Don’t Forget Defense
I was watching Baseball Tonight and noticed J.J. Hardy’s play up the middle on opening day against the Rays made web gems. It got me thinking about how important defense is in baseball and how it never gets the same respect as pitching and offense. It is just the way it is and it will never change, especially when you are giving your defensive award (Gold Glove) to guys who are terrible defensive players. Example: Derek Jeter.
Maybe it is because there aren’t really any statistics that are used across the board by scouts and fans to determine who the best defensive players are, but either way, defense can save runs and also win games. I am saying this because I think the Orioles have a very strong defensive team on paper. However, the games need to be played and the players need to execute defensively on the field which is where the manager and coaches play a big part. A manager and his coaches can really help players out with positioning and keeping players on their toes and accountable for how they play in the field.
When looking at the Orioles they seem to have a solid defensive team. For all the criticism of how Matt Wieters has performed offensively, I think he is coming along as one of the better defensive catchers in the game. Catcher is arguably the most important defensive position on the field considering the catcher is involved in every play and has to scout hitters and handle the pitching staff. The Orioles also have above average fielders at first base, second base, center field, and right field. In center and right field you can argue both Jones and Markakis are gold glove caliber fielders. Both cover good ground and use strong arms to gun down runners. The Orioles may have gone down a notch at short stop from Izturis to Hardy, but that is only because Izturis is so good. Hardy showed on Friday night that he is a solid defensive short stop with a strong arm.
Luke Scott has moved to left field this season from DH and he is probably the teams worst starting defensive player. With that said, he isn’t terrible. Showalter can also use Felix Pie, a natural center fielder, as a late inning defensive replacement which would give the team an exceptional defensive outfield. The other questionable position is at third base with the newly acquired Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has been described as anywhere from lousy to above average defensively. I haven’t seen him play third much, but I don’t see him hurting the team with his defense. The Orioles are strong on defense where it counts…up the middle.
Defense defenitely gets overlooked in baseball, but those who really appreciate the game can appreciate good defense. Hopefully Friday’s defensive performance will set the standard for the way the 2011 Orioles play defense. If it is, the Orioles could be winning a few extra games this season.