A Look at the O’s So Far
As the Orioles just wrapped up sweeping the two-game series in Kansas City against the Royals, the Orioles will head into Washington atop the AL East at 25-14. This will be the first time that both teams are playing one another in which both teams are atop their respective divisions. The “Battle of the Beltways” has never been more critical. Both teams were projected to be lower in the standings than where they are right now.
The Orioles have taken the MLB world by surprise with their current play. Buck Showalter has the Birds playing better than ever. He’s doing it in two critical areas:
- The Orioles lead the majors in home runs (61). Camden Yards has been known to be a hitter’s park. However, the Orioles are not just hitting bombs at home, they have 31 at home, and 30 on the road. The O’s are amongst the middle of the pack when it comes to team batting average(.avg) and on base percentage (.obs), so a lot of these home runs are coming as solo shots. Albeit is a strength for the Orioles to be hitting home runs, in order for them to remain competitive atop the AL East, they’re going to have to start getting on base for these home runs to matter more.
- The biggest surprise of the year is the bullpen for the Orioles. Last year, the O’s ranked 27th in ERA by relief pitching. Looking at the key pitchers in the pen, the ERA’s are almost invisible.
Luis Ayala currently has an ERA of 1.77 thru 17 games pitched. It is remarkable, but he is the worst in the Orioles current bullpen. Below is the current breakdown of ERA by bullpen members.
- Ayala 1.77
- O’Day 1.47
- Lindstrom 1.29
- Strop 1.23
- Johnson 0.48
- Pomeranz 0.00
What is worth mentioning about the bullpen is that they have already faced the high powered offenses of the AL East multiple times. The Yankees in three series, the Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays once a piece. These lineups are currently atop the AL in batting average.
- Boston Red Sox 2nd .275
- New York Yankees 3rd .269
- Tampa Bay Rays 9th .248
- Toronto Blue Jays 12th .239
Jim Johnson had made the move from relief to closer late last year. He currently has not blown a save since making the closer his full time position (19/19). Johnson is quickly becoming an asset that the Orioles have not had on the team in years. The O’s have always found ways to lose a game late, but with the current ways of the bullpen and Johnson closing, the Orioles are limiting the opportunity for opposing teams to score runs. The pressure is on opponents to score runs early against Baltimore’s young starting pitchers. Once the game gets into late innings — for once — you could say that the game favors the Orioles, which no one has been able to say in over a decade.
Baltimore does still have some issues that they are going to have to address in order to remain competitive in what is quite possibly the toughest division in baseball. So far, the Orioles are 2nd in the MLB in errors. In large part, this is due to whomever is currently on the field at 3B. Buck has had a 3B by committee all season, but none have had any luck out in the field. Mark Reynolds is not only on his perennial pace to lead the majors in strikeouts (K) but also to lead the league in errors. Buck has rotated him with Wilson Betemit this year, who currently has surpassed Reynolds in errors, 7 to 6 respectively. The Orioles are so desperate that they have signed Miguel Tejada to a minor league deal, with the desire to see if he is still capable of making plays at the hot corner. As mentioned before, the lineups in the AL East are too strong to give them extra opportunities at the plate, and these errors will have to be fixed.
The other area that that will need to be addressed is out in Left Field. Nolan Reimold started out hot, leading the majors in HRs for the first two weeks of April. Thru 16 games, Reimold had a batting average of .313., but he went on the DL due to an injury to his neck. Nolan is able to come off the DL starting Friday against the Nationals. It is uncertain if Showalter puts him in the lineup or not. If he is not able to go, then it is back to the LF by committee. The O’s have brought up Bill Hall and Xavier Avery from AAA to help cover the injuries to Nolan and Endy Chavez. It’s still too early to tell what the impact will be for Nolan, if he will be able to return without any complications. One bright spot of it all, the Orioles found out that Xavier Avery is capable of hitting at the MLB level. In his first game with the team, he went 2 for 5 with a double and a triple.
To sum it all up:
Baltimore is scoring runs and never quitting in games. Their bullpen is pitching lights out. If the O’s can reduce the errors on the field, and hitting holds up, this team could be special. I will not get crazy and say they can win the AL East, but I will say that they can play .500 or above baseball, which has not been done by Baltimore since 1997.
Do you think the Orioles can keep this pace up?