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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Rumors are running rampant that the Baltimore Orioles are thinking about making a run at Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers so the O’s have a better chance of making the 2012 playoffs. Greinke, who often struggles when distracted, will take the mound Saturday afternoon in Houston. The Orioles still have two more games in Anaheim against the Angels after splitting the first two in that high profile series.

Baltimore’s big weakness this year has been starting pitching. And, that’s the main reason few are taking them seriously as a playoff threat even though they still sit in second place in the AL East standings. Even though the Orioles are Tampa Bay by 1.5 games, Boston by 3 games, and Toronto by 3.5 games, ESPN’s playoff estimator model has it this way in that division:

 

PERCENTAGE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

NY Yankees: 86.2%

Boston: 38%

Tampa Bay: 28.8%

Toronto: 21.6%

Baltimore: 17.9%

Why are the Orioles just 5-1 to reach the postseason? The main reason is that ESPN’s computer model uses run differential rather than won-lost records, and Baltimore ranks dead last in that stat in the division. But, even if you’re not a math geek, you know that the team’s recent history, strength of schedule, and starting rotation are all working against them.

Let’s focus on the rotation since that’s what has inspired the team to go after Greinke:

 

BALTIMORE’S STARTING PITCHERS (at least 13 starts)

Jason Hammel: 3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP (pretty good)

Wei-Yin Chen: 3.64 ERA, 1.24 WHIP (pretty good)

Brian Matusz: 5.42 ERA, 1.71 WHIP (horrible)

Brian Hunter: 6.11 ERA, 1.44 WHIP (horrible)

Jake Arrieta: 6.13 ERA, 1.41 WHIP (horrible)

Wow, that’s three of five pitchers who normally wouldn’t be allowed to stay in a rotation that long with such horrible numbers. And, there have to be concerns that newcomers Hammel and Chen are throwing on borrowed time as newcomers in a division of sluggers. Good hitting teams eventually figure you out if you’re not an ace caliber pitcher. Are Hammel and Chen aces?

Baltimore has a bad run differential because too many games blow up in their faces. They can’t keep hoping to win all the games that don’t blow up. The O’s desperately need an ace caliber pitcher to come in and lead the rotation down the stretch. Kick one of the worst starters to the bullpen…replace him with an All-Star…and you can see how quickly Baltimore would improve.

And, it can’t be forgotten that Baltimore will have a tough schedule down the stretch because of unbalanced division-heavy schedules. Do you want THAT rotation dealing with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Jays on a daily basis in a pennant race?

Handicappers should be watching this situation very closely. Teams often play inspired ball when management is clearly doing whatever they can to help the team win NOW. And, teams often lose their spirit when it’s clear management isn’t trying to do that. We’ve seen that time and time again in recent seasons. Baltimore has a chance to be an “us against the world” Cinderella story in 2012. Acquiring Greinke is the coach that could take them to the ball. Should management plead poverty, which often happens in borderline situations like this…Baltimore will be wearing rags again in September.

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