What’s Working for the Orioles Through Six Games
It’s been a bit of a weird start for the Orioles, who sit at 4-2 after losing to the Red Sox on Tuesday. They’re still theoretically atop the AL East standings, but it’s happened by unconventional means as the offense has been a bit stagnant and the pitching staff has struggled a bit as well.
These things will iron themselves out over the drudges of a long season, but for now, it’s fun to look at what is working for the Orioles through the first week or so of the season.
Here’s what we’ve seen:
The offense has “haves” and “have-nots” and the haves are kicking butt
Fortunately, most of the players off to slow starts are reserves. The bench of Trey Mancini, Craig Gentry, Joey Rickard, Caleb Joseph and Ryan Flaherty is off to a collective 2-for-30 (.067) start, with Mancini collecting both of the hits. As far as starters are concerned, five of them have OPS+ marks over 100, with Hyun Soo Kim checking in at a respectable 92 and Mark Trumbo, who is likely to get going sooner rather than later, at 82.
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No Orioles hitter has more than one home run this season, but despite that, Chris Davis is off to a tremendous start. He (168 OPS+) and Seth Smith (198) spearhead the offensive effort thus far, with Adam Jones (134), Welington Castillo (130) and Manny Machado (109) rounding out the above-average competitors through six games. Still, on the whole, the offense has a slash line of .215/.271/.338 with an OPS+ of 74, so it’s not hard to see how much of a drain on the offense the non-performers have been thus far this season.
Dylan Bundy looks fantastic
He took it on the chin in Tuesday night’s loss to the Red Sox, but through two starts he’s got a 2.70 ERA, 11-2 K/BB ratio and is allowing less than a baserunner per inning (0.98 WHIP). In lieu of big-time velocity — he’s still averaging a respectable 92.5 mph on his fastball — he’s gone cutter-heavy with a curve and changeup with strong results so far. Opposing batters have just two hits against the cutter/slider so far this season, and through 57 pitches it is carrying an obscene swinging strike rate of 33.3 percent.
I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll maintain it here: if Bundy and Kevin Gausman can give this team a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of this rotation, there’s no reason they can’t be in the thick of things all year with a strong chance to go deep into October.
Three of the Big Four at the back of the bullpen have been tremendous
The Orioles have the 12th-worst bullpen ERA so far this season, but it’s hard to blame the guys in the back of the ‘pen. Zach Britton is unscored upon through four appearances (five innings), with Brad Brach also unscored upon (four innings) and Mychal Givens having allowed just one earned run through 3.2 innings. All told, that trio has allowed just one earned run in 12.2 innings (0.71 ERA). That strong play hasn’t been reciprocated by Darren O’Day, who has allowed five earned runs in 2.2 innings so far with a ghastly 1-5 K/BB ratio. Oliver Drake — who projection systems seem to love every year — has also scuffled a bit, as he’s allowed three earned runs in 3.1 innings with three walks.
Odds are the bullpen overall will be a strength, but thus far it has — like the offense — been a story of the haves and have-nots.
The team is putting the ball in play — and just not finding holes
The Orioles offense is in the middle of the pack in terms of strikeout rate — 22.3 percent, tied with the Marlins — yet is still hitting just .215 as a team. The primary culprit? They’re just not finding holes offensively as a team, as they have a collective BABIP of .259 (22nd in MLB). That shouldn’t be happening with how often they’re stinging line drives — more on that in a bit — but again, that’s something that’ll even out as the season goes on. They’re hitting the ball better than their line has shown thus far — that much is clear.
Not grounding into double plays
Well, it probably doesn’t mean much, but no team has grounded into fewer twin killings than the Orioles with two. That’s good, right?
Hitting line drives and avoiding soft contact
The Orioles are sixth in MLB in line drive percentage at 23.1 percent and they also have the ninth-lowest soft contact percentage at 16.8 percent. That is a combination that should result in a much better BABIP than they’ve had, and in turn better results. For instance, AL hitters slashed an obscene .669/.662/1.056 on line drives last year, while the O’s are hitting a much tamer .479/.479/.646 on them. Some regression — in the positive direction — should be expected here.
The O’s are one of 13 teams without a bunt hit this season. This is good. #TeamNeverBunt
Not allowing home runs
No team has been better at keeping the ball in the yard this year than the Orioles, who have allowed just three home runs all season. In fact, just one of those has come against a pitcher not named Ubaldo Jimenez — the other came against Givens — as the Orioles have allowed less than a home run every two games (0.49 HR/9). Now that comes with some fortunate fly ball luck — 5.3 percent HR/FB rate — but this has also allowed the team to post a FIP (3.54) that portrays a much rosier picture than its ERA (4.25).