The season's been underway for a little over a month now and the Orioles have had their share of ups and downs thus far.
With their current record being at 13-15, things started off really well as the team won six of their first seven games, including a three game sweep of the defending American League Champion Rays. However, things can never be too good in Baltimore for too long—the O's went on to lose their next seven games before snapping the skid with an 11-0 shutout over the Twins. Since the losing streak, the team has put up a 7-6 record.
In the American League East, Baltimore is in fourth place, 4.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. With a 5-5 record in the division, the Birds biggest issue has been the games facing New York. The team has yet to take a game in the season series with two of the games being postponed due to rain, falling to 0-4 after the last trip to the Bronx. In other division games, the Orioles have swept the Rays and gone 2-1 against the Red Sox. The O's will not see Toronto until June 3rd when the Blue Jays come to Baltimore.
Overall, the offense has been very good—when the bats are hitting. Vladimir Guerrero is leading the team in two categories, posting a .274 batting average with 32 hits. His on base percentage is .280 after he drew his first walk of the season in last night's game after 115 plate appearances. The leader of on base percentage is Matt Wieters, who is having a career year at the plate, with .323. He is 10-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Wieters has 4 homers and 17 RBIs on the season to go along with his team ranked second .451 slugging percentage.
Luke Scott is the slugging percentage leader with it coming at .541. He has shown the same power he has throughout his time in Baltimore as he leads the team with 6 home runs, which have come very recently. Scott went the first eight games without going deep and since then has blasted 6 long balls in the past 14 games. Adam Jones has found his power thus far this season as well with 5 dingers and is only 4 RBIs behind team leader Brian Roberts, who has 19 RBIs on the year.
The biggest enigma of the season has been Nick Markakis. His normally stellar numbers have taken a huge drop thus far into 2011. He is average has been hovering around the Mendoza line all season, being at .207 currently. He only has 2 home runs and 9 RBIs so far and his on base percentage is .276. Markakis' issue is that he is making contact but every time he gets the bat on the ball, it results in a ground out or it is hit exactly to where the opposition is playing him.
With the batting leaders being spread throughout the lineup, it would seem that the team should be posting big innings every game. The problem has been that the runs come in big numbers and then fall silent for a few games. Baltimore has outscored their opponents 103-102. The most runs they scored in a game was 11 in the shutout against the Twins and they have been shutout themselves only once on the season. Nevertheless, 12 of the games were decided on 3 runs or less in April.
For the most part this season, the starting pitching has been phenomenal. The rotation has been consistent so far with no injuries keeping anyone from performing: Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Chris Tillman. The starters have a combined record of 10-11 with an ERA of 4.03. They have allowed a total strikeout to walk ratio of 5.67.
Of the five starters, the breakout pitcher has been rookie Zach Britton. He is leading the team with 5 wins—as well as having the most wins by a rookie in the league. He is also the team leader in ERA with it being at 2.63. Arrieta leads the team with 25 strike outs.
Guthrie is having a typical year for him where he pitches well during almost every outing but continues not to get the run support necessary to get him the win. He is averaging 99.8 pitches in his starts and posting a 3.00 ERA but has a 1-4 record. He has had a quality start in every game but one when he went on 5 innings, allowing 6 runs after returning from a bout with pneumonia. The offense has gotten him 6 runs in his last 5 starts and scored 15 total in the 6 games he has started this season.
While the starting pitching has kept the Orioles in the games for the most part, the relief pitching has seen its share of failure. The bullpen has a record of 3-4, but that doesn't show the whole story. Relievers continue to allow the opposition runs. Luckily, the offense has pulled through most times and got the team the win despite the pitching issues.
Kevin Gregg was named the closer. He has recorded 5 saves but has not had very many clean outings. In 10 innings pitched, he has allowed 3 runs, including a homer to Jorge Posada on April 14 to tie up the game in the ninth—a game that the Orioles would go on to lose in extra innings. However, things have been getting better for the closer. In the last two weeks, his strikeout to walk ratio has been 2.00 and the batting average against him was .077. If he can keep his numbers down like he has been doing lately after settling into his new role, then there will be no issues.
Another problem in the pen has been the homers. Combined they have given up 20 homers in 91.1 innings. Josh Rupe has allowed 5 homers in his 8 outings that have stretched for 10.2 innings. Four other relievers have given up 2 a piece and one with 3. Overall, the relief has an ERA of 5.42, negating the work of the starters and making the team rely on hitting, which has come in streaks so far.
All in all, Baltimore is looking much better than they have in past seasons. If things continue at this pace and the players get back into the groove further down the road, then the fans will not be disappointed this season. There is always room for improvement but the change between last season and this season has been tremendous so far.