I’ve tried to convince myself it wasn’t real.
I will be the first to admit, I was adamantly against this Orioles team and with good reason. In fact here was my assessment of this ball club in my preseason predictions:
Where do you start? Pitching isn’t good, lineup lacks depth, their best players (besides Markakis) aren’t stars anywhere else. Buck Showalter has his hands full with this project. My guess is he won’t even be managing to see the fruits of his labors a la 1996 when he was replaced by Joe Torre the year after leading the Yankees to the playoffs. They went on to win four titles in five seasons. Citizens of Baltimore can only dream of that scenario. – The Locker, April 2, 2012
They had let us down before about this time and of course it was only a matter of time before they started slumping again, right? Well as the calendar turned from April to May and now coming up on June something odd is developing in the American League East.
The Orioles continue to play good baseball, and pile up the wins.
Yes it is still early, and come July or August I could look back on this piece and think to myself “why did I fall for that?” But living in the moment, right-this-very-second we see Baltimore at 22-14, the fourth best record in all of baseball and in first place.
So how are they doing it?
Well lets start with their offense, which has been surprisingly efficient. I noted back in March that I wouldn’t pick a single player on this roster to build a team around because I considered them all complimentary to a larger piece. I thought Adam Jones didn’t get on base enough and was trending in the wrong direction at a time he should be getting better. All he’s done in 2012 is hit .295, with 10 home runs, and 22 RBI’s. I will point out that he’s also getting on base at a .34o clip, 20 points higher than his career average.
Matt Wieters, another player I thought was “nice” but not a superstar, is pounding the baseball as well batting .275, with eight home runs, and 20 RBI’s while maintaining a OBP of .360 (29 points above his career average).
The story, though, has been on the mound.
Back in March I was completely down on this staff. So what do they do? Go out and become the most lights out bullpen in the majors. Their closer, Jim Johnson is perfect in saves and has an ERA of .57, with 12 strikeouts to just four walks. You will be hard pressed, in fact, to find a reliever with an ERA above 1.90 on this staff.
Two starters, Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel, have combined to go 7-1 with ERA’s of 2.43 and 2.68 respectively. They will need more from their other starters to continue their good work before the sixth and seventh, but as of now they are maintaining a good enough clip to keep themselves competitive.
So I say all of that to say this: Up to this point I apologize for downplaying the success of this Orioles team. Buck Showalter and his coaches are doing a great job with their resources and I can’t ignore their success any longer.
Dare I say baseball in Baltimore is fun again?