Olivia Witherite: Stats define rise, but guarantee little

It's mid-May, and the Orioles are 22-13 and have a 12-6 record against the American League East.

What a beautiful sentence.

As a pessimist, the part of the sentence that pops out immediately to me is "mid-May." I will never be the first to say that Team X is "for real" or that Team Y has a great shot for a pennant this season until I can declare so with certainty. Call me superstitious.

However, to me, the Orioles carry more weight than any other team, and as a fan, I have to admit that the first sentence I typed absolutely thrills me. Forget the holes in the starting rotation, the injuries and the errors at the corners, and look at the stats that have defined the first month and a half of Baltimore baseball this season.

* The Orioles are 2-4 versus the Yankees, 5-1 against Toronto and 2-1 against the Rays. In the only time the Birds played the Red Sox, they swept Boston in a three-game set at Fenway Park.

* To date, the Orioles have hit the most home runs in the American League: 56. Although the team's batting average is just .248, because of the power, they have a .444 slugging percentage, which was third-best in the American League, before Sunday's game. Small ball has been somewhat unheard of.

* The team is 11-5 on the road and 11-8 at home.

* Adam Jones is hitting .291/.338/.567 and has 10 home runs. Last season, it took him until June 18 to hit No. 10.

* They haven't been under .500 this season.

* Wei-Yin Chen is 3-0 in his six starts. He has a 2.68 ERA.

* The Orioles are 4-2 in extra-inning games.

* Throughout the season, the Birds have spent 23 days in first place, (not including off day.

I could go on and on with statistics, and although they are encouraging, they are not a tell-all.

Especially since 2007, when the Rays began to heat up, the American League East has been the hardest division in Major League Baseball. Obviously, playing in the East, the Orioles have even more of an uphill battle to do well this season. But is it possible to overcome and succeed?

The stats can encourage fans, but again, the pessimist in me must say that they guarantee absolutely nothing.

For me, the most encouraging thing to see this season was a loss. Yesterday, I witnessed an Orioles team battle back from a six-run deficit in a one-run loss to Tampa Bay. Watching a team battle back in a game in which fans were leaving before the team even began to catch up is great to see.

A win in May counts the same as one in August. No more, no less. Sure, there may be a more obvious difference in the impact that each win has, but winning now is just as impactful as it will be when the number of games on the season reaches triple digits.

But for now, we can all enjoy the greatest stat: first place in the AL East.

Olivia Witherite blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and her opinions appear here as part of MASN's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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