The case for the defense

So, were there any exciting sporting events over the weekend? I heard there were some.

Meanwhile, back on the baseball beat, what if there was a team and only four other teams made more errors than said team last season? What if just three squads had a lower fielding percentage than said team? Could that squad be a good fielding team in 2013?

It can if you are talking about the Orioles, and of course we are.

Tampa Bay, a team with a recent history of very solid defense, led the American League with 114 errors in 2012 and the Orioles made 107. Tampa Bay and Kansas City were tied at the bottom of the league with a fielding percentage of .981. The Orioles were at .983.

But anyone that paid attention saw the Orioles transform their defense with a few key moves during last season and, by the end of the year, they had become one of the best fielding teams in the major leagues.

Not counting pitcher, the Orioles can put five players that have claimed Gold Gloves among the eight other field positions in Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy.

They have at least two players in Alexi Casilla and Brian Roberts that can play plus defense at second base and we’ve seen Manny Machado do that at third. That leaves only first base as a position that could be a defensive issue and the Orioles keep insisting that Chris Davis will show what he can do there this year.

From opening day through Aug. 8 last year, the Orioles’ .980 fielding percentage was last in the majors. On Aug. 9, the Orioles called up Machado. From that point on, their 19 errors and .990 fielding percentage were both tops in the majors. Not a bad stat for the kid.

His play at third, along with Mark Reynolds’ improved play as the season went on at first and McLouth’s solid play in left, helped transform a defense that already was strong up the middle.

One interesting point with Davis is he probably has one of the strongest arms on the team, but will be at a position where he won’t be able to show it off too much. Maybe it will come into play on some relay throws to the plate.

By the way, the Orioles led the AL in total chances last year. I’m not sure what we can read into that, but getting to a lot of balls is certainly not a bad thing.

While we can debate the strength of the O’s offense, its need for another bat and the question of whether the pitchers will be as strong as they were late last year, it seems the club’s defense will be strong again.

What is your take on the club’s defense? How good can it be in 2013?

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