We are coming off the All-Star break, the mid-point of the 2016 baseball season. And in response to some requests, I've been somewhat quiet about the boys in the orange and black. (No, not the Giants—they got their colors from the Os.) How fare the Birds of Baltimore, the Orioles? They sit 2 games ahead of the Bosox astride the top of the AL East. This is in contrast to all the other divisions, in which there is a clearly dominant team.

The reality is that the Os on the road are barely OK. They play under .500 on the road. But in Camden Yards, they are a very different team thus far in 2016, a strong team with an offense that is second best in the AL (only the Bosox, who play with the Green Monster at Fenway half the time, are better). The Os lead the majors in home runs (this is becoming the Os preferred way of scoring), but they definitely lack speed on the base paths—dead last in triples. Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis are responsible for the four baggers, but others are doing their share too.

Fielding is just OK—fifth best.

And pitching is just awful. There's only one Os starter of note this year—Chris Tillman. Putting Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound is the equivalent of staking the opposing team to 6 runs. It must be nice for $4 mil a year. The Os badly need an Eddie Watt or Sammy Steward, someone with a rubber arm for long relief who can start the occasional game when needed. And the bullpen is graced by Zach Brittan, arguably the best closer in baseball (perfect on saves-save opportunities, as are many others right now, but none with an ERA below 1.00—Zach's is 0.7). Middle relief and the set-up is Darren O'Day, who's not having such a great year—nothing anywhere near last year's beautiful performance. Maybe the second half will serve him better. We'll see. Pitching, though, remains a weak point—and Danny Duquette, the O's GM, shows no sign of evaluating pitchers with any success. Tim Melvin and I have spent much of the first half bemoaning to each other the poor pitching staff and the horrible player decisions from the GM's office. I can't say that pitching is pathetic—the Birds win games. But pitching doesn't seem to be a big factor in the wins.

So the Os start the second half of the season with lots of power, OK fielding and weak pitching. For those of us from the Weaver era, this is nothing close to pitching, defense and the three run home run. I miss that trio. It served the Os well. Buck may be a great manager, but he needs players with some talent. The pitching staff comes up short on that area. Some personnel changes are in order. Maybe bring up some of the pitchers from the minors—they could hardly do worse than the current staff.

Somehow, the Os are winning, but I'm not completely sure how. There are just so many HRs that a team can hit. The pitching staff simply has to perform. There's still a long ways to go until October (or is it November yet?). Maybe the staff will find its groove.

One peeve that I have these days isn't limited to the Os. It's the challenges. These really slow the game down. I wonder how many are successful. Personally, I'll take my chances with the field umps. They may be blind, but the time for the challenge system is just too much—it ruins the rhythm of the game. Eliminate it. Please? Pretty please?

Play ball!!


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