Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/9/12

Ok I am going to be frank, coming into the season I had no expectations for the Baltimore Orioles. Years of futility plus an assortment of questionable offseason trades didn’t give the fans much faith. Take that and mix in an incredibly deep AL East and you have a recipe for disaster.

And yet, here we are.

At the halfway point of the season the Orioles stand at 45-40, and somehow still hold onto a slim lead in the wildcard lead. So let’s do like college professors do and give Baltimore their midterm report.

We are going to break up the grades into multiple different categories, including player performance and those so called “questionable” offseason moves. Finally we will give an overall grade to the first half of the Baltimore Orioles season.

So let’s start things off with the Orioles weak point coming into the year, starting pitching.

Starting Pitchers: If this was purely based on preseason expectations I could not give a high enough grade. But sadly, that is not the case. I have to be fair and grade the starters on what they have done so far, and that has been a little more disappointing. New acquisitions Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have been revelations, proving themselves as the best two in the starting rotation. Everyone else though has been incredibly disappointing. Opening day starter Jake Arrieta, as well as Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, have all been optioned to the minor league after rough starts to the season. If the Orioles hope to keep ahead of the oncoming Rays they will need an improvement in their starters. Grade: C

Relief Pitchers: Ok this was a complete shock to me. While dropping off a little bit in the past couple series the relief staff has been incredible this year. Darren O’Day has been impressive and Pedro Stropp has proven himself time and again in pressure situations. But the real highlight of this crew has got to be Jim Johnson. The closer is having the best season of his career, earning an all-star spot while leading the AL in saves. If this can be kept up, and the starters can pick things up a little, don’t be surprised if the Orioles secure their first winning record since 1997. Grade: A

Batting: Ok, I’ll admit I struggled with this grade. On one hand the Orioles power has been fantastic, ranking 3rd in home runs in the league, with Adam Jones leading the way. But on the other the batting averages have been lackluster, ranking overall 20th in the majors. So the question I posed to myself was, which is more important? Getting on base or scoring the runs? I ended up giving more weight to the power side of things, mostly because it doesn’t matter how often you get on base, if you can’t capitalize on those opportunities. Grade: B

Offseason acquisitions: Dan Duquette did a phenomenal job in his first season in the Orioles front office. Coming into spring training every one of the moves he had made was being put under series scrutiny. But without some of those moves the Orioles would not be in the position they are heading into the break. The two names that standout the most so far are starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen. Both have had great starts and have proven to be the Orioles top two pitchers in the rotation. But looking even further down the list you find names like Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez, and Matt Lindstrom, all of which have made major contributions towards Baltimore’s early success. Grade: A+

Consistency: This has been one of the big sore spots on the Orioles resume. There have been long stretches of the season with the Orioles losing 5 in a week following a week where they would win 6. While the ups have lasted longer than the downs overall, it has been more on the negative side since June began and the Orioles seem to be going in the wrong direction. If they can try and catch the downward slides before the get out of hand then the Orioles should be able to look towards a playoff berth. Grade: D

Overall: So what grade does Baltimore receive for their first half of the season? Taking each of the marks I handed out earlier you’ll come up with a pretty average grade. But ask any fan what they think so far this season and the answer is obvious? With expectations beyond low coming into the year there were no expectations to compete for a position in the playoffs. But halfway through the season that is exactly where they rest. Hopefully they can keep it up and give the O’s faithful their first playoff berth since 1997. Grade: A

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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