With the calendar officially turned to July, what better time than to look around the vast expanses of the Internet to find out what they're saying about the Orioles. This week's edition features notes on the American League East's tight race entering the season's fourth month, a note on how the Orioles shelled one of the game's most promising young pitchers, and a whole lot of love for Manny Machado.
-- FoxSports.com's Jon Morosi wrote about the "historic parity" in the American League East, with four teams within a game of first place this late in the season for the first time since July 4, 2006. His prediction of who pulls away with the decision won't be popular north of, well, Tampa Bay.
"The Rays probably have the best chance of any AL East team to separate itself from the pack. They have the best rotation ERA in the division by a wide margin, and former All-Star Matt Moore is expected to make his season debut Thursday after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Even with an inconsistent offense, the Rays' starters give them the chance to enjoy a prolonged winning streak."
-- Over at Grantland, Ben Lindbergh posed the age-old question "Who ya got?" between Machado and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado. Read the full thing for an illuminating assessment of the Orioles' star third baseman, including this on his pitch selection improvements this year.
"Only four players who've met those pitch minimums — Victor Martinez from 2008 to 2009, Nick Swisher and Jonny Gomes from 2010 to 2011, and Brian Dozier from 2012 to 2013 — have sustained a decrease [in chasing pitches] that large over a full season for which we have PITCHf/x data. Machado has stopped swinging at bad pitches, and the quality of his contact has increased accordingly."
-- Elsewhere at ESPN, Tony Blengino touts Machado as a player entering his prime at the ripe age of 22.
"Although Machado has shown plus defensive ability since arriving in the major leagues and his offensive upside has been long heralded, he has "only" a 104 career OPS+ entering this season, and on the morning of May 31, 2015, he was hitting .261/.327/.433, not exactly the stuff of which stars are made, even 22-year-old ones. … A .375/.420/.644 tear since May 31 can [change that]. Has Machado reached the next level, and what is his ultimate true talent upside as this wunderkind becomes a man?"
-- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs picked his American League All-Stars on Tuesday, and just two Orioles made the 34-man team — Machado and closer Zach Britton. Machado plays behind Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. Here's an explanation of the outfield situation, which does not include Adam Jones but does feature Mike Trout, Lorenzo Cain, Jose Bautista, Brett Gardner, Alex Gordon, and Kevin Kiermaier.
"Mike Trout is still Mike Trout, and then flanking him, we find a number of elite defenders having strong offensive seasons. Cain continues to improve at the plate while playing ridiculous defense in center field, and is establishing himself as a true star at this point. Gardner, interestingly enough, has a higher wRC+ than Bautista, and has developed into a legitimate offensive threat even while his defense has regressed as he's gotten older. Gordon is having his typical Alex Gordon season, while Kiermaier is doing a pretty good Lorenzo Cain impersonation. If there aren't enough home runs in this group for your liking, you could easily argue for Yoenis Cespedes, George Springer, or J.D. Martinez, but I'll take the more well-rounded guys."
-- If you spent last Thursday's matinee in Boston wondering how the Orioles were able to hit former prospect Eduardo Rodriguez so well after he's been so good all season, including against them, we have a reason now. The young left-hander tips his pitches with a head tilt when he's about to throw his slider from the stretch. The Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson has the news.
"It was borderline obvious," said [Carl] Willis, the Red Sox pitching coach. "He'd been so good out of the windup. Going back and looking at the pitches he executed from the stretch, they were still quality pitches. It's safe to say that there's a good likelihood that could have had something to do with it."