Thursday, August 16, 2012

Orioles 2012: Top of the 7th

The knock against the Orioles has become that they are a statistically terrible team.  They are 11th out of 14 American League teams in OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) and 7th in team ERA.  By all logic, they should be losing more games than they win.  And yet, they keep winning.  They are 7-2 over the past 9 games and are back in the wild card lead.  They make the most of the opportunities they get and they find a way to win ballgames, one at a time.

The one part of the team that has been beyond reproach statistically from the beginning of the season has been the bullpen.  Baltimore's ERA in relief is third-best in the Majors.  Not long ago, the Birds were the team that blew late-inning leads as a matter of habit - not in 2012.  When they have a lead, they protect it.  When they're behind, the relievers at least give them a shot.  Nearly to a man, this group has performed beyond all reasonable expectations.

Photo via Wikipedia

Submariner Darren O'Day, for instance, has not allowed an earned run since July 16th.  In the time since, he has pitched 10 2/3 innings, striking out 12.  Just last season, O'Day had a 5.40 ERA with the Rangers.  With the Birds, he has performed mostly 7th inning duty, compiling a season ERA of 2.45.  The team claimed him off of waivers in November.  He was Academic All-America in college at Florida.

Photo via Wikipedia

Mexican righty Luis Ayala has been only slightly less dominant.  Ayala has not allowed a run, earned or otherwise, in his last five appearances, totaling 4 innings.  Ayala pitched for the enemy Yankees last year.  Baltimore signed him as a free agent in February.  His season ERA stands at 2.54.

The team keeps adding weapons, too.  The Orioles acquired Puerto Rican lefty J.C. Romero in a trade with the Indians on Monday.  He pitched against the Red Sox each of the past two nights, racking up 1 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.  He's had quite the windy path this season: signed with the Cardinals in December only to be released in May.  The O's signed him to a minor league contract but he elected for free agency in July.  Cleveland signed him, then traded him back to the Orioles.

Venezuelan righty Miguel Socolovich was called up from the minors on July 14th.  He has recorded a 6.97 ERA over 10 1/3 innings of work.  He was designated for assignment on Tuesday.

The Orioles did have one spot starter last week: Steve Johnson who had his first Major League start on August 8th against the Mariners.  He had a quality start with two earned runs over six innings and was awarded the victory.  Johnson's father Dave also pitched for the Orioles, with the team from 1989-91.

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