The Baltimore Orioles sit at 14-26 as they have officially reached the quarter pole of the 2019 season.
Brandon Hyde’s “Baby Birds” have had some ups and downs throughout the first quarter of the season but all in all they have proven to be a good watch on most nights. After racing out to 4-1 start, the Orioles dropped eight of their next nine decisions to fall 5-9. They have not been able to sniff the .500 mark since that April tailspin.
Let’s take a look at some takeaways from this team as they sit in last place in the American League East at the quarter pole of the 2019 season.
1) Dwight Smith Jr. is not only a major league outfielder, but he may be the club’s best player.
Dwight Smith Jr. may be the biggest revelation for the 2019 Orioles. On March 8 Smith Jr. was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for international slot money and he hasn’t stopped hitting since.
Smith Jr. was the 53rd-overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft. He never seemed to hit a stride as a member of the Blue Jays, appearing in just 47 games over his two tenures in the big leagues. He was productive for Toronto, hitting .293 over 92 at-bats but he found himself walking into Spring Training in Baltimore looking to hammer down a starting job.
The 26-year-old Smith Jr. has locked down the starting left fielder’s job, and he’s hitting .286 with team highs in home runs (8) and RBI (27). He is also second on the team with four stolen bases and he also leads the team in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This stat is used primarily to show the most valuable player on any particular team.
Smith Jr. is under team control next season before his three possible arbitration years. If he continues to produce, the Orioles should look to sign him to an extension at some point in the near future. He has certainly earned his MLB stripes to this point.
2) John Means continues to look the part.
When the Orioles called up John Means late last season as a part of September call-ups, he only threw 3.1 innings surrendering five runs on six hits. Hardly the best MLB debut for the 25-year-old lefty drafted in the 11th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Means persevered through his rough debut and made the 2019 roster out of Spring Training. He earned his first MLB win on March 31, working in relief in a 7-5 Orioles win at Yankees Stadium. That’s a hell of a spot to pick up your first win. Means went 3.1 innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out five.
He would have two more relief appearances before making his first start on April 9 against the Oakland Athletics. Means gave up five runs but only one earned in an eventual 13-2 Orioles loss.
Since then, in his six appearances including five starts, he has surrendered just eight runs over 30 innings pitched. He is currently leading the Orioles in wins with a 5-3 record.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to see Means pitch, you are missing out. His change-up is filthy.
3) Chris Davis is smokin’ hot.
Once the butt of America’s jokes thanks to his 0-for-54 hit-less-streak, Davis has been smoking hot since.
Since breaking the streak with a 3-for-5 day at Fenway Park on April 13, Davis is hitting .290 with five homers and 15 RBI.
Davis still has a quite a long way to go to justify the massive seven-year, $161 million deal he signed with the Orioles in the 2015-16 offseason. The first few years of the deal have been dreadful for the Davis, the Orioles and their fanbase.
Let’s hope Davis can keep his momentum going into the second quarter of the season. Get over .200 and see how high you can climb. If we have to put up with Mike Bordick calling him “The Crusher”, he damn well better be crushing. Or at least cracking the Mendoza line.
4) Orioles veteran starting pitcher becoming trade bait?
Heading into the 2019 season, the Orioles had two veteran starting pitchers that many thought could play themselves into being trade bait at the 2019 deadline. I’d imagine few thought Andrew Cashner would look the more desirable of the duo.
Cashner has been solid this season, posting a 4-1 record with a 4.25 ERA to lead the club among qualified starters. He also leads the Orioles in innings pitched with 42.1 innings logged to this point in the season. He’s given up three earned runs or less in six of his seven starts since getting shellacked on Opening Day in the Bronx.
Cashner has to continue pitching well to become a factor in the trade market as the season progresses. Teams in need of a veteran innings-eater for a late-season push could view Cashner as a potential fit if the 32-year-old continues to pitch well.
5) They have to find a way to cut down on the long ball.
The Orioles have given up 84 home runs in 40 games!
You’re reading that correctly as opposing hitters have certainly digged hitting the long ball off Orioles pitching. Consider this: The Seattle Mariners rank second and they have given up 71 home runs in four more games played.
To further the point here, the Cincinnati Reds have surrendered just 34 home runs on the season to lead the MLB in fewest allowed. The AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays rank second, giving up 35 home runs to date.
Their are too many culprits to list but Dylan Bundy once again leads the club giving up 11 dingers with David Hess hot on his heels at 10. In three starts Alex Cobb has given up nine long balls in just 12.1 innings pitched.
Speaking of Cobb….
6) Alex Cobb is proving to be a disaster in Baltimore.
The Orioles are often highly criticized and rightfully so for their reluctance to make major free agent signings in the MLB offseason spending frenzy. If you look at the results of their last three major signings, they may continue to be reluctant for the foreseeable future.
Davis’ contract is an albatross. Ubaldo Jimenez was a train-wreck here after signing his four-year, $50 million deal with the O’s in 2014. Not to be outdone is the Orioles latest marquee free agent signing the aforementioned Cobb.
Since signing his four-year, $57 million deal withe the club last offseason, Cobb is 5-17 over 31 starts with a 5.36 ERA. Jimenez’s ERA in Baltimore was only 5.22.
Cobb got off to an awful start last season after getting into Spring Training late. Cobb has just one win at Camden Yards in 12 tries and is 0-2 this year, including his biggest clunker of the year when he surrendered nine runs on 10 hits in a 16-7 loss to the Twins.
Cobb got going later last season and was effective. The Orioles need to hope he figures it out again here as his tenure in Baltimore has been a nightmare so far.
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun