Orioles All-Star Break Analysis

After an awe-inspiring start to the season, the Orioles have fizzled to three games back of the first place Boston Red Sox.
Melvin Mora
- One of the only noticeable offensive contributors lately, Melvin Mora has been a mainstay in an otherwise pungent Baltimore offense. At the end of May, Mora's batting average was .283. At the end of June, he had brought it up 21 points to .301. How does one do that? All Mora had to do was get hits in all but 4 games in the month of June. He doubled his April RBI total (10) in May (20), and only had a slight dropoff in June (16). In June, Mora was very good at working the count, drawing almost as many walks (11) as he struck out (12). He wasn't exactly snubbed an All-Star selection, as a much-deserving Alex Rodriguez got the starting nod, but he's a top-tier third baseman. Not only is he sharp with the bat, he is good in the field, wielding a mighty .980 fielding percentage.
B.J. Ryan
- As one of those top performers who came out of nowhere, B.J. Ryan has certainly made himself noticeable, earning a nod to the All-Star Game in Detroit. After a stringent month of May, where he allowed no runs in 15.1 innings of work, he was used less frequently in June due to the dropoff in offense. Thanks to inactivity, he allowed 7 runs in 10.1 innings of work (the 7 runs allowed in two separate stints against Boston and New York, both lasting 0.2 IP, and both resulting in a blown save), but aside from that, he's carried the momentum from May into June, and now into July. The good thing is that even though Ryan gave up 3 and 4 runs in two separate 0.2 inning stints, he hasn't been getting hit hard - most times he's getting beat by softly hit balls that "have eyes". While half of the Majors has dealt with bullpen problems, the Orioles' main worries focus on their starting pitching. As long as B.J. Ryan can maintain the reputation of the Baltimore bullpen, the Orioles are free to shop around for the big-name starter they so desperately lack (Jason Schmidt is most likely their primary target).
Miguel Tejada
- With Alex Rodriguez now playing the hot corner in the media capital of the world, Miguel Tejada is arguably the best shortstop in baseball. The winner of the 2004 Homerun Derby in Houston, Tejada has not allowed himself to have any kind of offensive letdown. Although he hasn't matched his April production (.347, 8 HR, 31 RBI), the downward slope hasn't been steep enough for any kind of criticism. He's consistently on base, as he had a hit in all but 5 games in June, and he is a feared bat in a Baltimore lineup that has been rather impotent, especially as the season wears on. Aside from having a much-maligned bat, Tejada is a superior defender. He has an arm that is only rivaled by the likes of Rafael Furcal, but he has an accuracy that reminds you of Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals. Tejada is a 5-tool player that continues to set standards for shortstops across the Majors. And he's starting the All-Star Game at shortstop, too. He'd better start building a bigger trophy case, he'll be up to his neck in them by the time he retires.
Sammy Sosa
- Since coming back from an injury on May 24, Sosa's bat has been the complete antithesis of titanic. As one half of the equation that helped bring baseball back to the limelight in 1998, Sosa has struggled mightily at the plate. He went 4-26 (.153) in May after returning, 20-96 in June (.208), and has a mere 3 hits in his last 45 at-bats. At 36 years old, he's not the player he used to be: he doesn't swing the bat as fast, he takes more time to recognize pitches, and he, like all aging players, is a defensive liability (.972 fielding percentage). After coming over to Baltimore in exchange for Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Minor Leaguers Mike Fontenot (2B) and Dave Crouthers (RHP), Sosa was expected to bolster an already offensive-laden lineup consisting of Miguel Tejada (2004 Homerun Derby winner), 500-Homerun Club member Rafael Palmeiro, and a catcher with offensive capabilities that match a young Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez. With those guys around Sosa, you'd think he'd get to see more pitches, but now that pitchers realize that he can't catch up with the fastball, they willingly pitch around the other three big bats just to get to Sosa. His strikeout to walk ratio in June was almost 2:1, which is unacceptable by anyone. For Sosa to succeed again, he needs to re-learn how to hit the fastball, whether it be by starting his swing earlier, or by changing some mechanics in his stance and swing.
Brian Roberts
- Brian Roberts has emerged as one of the best second basemen in the Majors thus far this year. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to maintain the offensive torch he carried throughout the month of April (.379, 8 HR, 26 RBI) into the rest of the season. In May, his production was almost cut three-fold (.358, 3, 7), and in June, he struggled to match even his May totals (.356, 2, 11). Already, in four games in July, he has matched his June homerun total (2), and close to half the amount of RBI (5). With slugging catcher Javy Lopez sidelined and Sammy Sosa unable to rekindle the spark that made him a baseball legend, Brian Roberts is a key player in the equation that will hopefully result in a playoff berth for Baltimore. He needs to get on base more, and he needs to steal more. In April, Roberts had 10 stolen bases; In May and June, he had three stolen bases apiece. Roberts doesn't have a problem with working counts, as his strikeout to walk ratio has been 1:1 consistently through the season, he just needs to start getting on base at the same torrid pace that gave him a name in April.
Baltimore Orioles
- Since Erik Bedard was placed on the disabled list, the Orioles are 16-21, and had a 6-game losing streak from May 22-27. Bedard, 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA, had become the go-to guy in the Baltimore starting rotation. With him gone, other starters like Sidney Ponson and Daniel Cabrera have failed to step up and fill the gap. Instead, Ponson has gone 4-5 with a 5.80 ERA, and Cabrera has gone 3-4 with a 5.07 ERA. Cabrera's June strikeout total was nearly half of his May total (38 in May, down to 20 in June), while his walks stayed about the same. Ponson pitched into the eighth inning just once in June, and his only July start was a short one, allowing 6 runs in 1.1 innings. With Curt Schilling returning to the Red Sox in the near future, the Orioles will face very tough AL East competition for both the division title and the Wild Card. The Yankees, although struggling, are equipped to make a last-ditch effort at the playoffs, and the Red Sox, well, they're the Red Sox.

2005 Regular Season

Date Opponent
Mon. 7/4
Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees
Tues. 7/5
Boston Red Sox @ Baltimore Orioles
Wed. 7/6
Boston Red Sox @ Baltimore Orioles
Thurs. 7/7
Boston Red Sox @ Baltimore Orioles