August 11, 2010

Pirates Within Half Game of Orioles

In a Bizarro 1979 World Series-like competition, the Pirates have inched to within a half game of the Orioles for worst record in baseball.

Since hiring veteran manager Buck Showalter the Orioles have gone on a 7-1 tear. The Orioles' 14-8 win over Cleveland yesterday ran their record to 39-74. Your Pittsburgh Pirates are 39-73. The prize, of course, is the #1 draft pick. The presumptive top pick is Anthony Rendon, a third baseman from Rice University. Rendon hit .394/.530/.801 this year, averaging more than one walk, run scored and RBI per game in his sophomore season.

Judging by run differential the Orioles look like the better team going forward. The Orioles have scored 424 runs and allowed 605. The Pirates have scored 391 and allowed 606. In another interesting fact, a real oriole looks just like the Orioles logo.A major detriment for the O's in this race, in addition to their new manager, is that their team is mostly intact. They were only able to move one useful piece at the deadline, lefthanded reliever Will Ohman. This leaves them with more than two reliable relievers, which must be nice. Miguel Tejada was traded as well but he was hitting .269/.308/.362 with poor defense so that one is addition by subtraction. In fact the return of Brian Roberts and Mike Gonalez from injury makes the current Orioles the strongest they have been all season. Apart from using Corey Patterson as their DH, the Orioles fielded a pretty credible lineup last night.

Of course, don't count Baltimore out yet. Their starting rotation consists of Jeremy Guthrie (4.04 ERA), Brian Matusz (5.08), Jake Arrieta (5.29), Kevin Millwood (5.84) and (6.26). This is if no one gets hurt; presumably they would have to use the ghost of Sidney Ponson if one of those guys goes down. I actually think the Pirates rotation is far superior. The Orioles also have 37 games left against teams with winning records. It's going to take drastic measures for the Pirates to lose this race, like starting Andy LaRoche at first base and deploying Wil Ledezma as a high leverage late inning reliever. Oh wait, that happened last night.

Another dark horse is 28th place Seattle, whose 44-70 record includes an 8-3 mark by the departed Cliff Lee. They still have three decent starting pitchers but their lineup is almost comically bad - so bad that Ichiro Suzuki has reached base 183 times out of the leadoff spot and only has 45 runs. But like the Orioles they are winning rather than seizing the opportunity for the draft pick. The M's won three straight and go for four this afternoon against Oakland.

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