Baltimore Orioles: 5 Ways the O's Can Take the AL East from the Yanks
If you were born before the early 1990's, you know how feared and respected that star-studded 1997 team was. They were unforgettably headlined by Cal Ripken Jr., Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar and Mike Mussina.
Those of you who were too young to have witnessed those 1997 O's firsthand, are finally seeing what winning baseball in Baltimore looks like. Needless to say, it's been a long 15 years.
Lets take an in-depth look at five ways these O's can withstand the Bronx Bombers for the AL East crown.
The biggest reason why the Orioles can survive the Yankees to win the AL East can be summed up in two words, Buck Showalter.
It appears that Showalter has found success in leading the Orioles. His reputation of being too detailed and a micro manager had gotten him fired from the Yankees and the Diamondbacks. Ironically, both organizations went on to win the World Series the year after Showalter's respective departures.
As he told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Showalter has embraced change.
"You always learn things, some positively and some negatively. Every situation calls for a little different approach. I pride myself being flexible to the needs of each club and each organization. You adjust to them. You don't ask them to adjust to you."
The most important statistic that illustrates Showalter's influence on this Orioles team is that he's got them playing to the tune of a 27-7 record in one-run games this season.
That is the kind of winning percentage that gives Baltimore the clear advantage over the Yankees, and it's all thanks to Buck.
Poor Yankees Pitching
The Yankees' pitching has been so atrocious this season, Baltimore can almost sit back and watch New York pitch themselves out of winning the division.
Ivan Nova's 12-7 record this year has been a significant drop off from last season's stellar 16-4 campaign. He just hasn't been sharp in big spots.
Andy Pettitte hasn't been with the team often enough to make a positive impact. Andy returns on Tuesday, but expectations are low for the remainder of the season.
Phil Hughes has underachieved this season, frustrating fans with his inability to be consistent. He's been very pedestrian with a 15-12 record and an era near 4.00.
Hiroki Kuroda has had a favorable strikeout-to-walk ratio with 154 Ks and only 44 bases on ball. Kuroda's only caveat is that he's given up 23 home runs.
Then there have been some spot starts from guys like Freddy Garcia and David Phelps, but nothing earth-shattering.
Yankee pitchers just haven't been effective over the course of the season. They're mostly to blame for the 10-game division lead evaporating in the second half.
The Orioles have been a hitting machine in 2012.
Nick Markakis and Adam Jones have been at the forefront of a season-long hitting barrage for the O's this year. Contrary to the Yankees, the Orioles have had a consistent steady offensive output, and that's the kind of hitting that can win you the division.
Despite Baltimore losing Markakis for six weeks because of a broken thumb, the Orioles shouldn't miss a beat as they have several other guys who have been stepping up offensively.
Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Weiters all have double-digit homers on the year and over 100 hits. Mark Reynolds and Manny Machado have been big contributing factors as well.
There just hasn't been an easy out in the O's lineup this year.
O's Have Momentum
Despite the O's losing two out of three to the Oakland A's, they still have the momentum in the division.
The expected fade of the Orioles never happened, winning 37 games since the All-Star break and remaining in the hunt. Accruing a 37-24 record against AL East teams has also validated Baltimore as a favorite to take the division.
The O's bullpen has also been dominant this year, especially late in games. The fact that they are young and relatively injury free, bodes well for their chances down the stretch.
No Pressure for the O'S
Ultimately, there is no pressure on Baltimore to outlast the Yanks for the AL East crown.
They've been in the basement of the division for so long that they simply don't feel the same weight to win that the Yankees do.
As long as the Orioles continue to play with that unencumbered spirit, they should have an edge over the Yanks as the pressure starts to mount.