Anthony Amobi: As O's near the quarter-pole, is .500 within reach?

The question on my mind - and a lot of fans' minds - is this: Can the Orioles finish at or above .500?

As we're close to the one-quarter mark of the 2011 (unofficially) season, there have been a lot of ups and downs with this team.

We all know the Orioles have struggled since the end of the 1990s and this year is centered with focusing on the development of the young arms, but also to some respect - wins, losses and being competitive.

As of May 18, there is some good and bad with the 2011 rendition of the Baltimore Orioles.

The starting pitching has been solid for the most part, especially with youngsters Zach Britton - perhaps the team's representative at the All-Star game in July and Rookie of the Year candidate - and Jake Arrieta leading the pack; however, Jeremy Guthrie needs to get some run support.

In addition, inconsistent performances from Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman have put them on the bubble for a spot as Brian Matusz will be back with the team soon, as well as maybe Alfredo Simon, depending on his legal issues.

I figured the starting pitching would struggle at times; however, it has been remarkably consistent.

The bullpen has too seen its share of ups and downs; however, the game Monday showed that they will have their struggles and at times frustrating nights. Overall, it's not been terrible, but sadly, it's not been lights-out either.

Now, the offense is another story.

So far, it looks like a retooled Baltimore squad has been very lackluster at the plate throughout much of the season. Right now, it looks like the new additions, plus the mainstays of the team over the past few seasons, aren't doing much at all.

However, during the past week, the offense has definitely shown signs of life. Adam Jones has really started to pick it up as of late, as has Nick Markakis, plus J.J. Hardy returning to the lineup has given the team some stability at the bottom of the batting order.

Derrek Lee has struggled for the past six weeks and has started to shows some glimpses of coming out of his funk; however, he may now head to the disabled list after tweaking his oblique muscle. Meanwhile, Mark Reynolds has struggled mightily in his time as an Oriole, but has, too, in the last few days started to hit, as well.

In addition, although Matt Wieters has been decent at the plate, his money is being made right now behind the dish, as he has thrown out more than 50 percent of runners who have attempted to steal on him.

Wieters should also be commended for his work with the pitching staff, many of whom are younger than he is and guiding them through their outings on the mound.

Things have looked better over the past few days, but business must pick up if the Orioles are going to contend. I do believe the team still has a chance at .500 or above, especially with the state of the American League East right now.

Right now, they are 19-21, two games under .500 after their painful loss to the Red Sox on Monday night. As it is, no one at the moment is running away with the American League East at moment.

Everyone in the division has been competitive, and as of this morning, the Orioles are only four games out of first place, with Tampa Bay leading the pack.

Considering where the Orioles were last year in comparison to now, things are not too bad.

Could they be better? Yes.

Again, can the Orioles finish at or above .500?

A lot still has to go right in order for that to happen.

Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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