Buck Showalter often says he does not worry ab..."/> Buck Showalter often says he does not worry ab..."/>

Orioles Day Off: Glancing Around the League

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter often says he does not worry about what other teams around the league are doing, nor does he pay much attention to the standings, particularly early in the season. I believe him; I don’t think he is just saying that for the media. His point is that there is nothing he can do about it, and he has plenty else to focus upon that will impact where the Orioles ultimately place in the standings. The goal needs to be winning the most games possible by focusing on the task at hand today, and then getting ready for the next contest.

I find myself doing the same – just watching the Orioles without a great deal of interest on a daily basis about what is going on around the American League, and even less about that other circuit. But with an off day, I did take a closer look at the standings around baseball, along with a look at team statistics in each league. It is an interesting study.

May 30, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles teammates Jim Johnson (43) and Nate McLouth (9) celebrate after a game against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Nationals 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The AL East standings have the Red Sox with a 2.5-game lead over the Orioles and 3.0 over the Yankees and Rays. We all knew it was going to be a season-long dogfight in the division, so seeing teams packed together is not a surprise. But that the Blue Jays are 10.5 games behind and in the dark recesses of the basement is a surprise. Having seen them play recently, I still believe they are going to be heard from and will be a team of impact upon who eventually does prevail. And many people predicted the demise of the Yankees. So their early season success in spite of the many injured players was unexpected – though they have now gone 3-7 over the past 10 games, whereas the Orioles have been 7-3 (along with the Red Sox and Rays). Is this the reality of their situation setting in? And along that same line, can the Sox really continue at this pace?

It is not a shocker that the Texas Rangers have the best overall record in the American League at 35-21, though that is a mere .600 winning percentage.  Of note in that Western Division is that those pesky Oakland Athletics have won 9 of the past 10 games. As with the popularity of certain pop musicians, I cannot explain it, I can only report that it is true.

The top team in baseball in terms of won-loss percentage is St. Louis with a record of 37-19. Really? That is stellar. So how are they doing it? A glance at their roster does not reveal a plethora of well-known baseball names, but a glance at league stats gives a quick explanation. They are by far the leader in pitching with a team ERA of 2.99 (compare that with the Orioles’ 4.50), and they are 3rd in hitting with a .267 team average. It is not the long ball that carries them however, as they rank 13th in the NL in that category. It is simply a nicely balanced team – the sort of thing the Orioles are seeking to build as well.

Back to the AL and the Orioles: Clearly it is the offense that has carried the Orioles this season. If this can continue along with the pitching finding some anticipated improvement, it could yet end up as a terrific season for the Birds. The Orioles currently trail only the Tigers in terms of team batting (.279 to .275), while the Orioles lead not just the league, but all of MLB in homers (81) and slugging. It is also gratifying to see the Orioles trail only the Rockies in stolen bases and the Cardinals in team defense. (Warning: there is a big BUT coming!)  BUT, the pitching ranks 13th in the AL and 27th in all of MLB with that 4.50 ERA.  And the 78 home runs allowed in the second highest of all 30 teams.

BUT, here’s the good news in the long term – we know that these numbers are skewed by some blow-out situations and that they will not continue this way. (We do know that, right?)  And in the short term, the next three games are against the pitching staff that ranks 30th in almost every category.

So, time to re-focus on the task at hand. It would be sweet to sweep the Astros and get two of three from the Rays on this week’s six-game road trip. That would make the Orioles 37-26, on pace to win 95 games—that should work!