5 Bold Predictions for Baltimore O's in the Second Half of the Season
After a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees to start off the second half of the season, there is much excitement buzzing around Baltimore. And for good reason.
The Baltimore Orioles are 47-36 going into Tuesday's action, good for second in the AL East. They're two-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox and three-and-a-half ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Rays.
If the season were to end today, the O's would grab the second wild-card spot and have to travel to Oakland to face the A's in the one-game playoff, who lead them by a game in the wild-card standings.
It is as plain as day to anyone who watches the Orioles play that they're having fun playing together, as a team, and though they need some help in the starting pitching department, they're a serious threat to take the division.
This upcoming second half should be a lot of fun for both the team and their fans.
Their Starting Pitching Will Solidify Itself
The Orioles have had their share of starting pitching issues throughout the season's first half. Jason Hammel, last season's ace, has an ERA over 5.00, and there has been a revolving door of pitchers for the fifth rotation slot.
On the flip side, though, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are having very strong seasons, with Tillman winning his 10th game on Sunday night against the Yankees. They both have an ERA around 3.75, and they both give the team confidence every time they toe the rubber.
With the upcoming return of Wei-Yin Chen (pictured) from the DL, the O's will get back another very solid and reliable pitcher, and that should provide a huge shot in the arm for a team struggling to get consistency from their arms.
Now, I'm not going to speculate on whether the O's go out and trade for a front-line starter at the trade deadline, because I really just don't know. Common sense says they can't, because they have nothing to offer that they don't need, but there's always a chance something gets done.
Regardless of whether they acquire someone to help their staff or not, they'll find a way to make things better every fifth day on the rubber.
Brian Roberts: Gone and Back Again
Second baseman Brian Roberts has only played four games this season, but he's actually been pretty good during those four games.
Roberts injured himself during the third game of the season, while stealing second base, and only just returned to action on Sunday night, batting ninth in the DH slot while Ryan Flaherty continued to play at second base, hitting one spot in front of Roberts.
Unfortunately, I see Roberts injuring himself yet again, but I don't think it'll be nearly as serious as his injuries the last three seasons. He'll spend about two or three weeks on the DL at some point in the second half of the season and return in time for the end of the year and the playoffs, should the O's qualify.
His return will obviously add depth, and manager Buck Showalter will likely do more of what he did Sunday night: Roberts at DH, Flaherty at second base, as well as switching the two around and mixing Alexi Casilla in on occasion.
Of course, I hope I'm wrong; I'd love to see Roberts stay healthy and productive for the team. But given his history the last three-plus seasons, I have a hard time believing he'll make it through the rest of the season without missing time.
Crush Davis will reach 60 homers.
Taking into account how productive his September was last season and how it has carried over into the 2013 campaign, I don't see Davis slowing down. It's not like he just simply got hot. No, he improved his mechanics to allow him to see the ball better and make better contact with the ball.
His walk rate is at a career high (10.2 percent) while his strikeout rate is the lowest we've seen from him (26.6 percent). A player doesn't do that simply by getting hot. And rarely does a player get hot for a half-a-year or even a whole year.
Plus, Davis' breakout is different from other players, such as Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista, in that he didn't just suddenly become a home run machine. Davis always showed immense power in the minor leagues for the Texas Rangers, and even last season, he hit 33 home runs with 85 RBI for the Birds, both of which were team-leading stats.
What's more, he's going with pitches a lot better, as a good bit of his home runs have been opposite-field shots. Two of his last three homers went the other way, as he put one in the O's bullpen out in left center on Saturday night and one in the left-field stands on Sunday night. Power the other way is a good indicator of being a true hitter and seeing the ball well.
His problem was always strikeouts and making consistent contact. Now that he seems to have corrected those two, there's no stopping him.
Manny Machado, Manny Machado
Manny Machado is a doubles machine. The third baseman hit his league-leading 38th double on Sunday night and is currently on pace for over 70 doubles this season. 74, to be exact.
The single-season record for doubles is 67, set in 1931 by Earl Webb, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Should Machado keep this pace, he'll break the doubles record and then some.
Only six players have hit 60 or more doubles in a season, and all of those seasons occurred between 1926 and 1936.
So it's been a while.
Obviously, it would be difficult for any player to maintain a pace like that, as doubles take great skill as well as a little lucky ball placement, and logic says that Machado will slow down, if anything, because the law of averages will have him hitting more balls to outfielders than in between them.
But if anyone can break that 92-year-old record, I think it's a young player with great talent and not enough experience to truly realize what he's actually doing. Ignorance can be a good thing sometimes, after all.
Therefore, I believe that Machado will break the doubles record and end up hitting 69 of them overall, allowing the Orioles to be the first team since 1927 to have both the doubles leader and home run leader (Davis) on the same squad. The last duo to do that? Babe Ruth (HR) and Lou Gehrig (2B) on the New York Yankees.
Furthermore, I believe Machado will be rewarded for his outstanding defense at third base with a Gold Glove in the offseason.
Beast of the East
The one issue the Orioles have is their pitching.
Their offense is one of the best in baseball. Their defense is top-notch. But no team can win without at least solid pitching.
As I mentioned in an earlier slide, I think the O's rotation will improve some simply with Chen's return to go along with a very reliable Gonzalez and Tillman.
Of course, a starting rotation isn't just three deep, so Hammel will have to turn himself around and the team will need to find someone to pitch in the fifth rotation slot who can eat some innings and put up an acceptable ERA before they can expect to win the World Series year in and year out.
For as much success as the O's have had during the season's first half, the team has also had it's share of bad luck with their pitchers, as their rotation has struggled and the bullpen has felt the effects of being overworked.
However, the team will rally together, their pitching will become more reliable down the stretch just as it did last season, and they'll begin to have more and more success, fighting their way to the top spot in the AL East, where they'll finish the season.
Yep, I predict that the Orioles will win their division for the first time since 1997.