The Orioles’ five-game winning streak has them nine games over .500 (21-12) and on pace to win over 100 games this season.
I know 33 games is just a small slice out of a 162 game pizza, so let’s just call it “so far so good.” We knew the Orioles had thunder in their bats and it’s not surprising that they lead the American League in home runs.
What is surprising is that the Orioles rank second in the AL in batting average (.275) and on base percentage (.337). Buck’s Birds have come a long way in on base percentage; a year ago they ranked twelfth out of the 15 American League teams at .307. More guys on base for all those home run hitters equal more runs.
The Orioles have averaged over seven runs a game during their five-game win streak and only Boston and Texas have scored more runs in the American League this year.
Coming into the season, here’s what we thought we knew about the 2016 Orioles; they would hit home runs, check (they lead the league). They would play good defense, check (14 errors tied for league low) and their bullpen would likely be among the best in the league, check (lowest bullpen ERA in both leagues). The huge question mark was starting pitching like most teams the Orioles would only go as far as their starting pitching would take them.
The O’s pitching has more than held its own. Sure, Ubaldo Jimenez can drive you crazy with his manic-depressive starts; Yovanni Gallardo is on the DL and Kevin Gausman was late getting started but this bunch lead by Chris Tillman has been better than advertised. You won’t confuse them with the Baltimore days of Palmer, Cuellar and McNally but this ace-less staff is doing just fine.
The Orioles team ERA of 3.58 is the fourth best in the league. The Baltimore staff is short on quality starts but they’ve done a good job keeping the ball in the park. Despite playing home games in hitter-friendly Camden Yards the Oriole pitchers have given up only 22 home runs, that’s best in the major leagues. By comparison, Cincinnati has given up 63 homers and the Yankees 45, the MLB average is 37.
The Orioles starting pitchers don’t have to be great, somewhere between good and slightly better than average should do. Follow this recipe, keep the ball in the park, let the defense make plays, watch the O’s slugger’s slug and let the bullpen finish the job, those are the ingredients that could bring postseason baseball back to Baltimore this fall.