Wow, is this team bad.
On pace for the worst season in the Majors since the 2003 Detroit Tigers went 43-119, the Orioles are last in the American League in runs, hits, batting average, OBP, and saves. They're next-to-last in slugging, total bases, and ERA. They've been shut out seven times already. As an opponent, they're just what the doctor ordered for the Mariners after a difficult 10-game stretch against the powerhouses of Boston and New York.
Baseball is a funny game, though, so best not to be overconfident. Weird things happen, good pitchers have bad days, and even the lowliest of batters occasionally has a hot streak. And—for now—Baltimore does have a couple of top-notch players in shortstop Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones, and a couple of formerly upper-echelon players having bad years in pitcher Alex Cobb and slugger Chris Davis. Davis in particular is more albatross than oriole—statistically among the very worst players in the Majors this year, Davis is signed for another four years at $23 million per, part of a seven-year extension he was offered after leading the AL in home runs in 2015.
Baltimore's starting rotation has no ace, and each of the five starters has a record under .500. The best of the lot is Dylan Bundy, who has already made three starts this year in which he gave up seven runs (including one in which he got no one out, serving up four first-inning homers to the Royals) but is somehow currently hanging on to an ERA under 4.00, and on the other end is Cobb, who is having a terrible season leading the league in losses and struggling to keep his ERA under 7.00. The bullpen is a little better, with Brad Brach filling in well as closer for Zach Britton, who spent most of the year on the disabled list.
Conventional wisdom says that the Orioles should blow it all up and rebuild from scratch, and any minute now they could start the process. Machado, Jones, Britton, Chris Tillman, and Danny Valencia are all short-timers—free-agents-to-be, they could fetch Baltimore some much-needed new blood in trades. The club would undoubtedly prefer to deal Davis and former Mariner Mark Trumbo, but thanks to insane contracts the O's are likely stuck with them. After the dust settles on Baltimore's wheeling and dealing, the 2018 Orioles may challenge not only the '03 Tigers, but the 1962 Mets for most losses in a season (120).
Players to Watch
Chris Davis: Twice the AL leader in home runs (53 in 2013, 47 in 2015), the O's inked Davis to a hefty seven-year contract extension prior to 2016. Since then, "Crush"—a play on the nickname of Kevin Costner's character "Crash" Davis in Bull Durham—has posted a batting line of .207/.307/.409 and struck out over 500 times. Oriole fans everywhere have been saying, "Get a hit, Crush. Please, for the love of all that's holy, get a %@#&ing hit."
Jonathan Schoop: An All-Star in 2017, when he hit .293 with 35 homers and 105 RBI, the Baltimore second baseman is unlikely to repeat the honor this year. He hasn't seen .300 since April 5th, .250 since May 12th, or .230 since June 6th. Schoop is on pace for 21 longballs and just 57 RBI. In his notoriously hitter-friendly home park at Camden Yards, he's batting a shockingly low .190/.250/.340.
Andrew Jones: We hardly knew ye, Adam. Dealt away from Seattle in the infamous Erik Bedard trade after the '07 season, Jones has been a cornerstone of the Orioles franchise. He could be on the move again, though, as Baltimore is in dire need of a makeover and Jones still has decent trade value at age 32. The five-time All-Star is batting above his career numbers and remains a fine defender in center field.
Buck Showalter: Now in his 20th year as a Major League manager (not counting two years "managing" the yet-to-field-a-team Arizona Diamondbacks before they started play in 1998), Showalter is in the final year of his contract and is reportedly considering leaving the pros and becoming the head baseball coach at Mississippi State University, the school he was drafted out of (by the Yankees) in 1977. He has three Manager of the Year awards with three different teams—the Yankees, Rangers, and Orioles—but appears not to be interested in managing another if the Orioles don't bring him back. Showalter, 62, has said his preference would be to transition to a front-office position with Baltimore, and should that not pan out take the job at MSU, which was first offered him in 2008.
Showalter has led his teams to postseason berths five times (four if you don't count the Wild Card game as a true postseason berth), so he clearly has the chops to be successful; the dreadfulness of the Orioles' current season cannot be laid at his feet. That said, he has taken criticism for relying too much on veteran players that are simply not cutting it this year and not playing others, but how much of that is Showalter's thinking and how much is a mandate from above is unclear (Chris Davis' contract alone may be enough to force him into the lineup). He also has a reputation for being too slow to hook a starting pitcher, though he is well-regarded for how he otherwise handles a bullpen.
Legend has it that Showalter was given the nickname "Buck" by minor-league manager Ed Napoleon because of Showalter's tendency to lounge in the clubhouse "buck naked."
Mark Trumbo: After missing the early portion of the season with injury, Trumbo started his 2018 campaign strong before a June swoon that saw him drop 45 points from his batting average. Over the first three weeks of the month, he put up a line of .203/.301/.438 in 64 at-bats. The slugger is just a year removed from leading the American League with 47 home runs, though, so shouldn't be underestimated. At the plate, anyway; if the Orioles choose to put him in the field, they do so at significant risk. Trumbo came up as an outfielder with the Angels, but as Mariner fans can attest, has proven himself to be among the worst defensive outfielders in recent memory. He's not quite the same level of liability at first base, but since coming to Baltimore, the O's have only used him there on 11 occasions (as opposed to 138 in the outfield and twice at third base).
Trumbo came to Seattle in mid-2015 in a trade with the Diamondbacks, only to be traded away after that same season to the Orioles for backup catcher Steve Clevenger. He batted .263/.316/.419 in 96 games for Seattle. According to the stat Defensive Runs Saved per Year formulated by Baseball Information Services, Trumbo had a defensive rating of -14 runs as a Mariner.
|Baltimore Orioles||(1954 - present)|
|World Champions:||1966, 1970, 1983|
|League Champions:||1944, 1969, 1971, 1979|
|Division Titles:||1973, 1974, 1997, 2014|