A little over two months since his early-season update, blog friend Scott Brosig is back in action with a mid-season update.
The NFL lockout is over. Orioles fans can rejoice and regain their interest in professional sports (unless you're a Redskins fan…). No longer do you have to feign interest in the dismal Os season, unless you’re a diehard glutton for punishment like me.
So while you've been following NFL lockout news and the feverish pace of free agent signings and trades, let's recap Os happenings and what to look for ahead as the baseball season winds down like a slow guillotine.
The best thing that's happened for the Orioles is the health and play of J.J. Hardy. He's been on a tear at the top of the line-up, and while he's not Buck Showalter's prototype leadoff man, he's given the lineup some life. The Os opted to sign the slugging shortstop to a three-year extension worth $22.5 million instead of trading for prospects.
A good move, considering he's greatly surpassed the offensive output of any shortstop plug-ins since the Orioles traded once-great Miguel Tejada years ago. Having Hardy will allow the Os to bring top prospect Manny Machado through the minors at a gradual pace, alleviating concerns that the Orioles will push him to the majors too aggressively.
Baltimore has gotten good production out of its lineup. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones have found the power in their swings and lead the team in batting average. Matt Wieters has taken a small step back offensively, but is still in position to set personal bests in many statistical categories, while his defense should put him in consideration for a Gold Glove.
However, there have also been disappointments. Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, while showing intermittent signs of life, have largely been busts. They have not delivered the power and run production numbers you would expect from your first basemen and designated hitter.
With that said, offseason acquisition Mark Reynolds doesn't get the credit he deserves. While his error totals match his home run totals, he's done what was asked in delivering RBIs and home runs from the bottom of the order.
On the pitching side, the Orioles have struggled badly. Once rookie-of-the-year candidate Zach Britton, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz were sent down to the minors. The starting pitching struggles have made it clear that trading top pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to a contender for prospects will be a difficult move, as unfortunately, the Os still need to get through the remainder of the season.
In the bullpen, Mike Gonzalez recently made ESPN's Not Top 10 highlights by falling off the mound.
Going into next year, there are more questions than Orioles fans would like or would have expected. In the interest of giving Os fans some hope, discussions of realignment and expansion of playoffs have intensified, giving the Os a better shot at grabbing some low-hanging fruit in seasons to come, and take a wild card berth to the promised land.