Orioles not playing fundamentally sound, Buck Showalter baseball

Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays reaches first base on a throwing error to Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles by Manny Machado in the eighth inning during MLB game action on April 22, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays reaches first base on a throwing error to Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles by Manny Machado in the eighth inning during MLB game action on April 22, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. (Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images)

The view from the bottom of the standings is never good, even if there's 89 percent of the season left.

The Orioles have spent the past week trying to get out of their own way, losing in ways that have to be galling to a coaching staff that has spent countless hours over the past several years making the O's one of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball.


Orioles outfielders don't overthrow cutoff men— at least they didn't until the club fell into its longest losing streak since 2013. Orioles baserunners know when it's OK to push the envelope, so what was Alejandro De Aza doing getting thrown out trying to steal third base with two outs and slugger Chris Davis at the plate late in a game they were losing by two runs? Inexplicable.

If that isn't enough reason for concern, the pitching staff has been walking the ballpark and the Orioles entered Saturday night's game against the Boston Red Sox ranked 22nd in fielding percentage.


That's just not Buck Showalter baseball and everybody — in the clubhouse and in the stands — knows it.

Sure, it's early, and that ugly fielding rank is certain to rise dramatically over the course of the season, but it's impossible to sugarcoat the erratic performance of a team that has built a three-year competitive renaissance around its culture of accountability.

"As many physical errors we've made, I think we've made a lot of mental errors," said first baseman Chris Davis, "and that's something that Buck kind of addressed with the infielders and outfielders a few days ago. It's about the little things and that [is] really what has made us great the last few years. Paying attention to detail. Not making stupid mistakes. Not being careless.

"There have been some times we've let things snowball more than we should have and I'm thankful that it's early, but at the same time the quicker we can address these issues, the faster we can get back to playing our brand of baseball."

There is something to correct in just about every phase of the game. Showalter has chosen to publicly look past the mental and physical errors and focus more closely on the control problems that have plagued the pitching staff. But when things go well, everything tends to work in concert, and the same applies when things are going south.

Friday night's game turned on a two-out walk in the eighth inning that was followed by a rare Manny Machado error and a Darren O'Day pitch to hot-hitting infielder Brock Holt that will be landing on the flag court any minute now.

So far, there have been too many short starts and two many long nights for the bullpen, which isn't exactly counterintuitive.

"Sometimes it takes a little while to get into the rhythm of the season,'' said closer Zach Britton. "It's kind of similar to last year. We had some guys pitching out of roles a little bit in the bullpen and the starters were not going as deep. Once the starters get rolling like they did last year I think you'll see guys in the bullpen settle in."

Some of the newer players on the team probably also need some time to settle in. Several of the fundamental lapses have been committed by players who have not spent a great deal of time with the club, though no one has proffered that as a legitimate excuse.

"We're not re-inventing the wheel here,'' Davis said.

Britton and Davis both reflect a clubhouse atmosphere in which there has been little finger-pointing during the Showalter era. Nobody is panicky because they've been here before. Last year's team started out slow and was 8-9 after the first 17 games. The O's were still hanging around .500 in early June and trailed the first-place Blue Jays by 6 ½ games.

"We're not going to do anything different,'' said bench coach John Russell, who filled in as manager on Saturday while Showalter attended the memorial service for his father-in-law. "We're going to keep pushing these guys. Keep letting them do what they do best. … Let's go out and play the game right and play the game hard and we'll continue to do that. We've been right there. We've had some nice comebacks. We're not just going to just ride into the night and quit. We just fell short."


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun