The 2015 MLB regular season is underway and the Orioles have now completed their first two series of the season. After playing three in Tampa Bay and three at Camden Yards against the Blue Jays, the Orioles find themselves at 3-3 and (at the time of this writing) third place in the AL East. The first series in Tampa saw the Orioles take two out of three, and the Blue Jays took two out of three in the first series at Camden Yards this season. Here is a quick roundup of each game played so far:
Orioles @ Rays:
4/6: Orioles 6, Rays 2
W: C. Tillman: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 3 BB
L: C. Archer: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 K, 1 BB
4/7: Orioles 6, Rays 5
W: K. Gausman: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 2 BB
L: N. Karns: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 4 K, 4 BB
4/8: Rays 2, Orioles 0
W: J. Odorizzi: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7 K
L: M. Gonzalez: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 5 BB
4/10: Blue Jays 12, Orioles 5
W: M: Buehrle: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 K, 2 BB
L: B. Norris: 3 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 1 K, 1 BB
4/11: Orioles 7, Blue Jays 1
W: Ubaldo Jimenez: 7 IP, 1 H, 8 K, 1 BB
L: A. Sanchez: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 2 BB
Highlight: Ubaldo Jimenez shuts down the Blue Jays
4/12: Blue Jays 10, Orioles 7
W: A. Loup: 1.2 IP, 1 K
L: C. Tillman: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 3 BB
At 3-3, the Orioles have had some good moments and some bad moments throughout the first two series. Here are 5 takeaways from what we’ve seen from Baltimore so far:
1. The long ball is going nowhere
Last season the Orioles were the only team to hit above 200 home runs when they hit 211. So far, it looks like the Orioles will continue to pile on the home runs, as they have 11 right now. Adejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Steve Pearce each have 2 and Travis Snider, Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty each have 1. The Orioles have several power hitters, including Pearce, Jones, Davis and Snider. Not to mention that JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters will be coming back from the disabled list soon, so the presence of those two will only make those totals to up.
2. Starting pitchers need to go longer in games
Through the first six games Orioles starting pitchers have thrown 30 or more pitches in the first inning. Miguel Gonzalez did it in Tampa Bay, but recovered and made it into the 6th inning. Bud Norris and Chris Tillman were not as lucky. Norris only made it through 3 innings in the Orioles home opener, pitching into the 4th inning and had 8 earned runs as a result of his struggles. Tillman only made it through 2.2 innings Sunday, throwing 79 pitches and walking 3. The bullpen has had its struggles as well, surrendering at least 1 earned run in each of the O’s six games to far. The Orioles offense is one of the best in the American League, but they need a better effort from their pitching staff to win consistently. This is crucial even at the start of the season, as the O’s play all divisional games until April 27.
3. Speaking of starting pitchers, how about Ubaldo Jimenez?
Last offseason the Orioles signed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4 year, $50 million contract. Last season, Ubaldo was a disaster, going 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA. His delivery was a mess, he walked 77 and was demoted to the bullpen halfway through the season. Even when he pitched out of the bullpen he was a disaster, and he did not make the Orioles playoff roster. Determined to prove that giving him that contract was not a mistake, Jimenez cleaned up his delivery and had a great spring. In his first regular season start that trend continued and he threw seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays, only giving up 1 hit and striking out 8. He had the best start out of the Orioles pitching staff in the six games and his command was excellent, something that he struggled with last year. As I mentioned on my personal twitter account @jakemcd95 Saturday night at Camden Yards, this is what Orioles fans, coaches, players and staff wanted to see from Jimenez. We know what he is capable of. Now consistency becomes the key. If Jimenez can continue his dominance, the Orioles rotation could be one of the best in baseball.
4. Breakout season at the plate for Jonathan Schoop?
Last season Jonathan Schoop proved that he was a talented young second baseman with one of the best arms at that position in the MLB. The one thing missing was the bat, as he finished 2014 with a .209 average. So far this season Schoop has had 14 at bats, 4 hits, 2 home runs, 5 RBI’s and a .286 average. Only Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones and Travis Snider are doing better at the plate, and if Schoop keeps this up the Orioles will have yet another weapon in the lineup who can hit for power. It is early and we should not judge current statistics for what will happen in the future, but what Schoop has done so far should make O’s fans excited for his future.
5. The team will be fine without Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis
This offseason the Orioles lost perhaps their best offensive player of 2014 Nelson Cruz and fan-favorite Nick Markakis. They made up for these losses by re-signing outfielder Delmon Young and bringing in outfielder Travis Snider. Were these signings a tad underwhelming? Yes. Was it weird not seeing Nick Markakis in right field after nine seasons of him being there? Yes. But the Orioles have plenty of options in both the outfield and DH positions even after losing Cruz and Markakis. Alejandro De Aza looks to be the primary left fielder, and we have seen mainly Snider and Steve Pearce in right field. The Orioles can also throw Young or Chris Davis in right field if they really want to. Although not all of these players are going to be what Markakis was at the plate, most of them have better range in the outfield than Markakis at this point. As for the DH, we have seen Pearce, Young, Davis and Snider mainly in that role so far. Are all of these players going to compare to Nelson Cruz in that DH spot? Absolutely not. But all of them are solid options and as mentioned earlier, the Orioles have options and the lineup will not look the same each day. All of these players make up for a deep, well-rested, healthy roster who will be just fine after sustaining the losses they endured this winter.
The defending 2014 AL East champions are off to a decent start for the 2015 season. Fans of the Orioles should be excited for what should be another competitive season which should end in another crazy race to the AL East divisional crown. The roster may not be as stacked as last year, but the Orioles have plenty of options, a great lineup with numerous power bats and a deep pitching staff. And do not forget the man in charge of it all: Manager Buck Showalter. Get ready Baltimore, it is going to be another great season of Orioles baseball which will hopefully lead to the one thing the Orioles have not experienced since their resurgence; a trip to the World Series.