As the trade deadline has finally come and gone, and the dust finally begins to settle, one thing is for sure: the AL crown has now officially become a three-horse race. Unfortunately for the Orioles and the Baltimore faithful, the O’s are not one of the top three horses. The 2014 trade deadline saw big names go to big contending teams, but the O’s left the big names alone, opting to go after a bullpen pitcher in Andrew Miller. Although proving to be a great move in order to improve their pen, one question is still left unanswered in the wake of all these final trade deals: can the Orioles still legitimately compete for the AL crown?
To start of the second half of the season,the Orioles have basked in the success of their pitching as their offense sputtered. Since the All-Star break, the O’s team of pitchers have combined for a terrific 2.79 ERA. The surging Orioles are now 16-games over .500, the most they have been above that mark all season long. Although the team’s starters and newly spruced up pen have found success in recent times, the latest signing of ex-Orioles starter Joe Saunders and their newest talks with ex-Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson would still elude to a team that could belacking rather than growing in confidence while inching closer to the Fall Classic. Here is a closer look at the big three of the AL and how their final moves may have just forced the Baltimore Orioles right out of realistic contention.
The A’s team of starters all year long had already made them the number one team in all of the majors, but resisting the chance to rest on his laurels, GM Billy Beane had decided to make a play for the big names. In the end, the A’s were able to make moves for Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, and Jason Hammel. As of now, they hold the best record in the majors and a whopping run-differential of plus-165.
The Tigers starting rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, and Porcello to go along with the big bats of Cabrera, Martinez, and Kinsler were already a force to be reckoned with coming in to this season; now add Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price to the mix, and the league could just have found their new championship front-runner. With the 28-year-old Price being added to the team, the Tigers now bolster a top-four of pitchers that feature back-to-back-to-back ALC Young award winners in Scherzer (2013), Price (2012) and Verlander (2011). That is enough quality pitching alone to get any team in talks for the AL crown.
The moves the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels were able to complete before the trade deadline did not make as big of a splash in the news compared to the Tigers and A’s, but they were necessary moves nonetheless. Over the course of a month and a half, the Halo’s were able to complete trades for Huston Street, Jason Grilli, and Joe Thatcher (currently on DL). In just one month, this newly bolstered pen lowered their cumulative bullpen ERA from 4.28 to 3.52. In light of these moves, the Angels, who post the league’s second-best record, have won 18 of 26 games and are now just one game behind the AL-West and MLB-leading Oakland A’s.
Taking a look at how all of these teams now stack up on paper. The O’s will certainly need to stay hot if they have any shot at making it past the ALDS this season, as they clearly do not match up well.
The Oakland A’s new four-man starting rotation of Lester, Gray, Kazmir and Samardzija have a combined ERA of 2.66, which is almost a full entire run better than the next closest team (DET-3.60; LAA-3.75; BAL-3.79). The Halo’s new spruced up bullpen is coming off a month where they pitched for a combined 1.69 ERA, which was the best month pitched by an Angels bullpen since April 1991 (the O’s relief pitching ranks among the top ten with a 3.28 ERA). Coming into the Fall Classic, Detroit will be able to send out the last three AL Cy Young award winners and a back-to-back league MVP in Miguel Cabrera, a feat no team in the entire league can boast. The A’s, Angels, and Tigers also rank in the top five in the entire majors in runs scored, and the Angels and Tigers rank in the top three in team batting average.
Whether it is starting pitching, relief pitching or hitting, the postseason outlook could still end up being bright for the O’s, especially considering how well things seem to be coming together. However, it will be contingent upon a ton of factors going perfectly right. Baltimore fans will now have to keep a close eye on whether or not Jason Hammel will last in Oakland and whether or not Ubaldo Jimenez can catch fire heading into the playoffs. Also, the Orioles will need their starters to keep up their torrid pace, its newly revamped bullpen to live up to its expectations and to have players like Cruz and Davis break out of their offensive funks. All-in-all, given the deals made by the big three of the AL, can the Orioles still compete for the AL crown? It is possible, but they will surely have their work cut out for them.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering the Baltimore Orioles