 record) and 0-for-July (11-14) in those situations. August may turn into another such month. It's hard to overcome stuff like that. Even with a strong bullpen, which they still do have, there's absolutely no margin for error.
Royals Review: I don't know if any Royals fans even remember that Jimmy Paredes was on our team last year, but he's been a pretty useful hitter this year for the Orioles. What did Buck Showalter do to him?
Mark Brown: Whatever Showalter and the Orioles staff did with Paredes, it doesn't seem to have lasted past June. He had a .536 OPS in July and so far he has a .349 OPS in August. He's been riding the pine a lot lately since he doesn't really have a position to play other than DH, and with his bat grown cold, the O's have turned instead to Baltimore native Steve Clevenger, another switch-hitter, for a lot of those at-bats. Barring a rebound in the last month or so, it seems like the party may be over for Paredes.
Royals Review: Chris Davis has bounced back nicely after a tough 2014 season that ended in a PED suspension. Have fans forgiven him for his suspension and do you expect the Orioles to retain him beyond this year?
Mark Brown: Dingers are the solution to a lot of hard feelings, and Davis has spent 2015 hitting many dingers once again. I'm not sure how much Baltimore fans were ever mad at him over the suspension itself anyway. There was more a frustrated sense of, "Well, if he was using stuff he wasn't supposed to, why couldn't he have at least have not sucked?" Back in spring training and the offseason, he gave a lot of quotes to the media about how he had never fully healed from an oblique injury that landed him on the disabled list last year. I figured that was a load of BS - but, given how he's hitting this year, maybe it's not. Now he doesn't suck and so all is forgiven.
As far as keeping Davis, I have a hard time believing that the Orioles are going to be able or willing to pony up enough money to secure the services of who will basically be the only good first base option on the free agent market. After watching what's happened with their attempts to cheaply replace a fraction of Nelson Cruz's production in the outfield, I have no interest in seeing a Davis-less first base situation on the 2016 Orioles, but I have a feeling that's exactly what I'm going to end up getting to watch next year.
You can read all the latest Orioles news at Camden Chat. Thanks to Mark Brown for his help.