Imagine being a fan of a team that has had 14 consecutive losing seasons. If you think that’s bad, try 19. Those unimaginable streaks are what fans of the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates have had to live with up until now. It’s 2012, and both these teams somehow have a fighting chance of making it to the postseason.
As of this writing, the Orioles are within a game of a wild card position. They haven’t done much to put themselves in this position, as they have a run differential of -56, and their Pythagorean record comes out to 40-51. The only thing they’ve done well to date is hit the long ball (currently third in the AL), but players who had provided said power are mired in horrific slumps (see Chris Davis , J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters to an extent). They are the worst fielding team in all of baseball, using either total errors or fielding percentage as the comparative metric. Luckily for them, their only defensive fixtures are players at premium defensive positions in Wieters, Hardy and Adam Jones. To begin the season, their starting pitching was a strength. By midseason their supposed number one pitched so bad, he was optioned to triple-A (Jake Arrieta). They’ve used nine starters this season, and three of their current five started the year in the minors. To sum up, the fact the Orioles are even in the race at this point is amazing.
GM Dan Duquette came out with a statement Thursday saying something along the lines of, we need a starting pitcher, and if the rest of our team plays like they’re supposed to, we’ll be fine. Dan, Dan, Dan. You play Chris Davis in left field, Ryan Flaherty at second, and Wilson Betemit plays third full-time. You have many glaring holes. It’s okay if you are trying to capture lightning in a bottle, and strike while the iron’s hot, but don’t mislead your fan base. You need much more than just a single starting pitcher if you are going to survive the dog days.
Switching to the other league, the Pirates are a team that is in the race, deserves to be there, and with the right moves can make a legitimate run at the postseason. They are currently a half game behind the Reds for first place in the NL Central. When they were barely hanging on a month or so ago, they were taking a lot of heat for their inability to score runs; how that has changed. Since the calendar turned to July, Andrew McCutchen has a 1.486 OPS with seven home runs. Casey McGehee, who didn’t exist in the first half, has posted .843 OPS in July, and just like that, the Pirates are 9-4 on the month.
As far as arms, the Buccos have solid ones in the pen. A statement like Duquette made about his team would much better fit the Pirates. With A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard and James McDonald, the Pirates have a solid front three that could hold up in a short playoff series. The rotation remnants of Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens haven’t completely stunk up the joint, but a pitching transplant could be the shot in the arm this rotation needs.
Chances like this don’t come around often for the Orioles and Pirates. Since it’s mainly just smoke and mirrors for the Orioles, is it worth cashing out the farm system to try and compete? Though the Pirates locked up McCutchen long term, McDonald is arbitration eligible next season as is Neil Walker and Garrett Jones. Is their window of opportunity closing up? GM Neil Huntington is the one who has to recognize his chance and take the plunge. This is the Pirates’ year to make a move.