It’s been a sluggish start for the Orioles who entered May with a .500 record, the first time they’ve started that “poorly” over the last three years. By May 1st last year, they were already five games over .500, just like they were the previous year.
But in the AL East, it hasn’t hurt them. They are in second place in the packed division because the entire division is sluggish. As of Thursday, not a single team in the division had scored as many runs as their opponents. While the records for the teams vary between four games over to five games under .500, the run differential of all the teams are between -6 and -12. None have been good; none have been terrible.
The same can be said about the Orioles pitching and hitting. Neither is necessarily a dire problem, but neither is quite as effective as they were last year. Last year’s offense ranked fourth in the American League with 4.6 runs per game; this year’s lineup has slipped to seventh (4.5 runs per game). Last year’s pitching was sixth overall (4.38 runs against per game) while this year’s arms have slipped to ninth (4.75 runs per game.) And remember: last year’s Orioles didn’t make the playoffs.
The team got a mix of good news and bad news this week offensively. The positive news was the activation of Manny Machado on Thursday. The 21-year-old is a rising superstar in major league baseball, a mix of power, speed, defense and youth that might be the most coveted third baseman in baseball right now. However, on Sunday, slugger Chris Davis was placed on the DL with an oblique injury. Davis crushed 53 home runs last year, including one at Target Field. Barring a postponed game, he won’t go yard here this year; this is the Orioles only scheduled trip to Minnesota.
Baltimore’s offense could use a boost because a few players in the lineup are really struggling. Twins fans might be surprised to hear that one of them is JJ Hardy, who the Twins traded to the Orioles three years ago to make room for (cringe) Tsuyoshi Nishioka. (And if you think I mentioned Nishi just so I could include this picture on the right, you could not be more correct. Let's admire it again, shall we?)
Anyway, Hardy's hitting just .242 with no home runs and a .258 on-base percentage. He’s also been battling a hamstring strain that kept him out of the lineup last week. He should play this weekend, but hopefully his turnaround will wait until after the Orioles leave town.
Ditto that sentiment for pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez was signed to a $50M contract this offseason to help anchor the top of the rotation. He’s been an anchor alright: 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA entering Friday’s night’s start versus Ricky Nolasco. Jimenez’s control has been brutal this year, walking seventeen batters in 27 innings. That’s also led to relatively early exits: he has yet to get more than six innings of outs.