With the All-Star Game being played tonight at Citi Field in New York, it seems like the right time to hand out some first-half awards for the Orioles.
We’re actually more than halfway through the season, but we’re at the break. That’s close enough.
Most Valuable Oriole
Only in 2013 could Manny Machado finish as the runner-up for this honor.
Chris Davis is hitting .315/.392/.717 in 95 games. He leads the majors with 37 home runs and trails only Miguel Cabrera with 93 RBIs. What he’s doing is historic. And incomprehensible.
Records are shattering, and not just the ones kept in the organization.
He’s a threat to win the Triple Crown. He’s a threat to break Roger Maris’ clean single-season home run record. He’s a threat to break an oak tree over his thigh.
Most Unsung Oriole
I keep singing about reliever Tommy Hunter, but he still qualifies for this award.
In spring training, Hunter was a trade candidate - a guy who was out of options and had little chance of cracking the rotation. If the Orioles needed to clear a spot in their bullpen, he figured to be on his way out.
Hunter is here and he’s thriving in his late-inning relief role. He’s 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 38 games, with 38 hits, nine walks and 39 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. He’s surrendered only seven home runs, compared to 32 last season.
Yes, I know that he made 20 starts among his 33 appearances last season, but he’s no longer “Home Run” Hunter.
Hunter posted a 5.45 ERA last year, with 161 hits allowed in 133 2/3 innings. Manager Buck Showalter moved him to the bullpen, where his fastball had a little more giddy-up. And that success has carried over to the 2013 season.
The Orioles weren’t hurt as badly by Pedro Strop’s failings because they had Hunter to assist Darren O’Day in the set-up duties.
If only the Orioles could keep the Blue Jays away from Hunter, or vice-versa. He’s allowed seven runs and 17 hits in 7 2/3 innings in six appearances against Toronto this season for an 8.22 ERA. The Jays are batting .436 against him.
In his career, Hunter is 2-4 with a 6.51 ERA in 20 appearances vs. the Jays. Must be the exchange rate.
O’Day is my runner-up for MUO - not to be confused with Most Overlooked Oriole (MOO) - after going 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 44 games. He’s been clutch again, but wasn’t that expected?
O’Day has hit five batters to tie his career high. He’s chafed one batter. But enough about Jose Bautista.
Most Disappointing Oriole
Not the guy who talked T.J. McFarland into growing a mustache. It’s got to be Jason Hammel, who reached the break at 7-6 with a 5.24 ERA in 19 starts, with 124 hits and 19 home runs in 111 2/3 innings.
You also can add a 1.442 WHIP, if you’re able to count that high.
Hammel was supposed to be the anchor at the top of the rotation, but he’s now the biggest concern. He posted a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts last season, with 104 hits and nine home runs in 118 innings. Back then, his knee was the only concern.
To his credit, Hammel is taking full responsibility for his struggles and challenging himself to pitch better. He’s been his harshest critic since his first start in St. Petersburg. And Showalter is confident that Hammel will figure it out.
My runner-up could have been Strop, except I wasn’t expecting as much from him following his drop-off in the second half of last season.
I will forever preach the value of catcher Matt Wieters beyond his offensive statistics, and anyone who understands baseball and the position he plays should appreciate what he brings every night. However, his .232/.291/.468 line in 88 games is disappointing.
Wieters is a career .289/.362/.489 hitter with 18 home runs in September/October, his highest numbers of any month. Maybe the best is yet to come.
OK, now it’s your turn.
Update: The Orioles have promoted former first-round pick Matt Hobgood, 22, from low Single-A Delmarva to high Single-A Frederick and released pitcher Zach Petersime.
Hobgood, the fifth-overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was 7-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 24 games with Delmarva, including one start. He allowed 61 hits in 63 innings, with 28 walks and 47 strikeouts.
Hobgood didn’t pitch last season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.