22 April 2014

O's Weathering Difficult Early Season Stretch

Despite a difficult early season schedule, the absence of Manny Machado, and a couple of nagging injuries that have occasionally kept J.J. Hardy out of the lineup, the Orioles currently have a record of 9-9. They have a positive run differential (by a grant total of one run), are 4-3 in one-run games, and have a .500 record both at home (4-4) and on the road (5-5).

So far, the O's have played seven games against the Red Sox, three against the Yankees, three against the Blue Jays, two against the Rays, and three against the Tigers. Most of those opponents are American League East foes, who the O's will battle all season long. The Tigers are also very good. (It's worth noting that the Orioles have arguably the most difficult schedule in all of baseball.)

So the O's have faced some good teams, but the scheduling quirks have been unusual as well. After a night game against the Red Sox on the third game of the season, the Orioles flew to Detroit for the Tigers' home opener (an afternoon game). They didn't get to Detroit until about 3 a.m. The O's then played four more afternoon games in a row, one of which happened to be the Yankees' home opener (in Derek Jeter's farewell season). And just recently, the Orioles finished up a four-game series in Boston with the following start times: 7:10, 1:35, 7:00 (ESPN Sunday Night game), and 11:05 (Patriots' Day/Boston Marathon). (For some reason, a couple of Red Sox players spent Sunday night in the clubhouse.) Here's Keith Law on that Sunday/Monday scheduling combination:
But at least that stretch is done. At 9-9, the Orioles haven't been great but have certainly been treading water, which is notable because of how important Machado and Hardy are to their success. Position player wise, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones have played well so far -- both offensively and defensively -- but that's not really the case with anyone else on the roster. Nelson Cruz has hit well, as has (surprisingly) Delmon Young, but neither has added anything defensively (Cruz has been particularly awful). Chris Davis has been very effective at getting on base, but his power numbers are not there yet. And no one else, other than backup catcher Steve Clevenger, has a wOBA over .299.

Pitching wise, Chris Tillman has pitched very well, Wei-Yin Chen has been all right, and the bullpen, led by Zach Britton and Evan Meek (of course), has been fine. Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez have both had their struggles, as has Brian Matusz.

But this isn't a full early season rundown of the roster, and it's still too early to start breaking down everyone's numbers. The Orioles haven't even played 20 games yet. The point is that they have played OK, kept things afloat after an early four-game losing streak against the Red Sox and Tigers (two each), and are still in good position to go on some kind of run if Machado returns as his old self and Hardy is able to stay in the lineup for more than a couple games at a time. Assuming Jimenez starts to pick things up, along with Markakis and Davis, the O's should be just fine.

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