Baltimore Orioles and 4 Current Contenders Who Will Fade as Summer Continues

Kevin BoilardCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2012

Baltimore Orioles and 4 Current Contenders Who Will Fade as Summer Continues

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    It’s almost the midway point in the 2012 MLB season and teams across the league have their sights set on a playoff berth.  While many teams have dominated their divisions up until this point, some will eventually cool down and fall off.

    Professional baseball has a long and grueling 162-game schedule.  The best teams manage to play at a high level throughout the year, often playing their best ball towards the end of the regular season and into the postseason.  In the coming months, baseball fans will find out which teams are the real deal and which teams are putting on a façade.

    While no team wants to suffer a second half collapse, some will be unable to avoid one.  Whether a team is plagued by injuries or is simply unable to handle the late-season pressure, the reasons for drop-offs go on and on.  The teams highlighted in this article are the current contenders who are most likely crumble as the summer wears on.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Baltimore is experiencing one of their most successful seasons in recent history.  The Orioles have finished either dead last or second to last in the AL East for 13 of the past 15 seasons.  Currently standing at 43-37, Baltimore only needs to win 16 of their remaining 82 games to match last season’s win total.

    The recent success must have Baltimore fans excited, but do not count on the Orioles’ decade and a half long playoff drought to come to an end in 2012.  The team is a prime candidate for a second half collapse.

    Baltimore owns the 23rd ranked batting average in the league (.242), and it could plummet even further as the season wears on.  That could become a major problem since the Orioles don’t have outstanding pitching; Baltimore’s team ERA is now over 4.00 (via ESPN.com).

    Center fielder Adam Jones has been the primary producer for the Orioles’ offense.  If Jones is stricken with an inopportune injury or an unexpected cold streak, the offense will struggle and Baltimore’s pitching will be exposed.

New York Yankees

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    The Yankees have dominated the competition in 2012 and are currently sitting atop the AL East with a comfortable six-game lead over the second-place Orioles.  With 48 wins, only the unstoppable Texas Rangers have come away with more victories (50).

    Although New York has resembled the Yanks of old, that does not make them immune to a second-half collapse.  The Yankees have played well despite having 11 players on the disabled list.  However, those injuries could come back to haunt New York later in the season.

    Nine of the 11 players on the Yankees disabled list are pitchers.  That will surely affect the team’s depth at a position that is pivotal for success, especially late in the season.  Since Mariano Rivera, possibly the best closer of all time, went down with a torn ACL in early May, starters CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have also landed on the DL.  Those are three names that New York would want on their active roster when making a late-season playoff push.

Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals have had little to celebrate in their short history.  Since the franchise moved from Montreal to the nation’s capital in 2005, they have never made the playoffs.  Things seem to be taking a turn for the better in 2012, as the team is currently leading the NL East with a 46-32 record.

    While the Nats have led their division for the majority of the season, they have yet to build a commanding lead.  They have struggled against tougher competition, making their hopes for a division title look more and more like a pipe dream.  Although the Nationals are a team that has impressively weathered injuries all season, they are a team that could buckle under late-season pressure.

    Washington has relied heavily on its pitching to win games.  The team ranks 20th in the league in batting average (.248) and 24th in the league in runs (316).  If not for the phenomenal team pitching, which ranks first in ERA, WHIP and BAA, the Nats would not be able to do much with the minimal run support they have generated in 2012 (via ESPN.com).

    While Stephen Strasburg’s early departure in his last start on June 30 was probably nothing more than a scare, fellow starter Chien-Ming Wang was placed on the disabled list with a hip injury.  Any more hits to that pitching staff could spell trouble for the Nationals as they move towards clinching their first playoff berth.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Dodgers are only a half-game back on the San Francisco Giants and very much alive in the playoff hunt.  With L.A. standing at 45-37, the Nationals are the only NL team with more wins on the season (46).  However, Los Angeles appears to be heading quite rapidly in the wrong direction.

    Los Angeles is the only team on this list that is already showing the signs of a meltdown.  The Dodgers have only won three of their past 15 games.  In six of those 15 games, Los Angeles failed to score a single run. 

    It would not be so bad if the Dodgers were at least able to play solid defense—but that has not been the case.  Four times in the past 15 games the Dodgers have lost by at least five runs.  Los Angeles looked like a early National League favorite only a month ago, but now, they could really use a miraculous turnaround.

    While the Dodgers appear to be the first team to tank, the next team to follow suit is yet to be determined.