The Baltimore Orioles remain a surprising team so far in the 2016 Major League Baseball season. The O’s, at 10-4, currently lead the American League East by 3.5 games, with all other teams in the division posting losing records heading into Friday.
Most recently, the Orioles took a series off of the defending division champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. Between the two teams the Jays are the one that carried a lot of expectations heading into this season following how they finished off 2015. However, the Canadian-based franchise lost Alex Anthopoulos over the off-season, and we’re still waiting to see what Ross Atkins can get out of his personnel in Toronto. So far the answer has been not a heck of a lot.
Overall in the AL East, the Jays are just 8-9, the revamped Bo Sox are just 7-8, Tampa Bay are 7-8 too, and the Yankees are just 5-9 so far. Baltimore, at 10-4, are looking pretty good, and they enter the weekend with a chance to prove themselves against another division leader, the Kansas City Royals.
In regard to their chances this weekend, commentary on the Orioles is largely favorable. CBS, in previewing the upcoming Royals’/Orioles’ series, wrote that “Baltimore…appear to have rejoined the American League’s upper tier after falling back last season” (April 22nd, 2016).
Helping them back into the “upper tier” is a talented third baseman. Manny Machado is a name that should be among early whispers for American League MVP this season. The infielder has five home runs so far, he has hit for an average above .400, and his OPS is a crushing 1.241. Mark Trumbo has also hit well so far in 2016, the right-fielder delivering a 1.080 OPS through 14 games thus far. For overall hitting, there’s no one better than Baltimore right now as the O’s are first in the majors in team OPS at .862.
But where the hitting has been top notch, when it comes to starting pitching a staff ace has yet to emerge statistically. Among regular starters, Ubaldo Jimenez has posted the best ERA at 3.71. Starters aside, the Orioles have received a lot of effective relief pitching, and that has helped make them an average team on the mound thus far.
Yet make no mistake about it, the best hitting and average pitching is a winning combination in Major League Baseball. But what’s interesting about the O’s is the room for improvement when it comes to defense. If they keep winning at a good rate, then maybe they’ll look for an arm-for-hire later this season to bolster their starting pitching rotation.
In regard to the upcoming KC series, within Baltimore’s 10-4 record are their home-and-away splits. So far in 2016, the O’s have largely done their damage when hosting. They are 7-1 at home and just 3-3 on the road, suggesting that they will be in tough against Kansas City this weekend.
For almost certain a winning percentage of .714 won’t last forever at the Major League level. However, Buck Showalter‘s club appears to be very below the radar. I could put this team at somewhere between .570 and .600 on the longer-termed winning percentages, and I think there’s plenty to be optimistic about in Baltimore this season.