With Sunday's 8-6 defeat to the Kansas City Royals, the Baltimore Orioles finished their 42nd game of the season, which is just over the quarter mark for the season. With one quarter of the season in the books, we thought we would take a look at just where the Orioles stand.
Considering some of the numbers, the Orioles should feel absolutely fantastic about where they are sitting a quarter of the way through the season.
Coming into the 2014 campaign, expectations were pretty high with the additions of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez, and the offense was expected to be even better than the 2013 version that led all of baseball in home runs. Thus far in 2014, the offense has been the biggest issue for the Orioles.
Despite having one of the 7th highest team batting average in all of baseball with their .259, Baltimore's .307 on base percentage is the 9th lowest in baseball, thus you can see that getting hits are practically the only way the team is getting on base as they are the only team remaining in the entire MLB that has yet to eclipse the triple digit walk total as they only have 92 walks in 1,587 plate appearances, which equates to a walk ever 5.8% of the time an Oriole walks to the plate. To contrast that, the Oakland A's, who lead all of baseball in walks, average a walk every 10.9% they come to the plate. That difference is astronomical over the course of the season.
It is unfortunate that the Orioles are not getting men on base very frequently because their .272 average with runners in scoring position ranks as 4th best in all of baseball, so at least the offense is cashing in when they do get the opportunity, it's just a matter of presenting the lineup with more chances. Scoring runs was not thought to be an issue for this team coming into the season, but their 167 runs scored is the 9th lowest total in all of baseball, but to be fair, some teams have played more games than the Orioles as well.
Probably the biggest surprise offensively for this team is their limited home run production, as a team that added Cruz to an already stout home run hitting ball club that led the world in home runs last season, is tied for 19th in MLB with 36 home runs. To see a little bit of a comparison, this season the Orioles are averaging 0.86 home runs per game, while in 2013 they averaged 1.31 per game, which as you can easily tell, when you think of the course of the season, that's a huge difference in home run production. Of course, it does need to be mentioned that the Orioles have yet to be able put their entire projected lineup on the field at the same time as Manny Machado was out at first, then Chris Davis went down with an oblique injury when Machado returned, and when Davis returned, Matt Wieters went down with elbow soreness, and it does not appear that Wieters will return until at least June.
Coming into the 2014 season, many thought that the key for the Orioles, as it always seems to be, was their pitching and even with the addition of Jimenez, the starting rotation was the biggest question mark. Overall thus far, the pitching staff has been pretty good as they sport a 3.99 ERA as a whole, with their rotation owning a 4.04 ERA and their bullpen a 3.88 ERA. All three ERA's are 19th in the MLB and either 7th or 8th in the American League.
Jimenez had a very rough April, and although he did not pitch well on Sunday, he has been much better in May. The bullpen has been good despite the Tommy Hunter closer issue, and Zach Britton has been absolutely phenomenal for the Birds.
Baltimore's pitching has been average to slightly above average, but when you think about what the offense was supposed to be and how the Orioles' pitching staff, especially the starting rotation, has been over the past couple of seasons, fans would have loved it if you presented them with a scenario to have a slightly above average pitching staff. The issue all season has been the Birds inability to lineup with good outings on the mound with good outings at the plate as it seems that when a Orioles pitcher is doing well, the offense can't score and vice versa.
Of course, there was one area that everyone knew the Orioles would excel in and that is their defense. Baltimore currently leads the American League in fielding percentage at .987 and although they are on pace for more errors this season than the record setting low number of last season, there is only one team in all of baseball that has committed fewer errors than the Orioles 20 thus far.
One area of the Orioles defense has uncharacteristically struggled, but it is understandable. Only four teams in baseball have thrown out potential base stealers at a lower rate than Orioles catchers have (15.8%), but when you think about the fact that Wieters was dealing with elbow soreness while in there and Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph are now the main options behind the plate, you can see how that caught stealing percentage suffers.
Overall, it has been a pretty unsuspected first quarter of the season as the pitching staff has been arguably better than we anticipated, while the offense has not lived up to the high expectations that were set upon it, but keep in mind we still have 120 more games to go and this offense is too good to continue producing the way it has. When you consider that the offense has struggled, you have to tip your cap to the pitching staff for keeping the team in games while waiting for the offense to turn it on and hey, the Orioles are just a half game out of first place in the AL East and if the season ended today, the Birds would be in the AL Wildcard play in game.
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