OK, it’s really a month and one day in review. But that’s not nearly as catchy.
The Baltimore Orioles find themselves in second place in the AL East after 26 games (.5 games behind the New York Yankees), with a record of 14-12. That’s pretty good! Especially considering they were missing star 3B Manny Machado for 25 of those games.
They’ve won in a variety of ways already, but it’s mostly been due to the offense, which currently boasts the 4th-best batting average in baseball (.268), as well as the 12th-most runs scored (119). To fully examine what went right, what went wrong, and what was kind of just . . . there . . . let’s break the club down by position group:
These birds can swing a mean stick. I already gave the team’s basic batting stats above, but the team is also 13th in slugging percentage and, um, actually, this team should be scoring way more runs than they are. It’s weird. They’re only 16th in OBP and 22nd in HRs with 20, and that’s with Nelson Cruz going off for 7 dingers himself. This is probably because they haven’t had much luck hitting with RISP (I’m sure there is a recorded stat to show this, but for the life of me I can’t find it. If you can, please comment with it and I’ll add it here. Thanks!). So one of two things is going to happen: Either their BABIP of .320 (4th-best in MLB) is going to drop off, and the offense is going to go completely cold, OR their BABIP will sustain and their runs scored will jump to a lot higher than 12th. Let’s hope for the latter.
Matt Wieters, which is something I did not anticipate coming into 2014. He looks more comfortable and confident at the plate than ever before, and has a .342 average to show for it, along with 5 HRs and a .372 OPB. Call him up if you need your lawn done, ’cause the dude is straight raking right now (no apologies for the pun, you’re gonna have to deal with them).
This honor could have also gone to Cruz, but I gave it to the big catcher for the higher OBP, and also probably because his walk-off shot last night is fresh in my memory.
I know “roller coaster ride” is the preferred metaphor, but I think we should call these guys the Tower of Terror, because that’s how fast they go from way up to way down and vice versa (and it’s always pretty scary to experience). They collectively have an ERA of 4.75, which is less than ideal, and a WHIP of 1.49, which is awful. Also: remember how Ubaldo Jimenez was supposed to be good and stuff? He has zero quality starts thus far. Woof. These guys need to get it together soon, or the O’s won’t be winning very much as the season goes along.
Chris Tillman? I guess? His first three starts ranged from good to phenomenal, which is enough to give him the nod here, even though his last two starts have been, uh, less than stellar. Overall, a 3.68 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP is fine, but if he’s really the ace pitcher that all Baltimore fans want him to be, he needs to be more consistent.
I know ERA is tricky when it comes to relievers, especially early on, because a few bad innings can throw everything off, but the O’s bullpen has, with a few exceptions, been mostly a mess. Josh Stinson has given up more runs (9) than the amount of games he has appeared (7). That’s probably bad. He also has a 1.94 WHIP, which is also probably bad. Evan Meek has twice given up 4 runs in an appearance, and they’ve both come within his last 4 appearances (though, in games besides those two, he has given up only one run). Brian Matusz walked 16 batters in 2013; he’s halfway there in only 13 appearances in 2014, and has a 2.17 WHIP to show for it. The ‘pen was the backbone of the team last season. If O’s can’t count on them to hold onto leads, it’s gonna be ugly.
I’m calling it a tie between Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. O’Day has been his usual self, only giving up one run thus far (though his WHIP of 1.36 is a little high; I expect that to drop soon), and Britton has been magnificent, with a WHIP of 0.98 and only 2 runs allowed. Tommy Hunter should also be commended for stepping into the closer’s role and doing admirable job, converting 7 of 8 opportunities.
Looking ahead to May:
Baltimore fans have read this story before: Productive lineup, mediocre (or worse) pitching. Thank goodness for the team defense, which has committed the second-least errors in the league, and will only improve with Machado’s return. May is a weird month, with the Birds only having to play one AL East opponent (Tampa Bay, May 6-8). That doesn’t mean it’s an easy month, however; the Detroit Tigers are coming to town, and the O’s will have to travel to Milwaukee to take on the red-hot Brewers later in the month. They do get two series against Houston and one each against Pittsburgh and Cleveland, so the O’s do have a chance to make some noise before heading into the dog days of summer.