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Mark Viviano

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Forty games into a 162-game season and the O’s have completed the first quarter- although with four rain-outs and three still to be made up, there’s some feeling of incompleteness.   The record reads 19-21 and that’s the near-.500 mark most of us anticipated from what clearly is an improved team from last season.  My feeling is that they’re far from playing their best baseball, though we got a glimpse of what it looks like during the first couple weeks.  The run production has been hit-and-miss (more miss than expected).  Fair to say that Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Derek Lee and Mark Reynolds have been below par for the first quarter.  I expect both Roberts and Markakis to reach their norms with steady improvement. 

The starting pitching has been acceptable based on reasonable expectations with rookie Zach Britton being the most pleasant surprise performer (remember, he wasn’t supposed to be on the roster on Opening Day but had to jump in for Brian Matusz).  Jake Arrieta continues to look like a maturing, solid Major League starter.  Jeremy Guthrie continues to be haunted by a lack of run support while Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman are both capable but inconsistent.  The return of a healthy Brian Matusz could be a significant lift.  But, the relief pitching has been disappointing and a serious concern moving forward.  The struggles of Michael Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg are alarming. 

Maybe the most pleasant aspect of the 2011 Orioles through a quarter of the season is the defense, led by Matt Wieters.  He’s living up to his phenom status behind the plate.  J.J. Hardy has been outstanding at shortstop (and Robert Andino was solid as his replacement for a month) and Lee a life saver at first base. 

The 19-21 record seems workable since the usually-powerful American League East doesn’t have the feel of its usual elite standing so far.   Tampa Bay continues to amaze with the Rays’ ability to win (so far) with home-grown starting pitching and plug-in parts in the field and batting order.  The Yankees are showing age (don’t we say that every year?) and Boston is yet to blossom (but the Red Sox are showing signs of living up to what could be the best team in the A.L. after a slow start).  Toronto is a bit of a mystery (the O’s haven’t played them yet) and they could be a sleeper.  Watch out for the Jays.

122 games to go.  I expect the O’s offense to pick up and the starting pitching to keep up (that’s critical).  The bullpen could be the downfall if it doesn’t get straightened out.  For the first quarter, I’d say the O’s are about as expected- on target for the predicted total of 76-80 victories.

Posted By: Mark Viviano

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