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Orioles: The Swoon

I’ll admit it. I didn’t see this coming.

“This” meaning, of course, The Swoon. That rite to which we as Orioles fans are annually subjected around this time. The stretch of games that breaks our spirit through some combination of losing, listless play, and ever-growing distance between the record as it stands and the record as we all hoped it would (or could) be.

The moment when we’re all but forced to admit that, yes, this year is just like the others.

At press time for this post the Birds stand a season-worst 10 games below .500, having lost seven of their past nine. Worse than that, though, they’re doing that thing they do where they not only lose but they do so in mind-numbing fashion. Not even Matt Wieters‘ first All-Star selection really helps. It’s hot and humid out and the Orioles are no longer within shouting distance of a winning record.

I expected more. To some extent I still do, and I’m not quite ready to retire hope of a .500 or better finish. We are, however, to that point now where we hope for success with no real reason to believe in it. And, well, that’s just sad.

There’s a larger point to draw out from this. There’s a way to explain it away as growing pains and focus on the future. There’s a way to see growth amidst the weeds. Right now, though, I’m not much interested in that. I’ve been doing that with this team for a long time and — for today, for right now — I need a break.

It’s that old, familiar feeling. Alas.

15 comments to Orioles: The Swoon

  • dan the man

    Our young starting pitching just isn’t durable. For whatever reason, it’s working for the Rays, but it’s not working for the O’s.

    Mark Reynolds is pretty fucking ridiculous right now, though, and that’s at least fun to watch. But are we really going to finally have that big bopper that hits us 40 home runs and STILL be under .500? Wasn’t that one of the key ingredients to breaking the streak?

    Should be interesting to see what the Buck influence is as this swoon wears on. As usual, though, I find myself saying (as I do every year) that the All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

  • Andrew

    dan the man wrote:

    Our young starting pitching just isn’t durable. For whatever reason, it’s working for the Rays, but it’s not working for the O’s.

    And the “whatever reason” is exactly what the Orioles need to be working on, and what I’d be terrifically surprised if they even cared about.

  • dan the man

    @ Andrew:
    In my mind, it’s not so much even whether or not they care, it’s do the people in charge even realize it’s an ongoing problem in the first place.

    Bedard, Loewen, Cabrera, Penn, Tillman, Matusz, Bergesen… I’m sure there are others. Why the hell can’t these guys maintain a level of success? Either they were great for awhile and then fell off a cliff, or they never stayed healthy long enough to determine what you had. Or in Bergesen’s case, you’re just banking on the stars aligning and his arm slot being on point that day. What’s really going on here? Can it really just be dumb luck that all these pitching prospects are failing?

    It’s enough to make you watch Zach Britton spin a masterful game and shrug because you feel like you know he’s just the next in line. How long before we’re talking about, “Where is Zach Britton’s velocity? Why did he lose his sinker? Why doesn’t he have any control?” It’s the definition of hopelessness.

  • Mike R

    Pitchers today aren’t durable because they’re coddled from the age 13 til whenever. Britton is on pace to go 207.1 IP this season. There is no way in hell that happens. Whether it means skipping his spot in the rotation often, or shutting him down on Sept 1, or pulling him after 5 IP and 70 pitches every game he starts.

    Not to mention that it’s all about money and protecting investments now. Strasburg got a 15 mil signing bonus. He was on a strict inning and pitch count to limit his risk of injury, and look, still blew out his elbow.

    Nolan Ryan pretty much says “fuck all that” and the Rangers won the AL, had one of the top bullpens in baseball (probably cause they wern’t taxed all the time) and none of the starters arms fell off. I watched a Ranger game earlier this year where Colby Lewis threw 131 pitches in 8 IP. It can be done without harm.

    Just one of the many issues keeping the Orioles from contending.

  • Andrew

    @ Mike R:
    Um, there are plenty of pitchers today that are durable. And not just in the Rangers staff.

  • Mike R

    @ Andrew:
    True. Halladay, Lee, Sabbathia to name a few. The Rangers I think are the only team to come out and say that they’re not putting guys on pitch counts. They want all 5 guys to be workhorses. The majority of teams out there cut their pitchers off at 90 to 100 pitches.

