Orioles: The Defense that Turned To Gold
It was great to see the Orioles trio of Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, and Adam Jones collect Gold Glove awards. These honors cap off a season where the Birds saw their porous and paper-thin defense of the first half of the season turn into … well … gold! There is no doubt that this metamorphosis was one of the key elements in the great final run of the Orioles over the final two months of the season. A glaring weakness became a definitive strength.
Of the three Gold Glove winners …
Matt Wieters – I believe it is a fair statement to make that his 2012 season was not as strong defensively as was 2011, but that is not to say that it was not still worthy of this honor. Wieters played in more games defensively than any other catcher in the league – 134 as compared to 128 for Russell Martin. Wieters not only handles the pitching staff beautifully and deserves a huge amount of credit for their successes, he completely controls the bases. The Orioles were BY FAR the team with the least steals against (only 63), and they had the least SB success against percentage – 63.6.
October 1, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) catches a fly ball against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
J.J. Hardy – Totally deserving! He makes all the plays, and this honor somewhat atones for the injustice of him not receiving it in 2011. It is a daily joy as an Orioles fan to watch Hardy get the job done over and over. Truly it is “over and over.” Here is an amazing statistic – Hardy amassed 89 more assists than any other player in the league!
Adam Jones – This one was a mild surprise, as legitimate arguments could be made for others, especially Mike Trout. As well, along with Rajai Davis of Toronto, Jones led the league with eight outfield errors. However, he also played 162 games and had 91 more putouts than any other outfielder – Curtis Granderson was second in that category.
Overall Defensive Statistics of Note – The Orioles committed the fifth most errors in the American League with 106. The Rays had the most with 114. And in terms of fielding percentage, the Birds were eighth at .983. However, again, over the final months of the season they were surely the best team defensively.
The critical moves that changed the team defensively were three in particular – calling up Manny Machado to solidify third base beyond the highest of hopes, moving Mark Reynolds to first base where he seems fully at home, and securing the service of Nate McLouth in left field.
Let me share a couple of other statistics that I thought were very interesting…
First, relating to double plays of which the Orioles turned 150 … we think that this is such a critical element to the defensive play of a team. Consider this: the three teams that ranked 1-2-3 in total numbers of DPs turned were Minnesota, Kansas City, and Toronto. And the team with the least was Detroit! Of course, it could be logically asserted that the teams who allow the most base runners have higher numbers of situations for double plays to occur. Timing is everything.
Secondly, here is an incredible statistic … the Orioles were first in the league in defensive chances and put outs. The reason for this is the extreme number of defensive innings played! The Orioles players played 117 more defensive innings in the field than anyone else!! This represents a total of 13 more innings played than even the team closest behind them (Oakland), and is 35 more innings of baseball played than the average team. Is it any wonder that the Orioles were showing some signs of lethargy and wear and tear into the playoffs?!
On a completely unrelated note … on ESPN tonight I saw where the winner of the Word Series of Poker was a 24-year-old Maryland man named Greg Merson. I would not have even paid attention to this story had it not caught my eye that he was wearing an Orioles jersey. And when he turned around to hug someone after winning 8 million dollars, I saw the #10 and Adam Jones’ name on it! Jones is a winner everywhere!