It really does not matter that the San Diego Padres are a decent baseball team but for the record, they are.
San Diego has perhaps the best third baseman in the National League, a very good young second baseman, a solid first baseman, and a versatile outfield. The Padres have the sixth best bullpen ERA in MLB in 2013. While their rotation has largely struggled to start the season, Andrew Cashner has a 2.51 ERA in five starts while veteran Jason Marquis has pitched to a solid 3.49 ERA in 2013. The Padres won 11 out of their previous 14 games (including a sweep of the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants) before being swept by the Rays in Tampa in the series before coming to Baltimore.
It is not terribly difficult to see how a team – any team – could lose two games to the Padres, especially when Cashner and Marquis are pitching, as they did against Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday. That has not stopped some Orioles fans from taking the losses as a sign of impending doom – a sign that the Orioles are not that good of a team and are destined to go downhill from here.
I see the phrases “must-win series” and “have to beat teams like that” thrown around quite a bit by baseball fans. The reality is – as hard as it might be to accept on a game-by-game basis – that any major league team is capable of beating or sweeping any other team. That is the reality of Major League Baseball. It is a myth that good teams beat up all the time on bad teams. Teams that end up with strong records will beat weaker teams more often than not, but those same teams will also tend to defeat the stronger times more often than not as well. Winning teams win, naturally. You will be hard pressed to find a 90-win team that feasted on sub-.500 teams while finishing significantly under.500 versus the rest of the league.
The Padres are a decent team – at least more so than many are giving them credit for – but that is largely a moot point. Two losses to any team (strong or weak) are never indicative of how the team will play for the rest of the season. In this particular case, the “rest of the season” is 82 games. The results of two games are never, ever are a sign of what a team is going to do in 82 future games.
The Orioles problems today are the same as they were on Monday. The rotation is in a state of flux with Miguel Gonzalez scheduled to return from the disabled list next week and Wei-Yin Chen likely out for four to six weeks. Jason Hammel is trying to rediscover his 2012 form. The Orioles are still searching for a fifth starter and it is hard to imagine that Freddy Garcia will be a long term solution to that end. The team is getting no offensive production at 2B and less than desired production from their designated hitters. These were the Orioles’ problems on Monday and they are still problems on Thursday. Nothing that happened against San Diego added to that list.
The Orioles strengths are the same today as they were on Monday, as well. The bullpen is solid up and down. One blown save by Jim Johnson and one homerun from Tommy Hunter does little to change that. The offense continues to plug away and perform. The five hit, two walk, two run output from Tuesday is not great but it hardly undoes the very good (and consistent) offensive results the O’s have achieved most of this season. The offense is performing well as is the bullpen – nothing has changed.
There is a certain amount of noise one has to navigate through in order to keep their sanity as a baseball fan. Two-game losing streaks to a mediocre club would fall under that “noise” category. If the Orioles realistically had issues before those two games, those issues almost certainly would still exist now whether the team won or lost. The results of two games are just noise – they do not change the overall state of the team.
A quarter into the season, my opinion from watching the Orioles is that they have a very solid and consistent team. The offense is strong from top to bottom. The struggling areas – really just second base at this point – qualifies as low hanging fruit. The O’s do not need to do a lot in order to receive much improved offensive results from that position. The bullpen is very, very good and the rotation – when healthy – is solid with a ceiling that is far higher than the floor is low.
Two losses in a row – nor what looks to be an imposing stretch of games forthcoming – does not change that assessment.