Baltimore Orioles: Walks, balks, and shifts don’t equal wins

In what’s become a theme this year, the Baltimore Orioles were held to account for every mistake they made this afternoon in the series finale with San Francisco. When you give teams extra outs and/or extra bases, you can expect them to take advantage. Starter Gabriel Ynoa in effect was the victim, although he himself wasn’t immune to mistakes in this game. Ynoa’s line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R (2 earned), 2 BB, 4 K.

The game started on a positive note, as Trey Mancini‘s first inning solo homer gave the Birds a 1-0 lead. And that held up for a few innings, as we appeared destined for a Sunday matinee pitcher’s duel. But how quickly things change.

San Francisco tied the game at 1 in the fourth inning on a solo homer by Longoria. Later in the inning Belt drew a walk and was on first. However in a move that rarely happens in the big leagues, Belt took off for second in a steal attempt while Ynoa was still in his stretch. There’s no rule (written or otherwise) against that, however it’s just not something that’s usually seen in the major leagues.

Ynoa seemed confused, and threw to second…committing a balk in the process. Belt, who has the Orioles to thank for getting him out of a slump of sorts, stopped on the base paths and pointed at Ynoa, calling for a balk call. Keep in mind that the definition of a balk is the pitcher trying to deceive the runner. While by the book what Ynoa did was a balk, in reality the runner in that instance tried to and was successful in deceiving the pitcher.

A few moments later Belt scored on Pillar’s RBI-double, giving San Francisco a 2-1 lead. Ynoa then gave up a walk to start the fifth, and a second runner reached on an error. The sad thing about the error was that it was set up to be a tailor-made 4-6-3 double-play. Wilkerson bobbled the ball, and things escalated further.

With both of those runners eventually ending up in scoring position, they would later score on Longoria’s ground rule RBI-double. Crawford would add a solo homer in the sixth, and Sandoval a sac fly-RBI in the seventh. Crawford would also add a second solo homer in the eighth inning, and Panik an RBI-single in the eighth.

Obviously San Francisco added on numerous runs at the end, however had the Birds limited the mistakes earlier perhaps things could have been different. To add insult to injury, the Orioles left the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Would it have mattered had they put a couple across? Probably not. However when you’re held to account for all of your mistakes and you can’t do the same to your opponent, you’re really in trouble.

You also want to ask yourself at times if some of these shifts aren’t becoming a bit much. I get it – part of the game nowadays is analytics, and those analytics suggest that you have a better shot at winning if you position fielder’s in a certain manner. However specific to this game as well as all year, the shifts have failed the Orioles. And I’m not saying in the sense of errors being committed and guys getting on anyways.

Today’s game was a microcosm of the season in the sense that plenty of opposing hitters reached either by flat out hitting against the shift, or by hitting into the shift and having the ball find daylight. Again it happened several times today and it’s happened many times over the course of the season. The Orioles may well be positioning their fielder’s in accordance with how the statistics say hitters will hit. But the hitters are taking that shift and raising the Orioles a base hit in one manner or the other.

The 2019 MLB first year players’ draft of course is tomorrow night – while the Orioles are off. We’ll have full coverage of the Orioles’ pick, which of course will be first overall. You can expect a recap here on Birdland Crush, but you can also follow me on Twitter (@DomenicVadala) for full coverage.


  1. Ray Cravetti says:

    U want to know why the shift doesn’t work? Because the players they have just flat out blow. Of course it doesn’t work because they suck because the owner wants to print money instead of getting good players. GREED! GREED! GREED!


    1. I’m not sure where you missed the memo Cravetti, but they’ve been up front about the fact that they’re REBUILDING. Of course other teams have players with more refined skills than they do – for now. But this goes beyond skills. If there’s one inch worth of space through which an opposing team can hit the ball to get on base, they’re finding a way to do so. It really has nothing to do with skill as much as it does blind luck. Having said that, maybe if they played straight up more often some of those seeing-eye singles would find someone’s glove.


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