Thursday, June 02, 2005

Are the Orioles for real?

I had intended to write a post about how the Red Sox had seemed to struggle against the Orioles for years... then when I looked at our record against Baltimore, it turns out that that impression was just that - aside from the 9-10 record last year, you have to go back to 1998 to find a season when the Sox didn't win the season series...

However, as the season progresses, and the Birds continue to lead the AL East, I think is fair to ask the question "Are the Orioles for real?" with a degree more seriousness.

So far this season, the Orioles have an 18-8 record against the AL East - including series victories against the Yankees and Red Sox, a 9-9 record against the AL Central, and a 4-2 record against the AL West. They have an ok 17-14 record at Camden and an excellent 15-7 record on the road.

Looking at this team prior to the season, you could imagine that the Orioles would have an excellent hitting team, but would not have much faith that the pitching would carry them. Is this opinion holding up?

Well the O's lead the majors in batting average, are fifth in OBP, third in runs scored, second in HR's and lead the majors in extra base hits - I think it is fair to say that the lineup has lived up to / exceeded expectations. On the pitching side, the team's ERA is 11th in the majors, they have allowed the 10th fewest hits and have K'd the third most opponents - although they have given up the 8th most free passes (adding these together gives them the 14th best WHIP). If we say that the lineup has met expectations, the pitching has clearly exceeded (at least my) expectations. Are both of these sustainable?

On the hitting side, only Brian Roberts would seem destined for significant regression (and given my fantasy team's decline that process seems to have started), but his fantastic start has hidden the relative under-performance of Sosa - no one else is performing at such an outstanding level that you would think that unsustainable performance will impact the O's in the coming months. That is not to say that they won't regress, just that it isn't inevitable, although the loss of Javy Lopez may help that 'regression'.

On the pitching side it seems doubtful that Bedard (2.08 ERA) and Chen (3.46 ERA) will continue to produce at those levels - Bedard is posting a 7.71 K/9 (131) and 7.27 H/9 (97), while Chen is at 6.37 (211) and 8.59 (182) - the numbers in brackets are the league ranking - clearly neither pitcher is outstanding, but they don't have to be if the hitting continues at current levels. Sidney Ponson should improve (even if only slightly), but his K/9 (4.98) and H/9 (10.88) rates are well below what the O's would expect of a guy being paid $7.5M a year. Given the issues that many teams have at this point, the market for additional arms can expect to be over bid at the trading deadline - but the O's are capable of adding pitching, so any decline may be addressed in that way.

And, if you scroll down far enough here, then don't say I didn't warn you!

2 threw a strike:

At 2:18 pm, Blogger Rebecca said...

the O's are in good shape, and I buy your prediction, as I have thought that myself all spring. but the season is young, and changes will be made to many clubs in the next two months. Also, teams that have been hot might not continue to be. (but with any luck, the yanks will continue to suck wind.) It's a foggy time for red sox nation, but there's no one I'd rather have at the helm than theo.

At 2:43 am, Blogger Neil H said...

I hope you are right - the last couple of days have been real tough to watch - the lack of life is almost (ouch) Yankee-esque!


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