The Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox were more or less co-favorites in the American League East when they entered the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season. With more than 90% of the season still to come, opinions won’t be abandoned too quickly, however so far it’s the last favorite in the division, the Baltimore Orioles, who are the team winning games.
Baltimore opened their season with a sweep of the Minnesota Twins and, in truth, there didn’t seem to be much to make of it. The Twins, according to betting odds, weren’t expected to do anything this year, and Baltimore hosted their series.
When the O’s followed up with a couple of wins over Tampa Bay (one game got postponed), then there still didn’t seem to be anything to get all that excited about for very similar reasons. The Rays weren’t – and aren’t – expected to do anything this season and Baltimore hosted that series as well.
However, to start this week, the Orioles have done something a little bit more head turning – they’ve defeated the Boston Red Sox in a series that has been played at Fenway Park. At the time of this writing, there was still one game to be played in the three-game set. However, Baltimore have taken the first two. Those results, including a 9-5 win on Tuesday night, guarantee that the O’s will take at least two of three off of the Red Sox. Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Orioles are a perfect 7-0 and the only undefeated team left in Major League Baseball.
Should there be something to get excited about with this team?
You can say that 7 games doesn’t amount to much in Major League Baseball, and you’d be right. However, Manny Machado, who is on the shortlist of AL MVP candidates, is doing what has been expected of him. The third baseman has an OPS of 1.227 with three home runs on the year so far.
But Mark Trumbo is not doing what has been expected of him in a good kind of way: he has been playing above career averages so far with a 1.214 OPS. Meanwhile, little-known Joey Rickard, a player I tipped in my pre-season fantasy article, has indicated with his bat that he doesn’t want to spend any more time in the minor leagues. The center fielder, who has not committed an error yet, has an OPS of .922. If he can settle into anything like that long term than the Orioles will have the extra production they need to try and get into the AL East pennant race this summer/fall.
The Jays and Red Sox are 3-5 and 3-4 respectively, records that amount to winning percentages that can change drastically at this early point in the season. When it comes to trying to figure out who is who in the east, the next two series for Baltimore look key. The O’s travel to Texas to face the Rangers for a four-game series that spans the weekend. Then, next up, the Jays at Camden Yards.
A split in Texas and a won series against Toronto and I think the Orioles should be taken very seriously. They’ve got some proven power, some proven pitching, and they’ve got some pleasant surprises. Last, but certainly not least, they’ve got a guy named Buck Showalter running things – you know, the three-time American League Manager of the Year. If he’s got any kind of team to work with, I don’t think he’ll screw it up, at least not in the regular season.