How hard is it to grade a team that only won 25 of it’s first 81 games? A team that ranks 28th (out of 30) in MLB in team ERA and 27th in WHIP is clearly not passing on the mound. Neither is a team that ranks 27th and 21st in runs scored and batting average respectively. The 2010 Baltimore Orioles have been a major disappointment, the likes of which not even the harshest critics could have seen coming. They have continually found ways to lose games whether it be with a flammable bullpen, or their poor hitting with runners in scoring position, or even with suspect starting pitching and defense. Any team that could finish with the worst record in a 162 game season, ever, deserves and overall grade of an F. But are the parts greater than the sum in the case of the Orioles? Perhaps. Here are our 1st Half grades for the Orioles.
Infield: The Orioles entered 2010 knowing that they were not going to have one of the better hitting infields in baseball. But at this point that statement is a huge understatement. Not only has Brian Roberts not been available to be the Orioles table setter, but power at 1B has been missing in action, Matt Wieters has been a disappointment and Cesar Izturis is having a career worst year at the plate. The Orioles have probably gotten what they expected from Miguel Tejada. Tejada has at times struggled defensively learning to play a new position, but overall he has made a smooth transition to the hot corner. I am sure the Orioles were expecting more extra base power from Miggy, but that pop is long gone. The lone bright spot on the infield has been Ty Wiggington, who only started to see regular playing time because of the injury to Roberts and is now a fixture on the infield thanks to Garrett Atkins’ ineptitude. Wiggy got off to a very hot start and was the Orioles best player in April and May. June brought some struggles, but he still leads the club in HR’s and RBI’s.
Overall Grade: D- Only Wiggy’s hitting and Wieters’ defense at catcher saved this group from an F.
Outfield: If the Orioles were not expecting huge offense from the infield, they certainly were from the OF. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and a combo of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold were going to make the rest of the fans around the league jealous about the toolsy young OF the Orioles had. While Pie got off to a good start, he got injured quickly and has still not answered the question of whether or not he is the every day LF’er the O’s are looking for. Reimold was not able to get healthy or his struggles got in his head too quickly and for an outfielder who was poor defensively to begin with, a guy who can’t get his head together at the plate was a liability. Jones got off to a terrible start and looks to have regressed as a player from his 2009 season. Maybe the weight of having to be a leader and top performer on the rebuilding Orioles caused Jones to slip into some bad habits, but he has struggled to identify and swing at strikes and has had major lapses in the outfield. Jones has begun to swing a better bat lately ans has shown more discipline, but as natural an athlete as he is, Jones has a ways to go before he can be considered a natural baseball player. Luke Scott has been streaky, but was having a solid first half before being injured legging out an outside the parker. Corey Patterson has performed admirably considering he is being asked to lead-off, a role he is not equipped for, but his speed is an asset.
Overall Grade: C-
Starting Pitchers: The Orioles starter got off to a good start in 2010. April and May say a fair amount of quality starts and performances that kept the Orioles in ballgames, but as the temperatures have risen so have the starters ERA’s. At this point Brian Matusz seems to be the only starter who is capable of reversing that trend. Matusz has taken some lumps as a rookie, but has also performed his best against the best competition. Kevin Millwood looked to be a fantastic acquisition early on, but now his outings are becoming less and less effective, his ERA has ballooned and his trade value has plummeted. Jeremy Guthrie seems to be what he is, a pitcher that can never seem to get himself together for long stretches at a time. Guthrie was showing well early, but has gotten hit harder recently. Out of Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman the Orioles are getting very inconsistent performances. Bergesen has been the most disappointing. He has a lot to prove if he is going to last the rest of the year with the big club. Arrieta has shown flashes. He has good stuff, but not as good command. Can he refine his command and finish the year in Baltimore? Tillman can dominate AAA, but when he starts for the Orioles he really struggles to command any of his pitches. Is it nerves, or something more than that? How soon will he be back in Baltimore?
Overall Grade: D
Bullpen: There have been very few bright spots from the Orioles bullpen in the first half of the season. Jsaon Berken has been a revelation and looks like he has found the role that suits his ability. Berken has been the Orioles best pitcher in 2010 and one of the few reliable relief arms for the Orioles. Will Ohman has proven to be the Orioles best pick-up in the off-season. Will he be an Oriole after the trade deadline? I also believe that the Orioles have found the right roles for Alfredo Simon and David Hernandez. They have the stuff to be late inning guys and have been mostly effective in those roles. The combo will do the Orioles a huge favor if they show that they can handle those roles for the foreseeable future. At least the club will be less likely to test the FA market for veteran relievers. Speaking of which Mike Gonzalez has been a bust through the first 81 games. Like Brian Roberts, Gonzo had limited opportunity before being shelved, but his poor performance as the Orioles closer in the opening week of the season seemed to bury the Orioles in a hole they have not been able to dig out of. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara’s injuries have not helped, as this is a unit that until recently has lacked any continuity, and any ‘pen that features Matt Albers, Frank Mata and Mark Hendrickson is going to struggle.
Overall Grade: F