May 22, 2012 by Matt Musico
As we stand about a week away from the calendar flipping over to June, the MLB regular season is about 27% finished. There have been lots of great plays, boneheaded plays, surprises and disappointments. What has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season? B far, it’s the Baltimore Orioles.
Buck Showalter’s team wasn’t expected to do much in the top-heavy American League East this season; according to analysts, they had no starting pitching, and with the trade of Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies, they really had nothing left. Offensively, they just wouldn’t be able to compete with offensive juggernauts that are the Red Sox and Yankees. So, where are those aforementioned juggernauts? Tied for last place in the division, both sitting at 21-21 on the season, 5.5 games out of first place. Oh, and who is leading the division? It’s the Orioles, sporting a 27-16 record, two games better than Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays.
How has Baltimore been able to stay on top of the division for as long as they have this season? Well, they’ve been taking care of business at home with a 12-10 record, but it’s their dominance on the road (15-6 record) that has propelled them to their current success. As a team, the Orioles are in the middle of the pack when you look at their .249 team batting average, but their .310 team on-base percentage is ranked 21st in the MLB. Despite that, the O’s rank 6th in the league with 199 runs scored, thanks to their league-leading 65 home runs. Yes, you read that right, the Baltimore Orioles have more home runs than anyone in Major League Baseball, and that includes the Rangers and the Yankees.
Who has been leading the offensive charge for Balitmore? It’s obviously Adam Jones; he’s leading the team with a .307 batting average, and also leads the team in on-base percentage (.351), slugging percentage (.602), home runs (14), RBI (29), and runs scored (32). I think it’s safe to say that he’s been the team’s MVP thus far. Of the starters, Chris Davis (.299 BA) and Robert Andino (.263) have been helping to pace the offense.
What’s been the key to Baltimore’s success is the emergence of their pitching staff. This team was supposed to have no pitching, yet two months into the season, their 3.58 team ERA and 1.26 team WHIP both rank in the top half of the league. The starting staff has been led by starters Jason Hammel (3.12 ERA) and Wei-Yin Chen (3.35 ERA), but their bullpen has been incredibly impressive. They have converted 19 out of 24 save opportunities and are boasting five relievers (Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Matt Lindstrom, and Luis Ayala) with 13 or more appearances and an ERA of 1.75 or lower.
Can the Orioles continue their run of success? I’m not sure, but it’s been awful fun to see both the Orioles and Nationals jump out to impressive starts and bring the D.C. area to life. What concerns me the most about the Orioles is that they’re depending a lot on their bullpen, which could come back to bite them in the end. Also, they’ve beaten the teams they needed to beat (White Sox, Twins), but I would like to see them go up against some top tier teams before I pass judgment. They have won three of four so far from the Red Sox, but have only taken three of eight from the Yankees, and they looked like a totally different team when they lost three of four against the Rangers. To stay on top of the AL East, they’ll have to continue what they’re doing to Boston (3-1), Toronto (5-1), and Tampa Bay (2-1), while improving against the Yankees.
Either way, this is a world of progress from last season, and Baltimore currently has 40% of last year’s win total (69) under their belt, a week before June.
Category Sports | Tags: 2012 mlb, Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, Buck Showalter, Chris Davis, Jason Hammel, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Lindstrom, MLB, MLB's most pleasant surprise, robert andino, Wei-Yin Chen