As the Orioles offense has gotten off to a productive start to this season – and they rank among the AL leaders in several categories, including very important ones like runs per game, team OBP and OPS, walks and pitches per plate appearance – there are a few stats where they are at or near the top of the league that might be surprising.
As of Monday, the Orioles lead the American League with 13 sac flies which is two more than the next closest team, Cleveland with 11 with the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers next with 10. Anthony Santander is the O’s leader with three sac flies while Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle and Adley Rutschman have two each.
Sometimes it is important to get that run in with less than two outs from third. Heck, when is it not? Sunday at Detroit – in a game the O’s would win 5-3 – Mountcastle led off the fifth with a double and then Kyle Stowers moved him up a base by hitting the ball on the right side for a groundout. Austin Hays' fly ball to right got him in. Beautiful - get him on, get him over, get him in.
This was an area where the Orioles were not always proficient. Last year they did okay, ranking seventh in the AL with 43 sac flies. They would have 75 this year producing them at their current pace.
The Orioles are also tied for the AL lead to this point with Oakland with six sac bunts. They ranked seventh in the league in 2022 with 12 all year. Mateo, Cedric Mullins and Terrin Vavra have two each. Those that believe “never bunt” will not like this stat but there are times advancing a runner seems pretty important.
Some of these small ball elements are a nice compliment to an offense that ranks near the top of the league in both speed (second with 30 steals) and power (tied for sixth with 34 homers) stats.
The Orioles average of 5.25 runs per game ranked fourth in the league as of Monday behind only Tampa Bay (6.72), Texas (6.36) and Boston (5.62). This is a lofty spot for the Baltimore offense, fourth in the league. To stay there they will need to continue to do a lot right, steal some bases and advance and score runners from third base with less than two outs.
The Orioles offense has outperformed the Baltimore starting pitching thus far, noted Captain Obvious, but the bullpen has probably even outperformed the offense and the ‘pen pitchers are off to a special start.
First the starters. When Kyle Bradish got knocked out in the fifth inning on Sunday at Detroit, it was the 17th time this year in 28 games where a Baltimore starter went five innings or less. The O’s have gone eight consecutive games without a quality start. Only four teams have fewer than the Orioles' six quality starts. So, we can see an easy area for this team to get better. It might be surprising to note the club is 10-7 when getting a start of five innings or fewer thus far.
But the O’s bullpen has been incredible. They lead the American Legue with a 2.86 ERA and rank first in the AL in bullpen wins with 10, which is three more than the closest club, Tampa Bay with seven wins from its bullpen. The Orioles are even doing fairly well, ranking fifth-best in the league, in allowing inherited runners to score at just 30.5 percent.
And yes, the O’s 110 bullpen innings ranks fourth-most in the AL, but so far Tampa Bay, Oakland and Boston have used their bullpens more via innings. And in fact, if the O’s 110 could be cut to just 105, they would be the ninth-most used pen in the league. So, it may not be as bad as it seems.
The 2023 season, through April, must be pretty great for Birdland. The O’s went 7-14 last April and ended this one at 19-9 with the third-best record in the majors. They hold an AL playoff spot if the season ended today.
But we have also played just 17 percent of this season. Long way to go and a lot of chapters still to write in the book of the 2023 season.