Orioles Soft Underbelly Exposed

The entire world awaits the Orioles proper crash back to Earth. It seems as though the Orioles, after all their fans have been through, will only do it in a most dramatic fashion. It is fitting, poetic even.

A simple, somewhat dignified slinking back to reality just won’t due. The masochists of the baseball world need to see the Orioles wandering through a strange neighbourhood with matted hair in a badly wrinkled cocktail dress to ensure the Earth is back on its correct axis.

The Good Ship Oriole might be leaking fuel but it yet to take on water. The addition of Jim Thome this weekend only earns the Orioles some long-overdue good will from well-fed internet denizens grown plump on ample OriLOLitude.

The Orioles held up their end for as long as they could. Key players went down with injuries but the Orioles stayed afloat. The pitching staff reverted to form but the offense kept them above water. Just as man cannot live without bread and bones, a pitching staff is not an independent entity unto itself. Defense can make a pitching staff, and it can undo one, too. The Orioles defensive blunders may finally catch up with them.

Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun detailed the defensive trasngressions of the Orioles last night in Seattle. Encina notes that while the box score may not reflect it, the Orioles gift wrapped last night’s game for the Mariners:

The Orioles were only charged with one error – raising their major league high to 70 — in their 6-3 loss to the Mariners. But anyone staying up past the late local news to watch Baltimore’s comedy of non-errors knows that wasn’t a true indication of how horrible the team’s fielding was.

Encina goes on to note no fewer than three separate instances of the Orioles booting or clanking balls that might have rescued starter Jason Hammel from certain disaster. Numerous instances of the Orioles unable to help themselves, tacking pitches onto their starters tally and forcing a team with a razor thin margin of error to step even more lightly.

The Orioles defensive numbers are ugly across the board. They rank in errors committed with 70 and both major defensives metrics — DRS and UZR — show little love to the Orioles assorted glovemen, placing the O’s in the bottom third for teams.

Shortstop JJ Hardy is the lone defensive brightspot for the Orioles, rating well in all categories as well as passing the old-fashioned eye test. Adam Jones is certainly an exciting outfielder, one known for making the big plays though the advanced numbers are down on his range.

Mark Reynolds is a notorious butcher as is Wilson Betemit. Brian Roberts best defensive days are behind him. Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, and whoever the O’s run out in left field can all hope for average play at best.

This is a team built to slug but, as Encina notes, the offense isn’t carrying the ever-increasing load right now. If the Orioles expect to stay within shouting distance of the American League Wild Card, they better hope a poor defensive squad won’t be their undoing. Jim Thome’s good vibes can only carry them so far.