I’ve grown up an Orioles fan on the hush…Idolizing Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray (and Brady Anderson…yikes) as a kid…watching Nolan Ryan pitch at Camden Yards…and hearing my mom and grandma talk about going to O’s games with my grandpa at Memorial Field. They have the coolest logo in sports and play in the original, and best new/old school ballpark. Ever since that damn Jeffrey Maier though, things haven‘t really been the same.
There have been a few seasons of promise and a few players that showed flashes but nothing has sustained and all promise has always fizzled. The O’s always seem to revert right back to the bottom of the AL East right around the time that America switches focus to Football. Today, however, the O’s are staring down the barrel of first place for the first time since 1997. You can’t overlook Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado but they are also doing it on the heels of Nick Markakis hitting everything in sight since the All-Star break (and leading off…finally). They are doing it with the help of two of the most spectacularly gifted swing-and-missers in the entire MLB in Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds (combined for 263 K’s in 776 AB’s…and 40 HR’s). They are also doing it with a bunch of classic journeymen and also-rans that seem to fit Buck Showalter’s system in Nate McClouth, Omar Quintanilla, Robert Andino and a 83 year old Wilson Betemit.
The O’s have an offense that can score runs and a starting pitching staff that has also been on fire since the break but what you cannot overlook what the bullpen has accomplished this season. In 2011 the O’s pen had 1 pitcher make over 50 appearances with an ERA under 3.00 and you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time it happened. Current closer Jim Johnson accomplished both numbers. This year the numbers are staggering with FIVE pitchers all over 50 appearances and under a 3.00 ERA, check out these numbers:
- Jim Johnson – 58 app, 1-1, 41 SV, 2.88 ERA and 0.98 WHIP
- Luis Ayala – 55 app, 4-4, 1 SV, 11 Holds, 2.64 ERA and 1.25 WHIP
- Troy Patton – 50 app, 1-0, 2.58 ERA and 1.03 WHIP
- Darren O’Day – 56 app, 6-1, 2.30 ERA and 0.99 WHIP
- Pedro Strop – 59 app, 5-2, 3 SV, 1.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP
One of the most shocking numbers is that none of these pitchers are dominant strikeout machines…O’Day at 8.89 K/9 is the leader…it shows how important strikes are. This bullpen effeciency has allowed Baltimore to sport the best record in baseball in 1-run games, 24-7…and the best record, by far, in extra innings at 12-2.
Living a fine line like the O’s are is fun and all 12,000 fans per game are getting excited but like the Rockies before them…this sort of success may not sustain itself over the long run. Enjoy it for now because teams like this come along only so often. They play for each other, the play for the name on the front and they play for the love of the best game in the world. This Baltimore team shows why there is magic in baseball…even if nobody is watching.