Which Oriole will improve the most in the second half?

I was doing a radio segment on 105.7 The Fan on Thursday night when host Terry Ford asked me an interesting question.

And since we encourage recycling here at Connolly’s, I thought I’d drop it on you.

I was asked which Oriole did I think would improve in the second half.

I was allowed only one answer. And there are several candidates.

Chris Davis is an obvious one. It’d be really surprising if he hit under .200 all season. But he also has 15 homers and 48 RBIs. So I’m not picking him.

You’d have to think Ubaldo Jimenez should be better than the 3-8 record, 4.52 ERA and league-leading 60 walks issued in 99 2/3 innings pitched in the first half. This guy did have a 1.82 ERA in 13 second-half starts for the Cleveland Indians last year, so a turnaround is not unprecedented.

But unless he can figure out his mechanics – and repeat the fixes consistently – I’m not sure I’d bet on a complete Ubaldo Renaissance.

Rookie Kevin Gausman is another possibility since his first half was truncated by his wild rides on the Norfolk shuttle.

Or how about J.J. Hardy, who had just three homers in the first half? Or Brian Matusz, who has allowed way more baserunners (38 hits and 13 walks in 32 2/3 innings) than we’re accustomed to seeing from him?

All are options; my pick is third baseman Manny Machado, who missed all of April while recovering from 2013 knee surgery and then missed an additional five games in July to serve a suspension. He is batting .270 with nine homers in 244 at-bats, which is respectable. But he’s been on fire recently, batting .484 in eight July games.

Perhaps more important in regards to Machado is that it seems like a light has clicked on for him defensively in the last couple weeks. I don’t know whether the knee injury was still in his mind or what, but he no longer looks tentative in the field. In fact, he’s begun to look like a Gold Glover again.

One of the things that should buoy the hopes of Orioles’ fans is that several key players didn’t play up to their capabilities in the first half of 2014, and they are still in first place. (Of course, some players really exceeded expectations – Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce, Zach Britton – so you can look at it both ways. I can refill a glass that’s half empty or half full.)

Anyway, Manny Machado is my pick to really click in the second half.

What’s your call?

Daily Think Special: Which Oriole do you think will improve in the second half?  

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