While the MLB All Star Break is widely regarded as the half way point, it is actually quite late of that mark as every team in baseball has played over 90 games already, but today we are going to touch on the best, worst, most surprising and least surprising events and players of the first half for the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles entered the break at 52-42 with a four game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East, and had three players in Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz and Matt Wieters voted as starters for the American League in the All Star Game. Of course Wieters didn't play due to his ongoing recovery following Tommy John Surgery, but the Orioles were still the only team with multiple starters for the AL squad. All of that sounds good, and surely something will be mentioned about it, but what was the best, worst, most surprising and least surprising moments and players of the first half for the Birds?
We are glad you asked!
Best Moment – There have not been many great moments this season for Chris Davis, but his walkoff three run home run against the Chicago White Sox to give the Orioles a dramatic 6-4 come from behind victory. We chose this as the best moment of the first half because it was a game that not many were giving the Orioles a chance to win due to Chris Sale being on the mound, and then when Baltimore squandered an early 2-0 lead to trail 4-2 entering the eighth inning, not many felt like the Birds were going to come out on top. Lastly, the walkoff homer was of the pinch hit variety for Davis. Runner-up – Davis three home run night.
Best Player – There is little argument here. Where would the Orioles be without the performance of Nelson Cruz? What is turning out to be the biggest bargain since you got those rib-eye steaks 75% because they expired the next day at the grocery store, Cruz's one year, $8 million price tag is an extreme couponer's dream. Cruz has hit .287 with 28 home runs and 74 RBI this season in 93 games has scored a team high 56 runs as well.
Worst Moment – Yes, the team is still in first place, but that moment when it was evident that Wieters was not going to play again this season was heart breaking for him, the team and the fans. Much like how many felt when Nick Markakis was injured for the remainder of the season in 2012, Wieters deserves to be a part of what is happening for the O's right now and he was off to a great start offensively after making the adjustment of lowering his hands in his stance while hitting left handed.
Worst Player – While the title of this little spot of the article is too harsh for our liking, we will re-name it the Least Productive Player of the first half. While no one would want this honor, we unfortunately have to give it to a player that everyone, including the Orioles were excited about coming into the season and that is David Lough. He has been better as of late, but overall his first half was abysmal, as most of his production for the team has been as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. We will agree that both of those are valuable to a team, but his production at the plate has been pretty much non-existent and since he has no options remaining, the Orioles cannot send him down to Norfolk for a couple of weeks to get him consistent at bats to try and work out of it. Lough is hitting .197 with two home runs, eight RBI and five stolen bases in 117 at bats. Runner-up – Ubaldo Jimenez
Most Surprising Moment – If you do not see this one coming, the you are either in denial, or are a future teller because there is no way that we could have told you that Davis would be hitting under .200, JJ Hardy would have three home runs, Lough is hitting under .200, Wieters only played in 26 games, and only two Orioles starters have ERA's under 4.00 at the All Star Break prior to the season, but that the team would be 10 games over .500 and have a four game cushion in the AL East. The fact that the Orioles are where they are right now, with everything that they have had to endure is simply remarkable.
Most Surprising Player – Really? Is there any argument whatsoever here? C'mon folks, Steve Pearce has been an absolute gift to the Orioles this season. Coming into spring training, we did not even believe he was going to make the team, then early in the season the Orioles designate him for assignment, but low and behold, Davis gets hurt and the Birds need a first baseman, so they resign Pearce and the rest is history. If he had enough at bats to qualify, Pearce's .316 batting average would be seventh best in the American League. In 187 at bats this season, Pearce is hitting .316 with 11 home runs, 31 RBI and 14 doubles and has scored 28 runs hitting primarily out of the two-hole.
Least Surprising Moment – We love Tommy Hunter, he is a great person and has one of the best fastballs in the game, but it should not have come as much of a surprise that he struggled in the closer's role and was in fact demoted as the team's closer. Coming into the season, we, like many others, pointed out just how poor Hunter pitched against left handed hitters and that he would not be able to handle the closer's role because of it. Although he did a little better against lefties than anticipated, it was clear that he could not handle the ninth inning.
Least Surprising Player – While on the surface it may seem like an insult, this is actually a gigantic compliment to Adam Jones. Is anyone surprised by his performance thus far this season? He has been great in centerfield, and has done what he seems to do every year now. He is on pace to hit in the .285-.295 range (although he is hitting .301 right now), he is going to hit 25-35 home runs and drive in 80-95 guys. Jones is becoming the definition of consistency and we are lucky to have him in Baltimore.
So there you have it, what do you think? What are your moments and players for each category? Let the conversation begin by posting a comment!
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Tags: Adam Jones, Baltimore, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Chris Davis, David Lough, MLB, Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter