There are many old clichés in baseball. There’s constantly talk of it being a “long season” and taking things “one game at a time.” Those still hold true, as does the idea of trying not to draw too many conclusions from one game. Teams play 162 times over the course of a year, and paying attention to just one of them can be dangerous. But after a week and just five games, or three percent of the season, it is pretty easy to see some common themes with the Orioles.
The power bats are still littered throughout the lineup for the Birds. They’ve hit five homers in their five games, including the walk-off shot from reigning home run champion Mark Trumbo on opening day. That 162-homer pace will only pick up as well, as Baltimore led all of baseball last season with 253 roundtrippers. Trumbo is still surrounded by others with bop in their bats like Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, so it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the O’s are going to go deep quite often.
Defense is also something that remains a constant with Baltimore. We’ve seen it on display plenty from Machado in the early part of the season. It included his gem on opening pay in the top of the 11th inning to rob Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis of a double. There’s also been the steady influence of J.J. Hardy up the middle of the infield and the slick glove work of Davis at first base. It’s going to be another season of fans and media praising Davis’ ability to pick balls out of the dirt while the national media simply marvels at his bat. He’s more than a pretty home run swing.
We’ve also witnessed the sometimes-stomach-churning play of the starting pitching staff. Kevin Gausman has combined for just ten innings in his first two starts while Ubaldo Jiménez failed to hit five innings in his. Wade Miley somehow got through five in his debut, but it came with an absurd seven walks. Dylan Bundy has been the obvious bright spot in the rotation thus far, but one out of five isn’t a good percentage. The real issue is the uncertainty going forward for this rotation, but again, that’s nothing new. No one (perhaps not even Buck Showalter at this point) even knows who the fifth starter will be for this team. While there may be optimism for Chris Tillman to make a return in May, that’s also no guarantee and there’s no sure thing that he’ll be any good if he does return. Rotation woes are another common thread for this squad, which has lived with them for years.
The uncertainty with starting pitching means the Orioles are once again going to lean heavily on the bullpen this year. This is another conclusion that can be drawn without stirring too much controversy, despite seeing just five games. No one thinks Zach Britton will have the nearly perfect season he did last year, but he’s already logged five innings and saved three of the four wins. Despite a hiccup from Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day in Sunday’s loss to the Yankees, there’s a pretty good feeling that the ‘pen will be one of the best in baseball.
Drawing the conclusion that these O’s are pretty similar to those of the last few years shouldn’t be that difficult. Aside from a new outfield regular in Seth Smith and a new catcher in Welington Castillo, these team is virtually unchanged from last year’s. The only thing we’ve seen that’s a bit different thus far is a few stolen bases, and they came in the same game. After stealing just 19 bags in 2016, by far the worst in the major leagues, the Orioles already have two in this campaign. I wouldn’t expect that number to jump up this year, however. Despite it being perhaps the only element of the team’s philosophy that could change with a simple willingness to run, there’s a lot of risk involved in taking the bat out of the hands of power hitters.
In the end, the Orioles have the look of a team that is very familiar, and that may not be a bad thing. They’re going to hit for power, play good defense and be very mediocre in the starting pitching department while shutting things down in the bullpen. It’s worked over the last few seasons to the tune of three postseason appearances in five years. As long as the Orioles are reaching October on a regular basis, they are giving themselves a chance at a title. I don’t think fans can ask for much more.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.