The Baltimore Orioles season can best be described as a car stuck in the mud spinning its tires, going neither forward or backwards. They have struggled to get above .500 and have stayed in the middle of the standings of the AL East. The usually potent offensive has had periods of inactivity and the pitching has been decent but not great. But have no fear Orioles fans, there is still hope! The season is young and the Orioles have the experience, skills, and balance to end the season atop the American League East.
Luckily for the Orioles, all of the teams in the AL East are of similar quality, which makes for a competitive division. The Orioles are currently five games out of the division lead in the early season. Baltimore has the best balance of hitting and pitching in the AL East and if they can stay in striking distance they have a good chance to claim their second straight division crown.
Pitching has surprisingly been the Orioles’ strength this season, offering consistent starting pitching and a reliable bullpen. Although the Orioles don’t have the best skilled staff in the division, they have an impressive balanced attack.
The biggest surprise of the season has been the play of Ubaldo Jimenez, who after a disappointing 2014 season has prevailed as the team’s best pitcher early in the season. Jimenez currently holds an ERA of 3.12 and a WHIP of 1.16, which are well below his career numbers.
Other starters, Wei-Yen Chen and Miguel Gonzalez have provided the same consistency from previous seasons and always give the team a chance to win. Even rookie pitcher Mike Wright has performed well after being placed into the rotation due to injuries.
The only disappointment on the starting staff is the “ace” Chris Tillman. Tillman has been very unstable, struggling to keep his ERA under 6 while sporting a 2-7 record. However, based on his career track record there is optimism that he can turn it around and if not, the Orioles have options in the minors to complete a quality rotation.
The Orioles bullpen is one of the team’s strongpoints. Closer Zach Britton has completed 15 out of 16 possible save situations, making him one of the most reliable and efficient closers in baseball. Britton forces ground balls seventy percent of the time and rarely makes mistakes. Setup man Darren O’Day is another efficient pitcher. He has an extremely low 0.93 ERA along with a 0.72 WHIP. The Orioles also have solid players in Brian Matusz and Brad Brach to round out an impressive staff.
Now let’s talk about the Orioles offensive. I’ll just go ahead and say it, the Os hitting was miserable in the month of May, averaging around three runs a game. But in the words of Miley Cyrus, nobody’s perfect and the last month is more than likely an outlier for the Birds. They averaged over five runs a game in April and started to heat up at the end of May which is a good sign moving forward.
The lack of offensive has been partly due to injuries. Starters infielders JJ Hardy, Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty have all missed significant time with injuries. The return of catcher Matt Wieters, who has not played at all this season, adds an all around threat that can help the offense and the pitching staff. As of now, the majority of injured players have returned to the current roster, which will hopefully boost the production.
The Orioles best offensive players, such as Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado have started to hit consistently, which is yet another good sign for the club. When they have everyone available, the Orioles have a complete lineup and if they produce as they have in the past, the number of runs scored will drastically increase.
It is unusual for a team’s x-factor to be its manager, but that’s exactly what the Orioles have in Buck Showalter. Showalter immediately transformed a bottom dwelling franchise into a title contender. He keeps a calm demeanor and always seems to make the right moves. Showalter has built this team based on young talent and will try his hardest to get this team to the playoffs as he does every year. Having the best manager in the AL East is another advantage the Os have up their sleeve.
So after analyzing each aspect of the Orioles’ team, their roster seems to be complete with quality players in every position. We know that Orioles are capable of pitching and hitting; they just need to do them at the same time. And even though they are not the best in any particular category, I believe they have the best team in the AL East and will end the season atop the division.