    I just really hate pitch counts and overly passive by the book managing. Like how you have to bring in a lefty to face a lefty. Even though your lefty (Gonzo) sucks. How you have to go to a closer in the 9th. Sometimes you just have to gamble. Sometimes you just have to have a hunch, or a gut feeling.

    How many times have we seen it where a guy dazzles for 7 shutout innings, but hits 100 pitches, so they call the bullpen and blow the game. Lots. I feel like thats the worst thing you can do. If a team can’t figure out your starter, then you pull him, it’s doing the other team a favor. And for what? Whats the diffence in 100 and 120 or 130 pitches?

    Maybe psychologically, if a pitcher didn’t have it in his head that he’s about to be yanked because hes inching toward a certain pitch number, he would focus more on the game instead of glaring in the dugout to see if the skipper is on his way out after each batter.

    Jim Palmer had 25 complete games in 1975. No one will ever come close to that number. The human body hasnt changed. I’d say a players workouts and conditioning is even better than it was in 75′.

    Owners don’t want their investments getting hurt, cause they dont see players they see dollar signs.

  • neal s

    @ Mike R: I pretty much completely agree with this. To me, guys should spend their time in the minors building up the endurance and arm strength to throw at least 115-120 per game. There’s no way to know for sure how much of a difference that would make but good reasoning suggests that it’d help the starters perform better and also save bullpens a bit more.

    There’s only one place here where I’d play devil’s advocate, which is in your point about more complete games in the past. The thing that has changed (aside from the addition of pitch count conventional wisdom) is that players throw harder and with more torque these days. 130 pitches for many guys today isn’t the same as 130 pitches for most of the guys back then. Still, I think you’re basically right.

    Speaking of pitchers…someone, somewhere, right now, is warming up the Mitch Atkins bandwagon.

  • neal s

    Anyone who read this post and didn’t quite get what I meant by “Swoon” need only look at tonight’s game as Exhibit A.

    It really is amazing to consider how this happens to the Orioles every year no matter what. No matter the manager, no matter the players, no matter the GM, no matter the preseason expectations. I can’t think of anything else like it in sports.

  • Mike R

    @ neal s:
    I agree with you that players throw harder these days. Tonights game is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Atkins is pulled after 90 pitches despite allowing 0 BB’s and getting 4 K’s to go along with his 1 run allowed. You let him go back out there for the 7th, and Jim Johnson doesn’t go out and do what he did. Blow the game.

    Pitch counts fucking suck.

    I would be ok with it if Atkins made it to the 8th, or 9th and he be the one to make the mistake which costs a game. Especially now in a season thats probably a wash anyway. At least putting the game on thier shoulders, late and under pressure builds some character. If you never let these guys face pressure, they’ll fail when they have to one day.

  • Sci

    Being a fan of this team is torture.

  • neal s

    @ Sci: I’m not sure torture is the right word. There’s something more going on here, something bordering on the mystical. Like Groundhog Day crossed with No Exit. Which maybe doesn’t work because it’s possible that the former is already crossed with the latter. But that’s what I’ve got for now.

  • ballmer bruce

    A fish rots from the head down. (ANGE-LOSE) AND MC FAIL. NOT TO MENTION THE SCOUTING AND LACK OF INTEREST IN EXPLORING THE LATIN FREE AGENT MARKET.

  • Vlad to Meet You

    I’ve thrown in the towel for this year. I have officially begun watching the majority of O’s games from the stat box. I don’t want to look at next year already but I hope we don’t sign Hardy (as much as I love the guy) and we get some solid return for him. We can’t contend next year, especially since none of our young starters, aside from maybe Britton, have progressed to the point that we can rely on them for next year. I’d even say we’ve seen some regression.

  • dan the man

    Hardy’s a tough one. On the one hand, if you sign him he fixes the SS position for a few years and gives you another leadoff hitter if B-Rob can’t get healthy. On the other hand, he’d definitely get you something pretty nice. What contender doesn’t want a defensive wizard at SS that hits .300 and gets you 20-25 home runs?

  • sci

    Full-on embarrassment mode now. OK Neal, it’s mystical torture, but still complete torture. Season is done. Sellers yet again. Last place yet again. How is it that we have to witness this every fucking year?