Zach Wilt: Offense can still carry the Orioles

Yesterday afternoon, the Orioles wrapped another disappointing road trip and fell back under .500 with a 32-33 record. The Birds went 1-7 on their eight-game road trip in D.C., New York and Chicago, and they have now lost 16 of their last 18 games away from the friendly confines of Camden Yards. They are now 11-23 on the road this season and thankfully return home tonight to play their next seven contests in Baltimore, where they have gone 21-10 this season. Home sweet home.

It’s been a tough go for Buck Showalter’s club. The Orioles have lost 12 of their last 13 games and gone from a team that was in first place in the American league East on May 20 to last place today. What’s gone wrong?

It’s easy to put the blame on the starting rotation. Orioles starters rank 29th in ERA this season. They rank 28th in innings pitched and are clearly overtaxing their injured bullpen. Over the last month, opponents have hit a league leading .323 against the O’s rotation. Baltimore’s starters are striking out just 6.54 per nine (27th in the majors) while walking 3.98 (second). Few strikeouts and a lot of walks, now that’s a recipe for failure.

Over the last five seasons, the Orioles have had success despite below-average starting pitching. They were a playoff team a season ago with a rotation that posted a 4.72 ERA. In 2012, their starters recorded a combined 4.42 ERA en route to the Orioles’ first playoff berth since 1997.

A year ago, the Birds led baseball in nearly every offensive category for the month. June 2016 was a blast. The Orioles were the leaders in batting average (.300), on base percentage (.357), and slugging percentage (.531). They hit nine more homers than the next-closest club and scored 185 runs on their way to a 19-9 month. It was their best span of the season and propelled them forward in an always challenging division race. The crazy part was that the Orioles were able to achieve that success while their starters ranked near the bottom of the league in their respective categories. Their rotation recorded a 5.56 ERA (26th) and tallied just 147.1 innings (24th), but it didn’t matter because the offense completely mashed.

During this most recent road trip, the Orioles offense scored three runs or less in six of eight contests. Collectively, the Birds are hitting just .253 this month, ranking in the lower third of the league. They have scored just 59 runs in June, averaging 4.2 per game. In order to gain traction in the East, the Orioles will have to rely on their offense to carry the club and mask the deficiencies in their pitching staff. Lately, they just haven’t been able to hit well enough to do that.

The advanced statistics don’t make the story much better either. In June, the Orioles offense has recorded a collective .314 wOBA (23rd in the majors) and 92 wRC+ (24th). That won’t cut it while the rotation struggles the way that is has halfway through June.

Things look bleak right now for the O’s. They seem to be dropping games left and right. The starters aren’t going deep, the bullpen is missing some big names and offense doesn’t seem to be as powerful as it used to be. If there’s one element to have faith in though, it’s the bats. Time and time again, they have delivered for the Orioles and they have some guys that are bound to break out at some point. If they do, the O’s can still be successful this season despite their pitching concerns. If they aren’t able to perform at the top of the league though, it could be a long summer in Birdland.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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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