The Indians wrap up what’s been a miserable road trip this weekend with a four-game series in Baltimore against 2012′s biggest surprise team, the Orioles. This is the first we’ve seen of the newly formidable O’s, so I talked to Camden Chat‘s Stacey Long about Adam Jones‘ breakout, the Orioles’ playoff hopes and trade aspirations, and—most importantly—what the heck is going on in Baltimore.
You can also check out my answers to Stacey’s questions on CamdenChat.com.
- Most had the Orioles pegged as one of the worst teams in baseball, but entering Wednesday they’re 41-32 and on track to win a wild card spot. What happened? Are Baltimore fans as surprised as the rest of the league?
Yes, Orioles fans are as surprised as the rest of the league. Maybe more; we’re a pretty cynical bunch. The Orioles started off hot at the plate as players like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis were crushing at the plate. That has tailed off some, which is partially why they’ve been struggling. Additionally, the bullpen has been outstanding all year. Led by Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson, so far they’ve been winners. And the off-season pickups of starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have worked out wonderfully as they are currently the only two really good pitchers in the rotation.
- Do the Orioles have what it takes to contend all year? What are the odds they’ll make the playoffs?
I don’t think so. They’ve been holding their own over the past few weeks but it feels like a team that is being held together with scotch tape and bubble gum. I do think they’ll have a winning season, which for the Orioles is nothing to scoff about. I think if things go really well they have a slim chance to take home one of the wild card spots.
- Are there any particular players you’re hoping Baltimore will target at the trade deadline?
The Orioles are currently playing baseball with infielders at the corner outfield positions, three 5th starters, and a third baseman that makes you cringe every time a ball is hit in his direction. I’d like to see at least one of those positions improved upon, but given the state of the Orioles minor-league system I can’t see any blockbuster trades going down. And to be honest, I’m not interested in trading the farm for a chance to win a one-game playoff. I’d rather wait until the Orioles have a more solid foundation.
- Adam Jones is enjoying a breakout year. Is this his ceiling or is his best yet to come?
I can’t imagine Jones having a better year than the year he’s having now. Even with a recent offensive slump (that has infected the entire team), he’s still hitting .298/.344/.555 with 19 home runs. On top of that, he’s playing pretty good defense. If he can keep up this level of play for most of his recently signed five-year extension, I will have absolutely no complaints.
- Who’s pitching for Baltimore this weekend, and what should Tribe fans expect from them?
Chen has been a great surprise for the Orioles this year. Signed to a three-year deal out of the NPB, the 27-year old has been quite good. He doesn’t flash a blazing fastball, but he has good command and he doesn’t walk many. He gives up a fair amount of fly balls but most are of the medium-depth variety.
Arrieta is the enigma of the rotation. He’s recently made some mechanical changes which include moving to the other side of the pitching rubber, and he has seen some improvement, but the truth is you never know what you’ll get with Arrieta. He has a mid-to-high 90s fastball and this season he hasn’t walked many but there are days when he gets knocked all over the ballpark. He might pitch 8 innings with 9 Ks, he might get knocked out in the 3rd. Your guess is as good as mine.
Tommy Hunter was the 5th starter in the Orioles rotation, but he was recently demoted to the bullpen. But the Orioles still don’t have another pitcher to take his place, so even though he pitched in relief on Tuesday night he still could get the start Saturday. Or perhaps the Orioles will call up Chris Tillman from AAA. Either way, the Indians are kinda lucky. Tommy Hunter is terrible.
Brian Matusz looked like he was getting his act together awhile back, but now he’s stinking up the joint again. He gives up a lot of hits, a lot of home runs (although not as many as Hunter), and he doesn’t strike out all that many. He’s basically a hot mess.
- What’s your prediction for the series?
O’s take three, provided the offense can get its act together.
Check out my answers to Stacey’s questions on CamdenChat.com.