Hey, Orioles fans: soak it up. These are the good times. Your first place team has a four-game lead over one of the better teams in baseball, and are firing on (nearly) all cylinders. Baseball can be cruel, and before we know it, we’ll be wondering if this team will ever win another game, or if certain players will ever be good again. Before that happens, let’s take this opportunity to enjoy what the O’s have given us, lately:
OK, so starting pitching has been a real concern to a team sitting at 14 games over .500. I’ll give you that. But let’s take a moment to remember that Chris Tillman is finally looking like the ace we’ve argued about over last few years. Call him what you will, just don’t call him late for dinner. Tillman has been really good this season. His last start against the Rays was not sharp, but that presents itself as an extreme outlier to his 2016 body of work.
Check out Mike Petriello walk through three improvements that have brought Tillman’s game to the next level, over at mlb.com.
Look, I was never a comic book kid, so I don’t know if I made that reference correctly, but my point is this: we’ve debated over and over again whether Adam Jones is a good choice for hitting leadoff, but WHO CARES?!?! The man is hitting there, and there is no need to mess with a good thing. This team doesn’t have a “prototypical leadoff hitter” (does that exist any more?), and on a team full of “working the count damned, swing it” power guys, Jones at least sets the tone, right?
Jones has been undeniably better since moving to the top spot. Either it’s coincidental that he ended his slump when Buck Showalter moved him into the leadoff spot, or the move triggered something between Jones’ ears. Whichever, I’m fine. Jones has a wOBA of .377 and a wRC+ of 135, batting atop the lineup. I’ll take that for as long as he’ll give it to me.
Roch Kubatko’s blog from Sunday throws a little love Schoop’s way:
Jonathan Schoop is batting .455 (15-for-33) during an eight-game hitting streak. He’s hitting .333 (30-for-90) in his last 24 games, with eight doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs, six walks and 19 runs scored.
June has been kind to Schoop. From Fangraphs:
Schoop has been batting second and third recently, and though he will come back down to earth eventually, it’s nice to see members of the “supporting cast” carrying a heavy load for a period of time.
I’ve been impressed with Francisco Pena, and his ability to fill in for an injured Caleb Joseph. But the better sign is that Matt Wieters has been able to step up, and show that he is completely recovered from his injury which resulted in Tommy John surgery in 2014. Wieters is doing everything that garnered him a $15.8MM qualifying offer in the offseason. Wieters is making strong throws to second, calling a good game, and always seems to be in the thick of things in late-inning heroics. I talked about this a couple weeks ago on the show: doesn’t it seem that Matt Wieters is disproportionately represented in the MASN post-game interviews?
Wieters had a great Game 2 in Saturday’s twin billing, but it was far from out of character. Wieters hit a bomb out to Eutaw Street, and followed with an insurance homer later in the game. I don’t know what Wieters’ future with the Orioles looks like, and the team will be faced with another decision in the offseason. But I’m enjoying watching Wieters make that decision as difficult as possible, in the meantime.
And that’s not all. Brad Brach has looked like an All Star at times. Joey Rickard and Hyun Soo Kim are getting platoon at-bats, and performing like a quality platoon. Mark Trumbo leads the league in home runs. Zach Britton has converted 23 save opportunities. Manny Machado has cemented himself in the top tier of MLB stardom. The 2016 team has started to remind us of the 2012 and 2014 clubs, with their “Comeback Kids” identity.
These are the good times, ladies and gents. Do yourselves a favor and enjoy it. And try to draw on this when times are tough.