So far, at least two of my predictions in the MLB Opening Day blog have come to pass somewhat:
- Chris Tillman would emerge as the O’s ace.
- The signings by the Blue Jays last year will show up this year.
Just this morning, I knew the Orioles had won last night, but I didn’t know the score. I asked someone I know what the score was and he replied 9-6 [It’s actually 10-8 now that I checked]. I replied, “Toronto is weird this year.” His response was, “Dude, the division’s gonna be a brawl.”
That pretty much sums up what is going on in the AL East this year. Every team has as much chance to make the playoffs as they do to finish at the bottom of the division. Check out the current standings and see for yourself.
The Orioles are currently in the middle of the division at 10-10, 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the lead and 1 game in front of the Red Sox at the bottom of the pile. After 20-ish games already played this year, there is no clear indicator of who’s bound for the postseason.
That is probably the most interesting aspect in baseball: you can lead through 100+ games played during the season, and miss the playoffs just at the end. Timing is everything in this sport. Every team management personnel take into consideration how much time pitchers have off, including any team days off and postponements due to the weather. It’s all about the bigger picture.
You may never see another player like Cal Ripken have anywhere close to his number of consecutive starts since players need to be rested from time to time. It’s all time management in preparation for the midway portion of the season, the closing stretch of games, and the postseason. They also look into how long injuries will take players out of the lineup and what players they can retrieve from the minor leagues.
Combined with all of the time management is the amount of depth. To win in this league, you can’t just have a squad of 9 hitters that can average 30-40 homeruns each in a season (although that would be pretty cool). They wouldn’t last 162 straight games played, and their time off will be the death knell to playoff hopes. If instead you have a roster that has maybe 3 guys that average those homeruns and many reserves, and other starters that can hit well but just not with as much power, you’ll do better in the long run.
There are two reasons why David Ortiz has been playing for the Red Sox for 10+ years as the designated hitter: 1) his range of motion in defense is limited and 2) it conserves his energy to last the season so he can solely focus on hitting balls.
The whole of the AL East seems to have the great offense, quality pitching, and acceptable defense for any foe except themselves. It’s only a matter of time to see if each teams’ depth and farm systems will let them linger around.
The whole standings could be flipped in a matter of weeks if the injury bug sweeps through. I don’t like the Red Sox, but they tend to have quite good minor league players and depth; the same goes for the Rays. The Yankees and Blue Jays could be at the best as they’re going to get, unless they have some unexpected quality depth up their sleeves.
The real wild card is the Orioles again, who have a great team now, extra depth that they have signed the last few years, and minor league players that usually get high ratings for their potential. It’s all a matter of those pieces falling in place, which for a 14 year span was not happening.
The O’s at one time had a highly rated pitcher that they brought up into the majors and he kept flashing raw potential to keep him in the lineup. He was a guy that, every year, people in the city would comment about, saying, “this is the year he breaks out.” We had him for 5 disappointing seasons, full of issued walks and tons of losses. His last year with us, he was the opening day pitcher, and ended that year with the league lead for losses, wild pitches, and players hit by pitch. His name is Daniel Cabrera, and he’s a 6’7 pitcher who never panned out and is out of the league.
Just a history lesson for you that you can never really count on minor players to come in and be able to produce as needed to sustain a winning season. Thankfully, the Orioles already have good depth to step in (and have!) for injured players and haven’t missed a beat. This will be all the better whenever Johan Santana is healthy and prepared enough to come back to the starting lineup.
This season will take a while. Seeing that the Orioles have only played 20 games, they are about 1/8th through their schedule.
So until later in the season, have a great weekend and go O’s!
P.S. Speaking of schedules, the Ravens just got their 2014 season schedule last night. They will be playing the Bengals, Steelers & Browns through the first 3 weeks in that order. Those games are Sept. 7th, 11th, & 21st, so that means 3 divisional games in 14 days.