photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
With the first full month of baseball behind them, the Orioles are 12-12 and sit two games behind the Yankees in the American League East. Looking at the roster before the season, Orioles fans were hoping for more than .500 baseball, but given the injuries to key players and a lack of production from several others, the Orioles are fortunate to be where they are and could be in position to have a more successful May.
The loss of Manny Machado at the start of the season has been well documented around Baltimore. Obviously having him back on the field instantly makes the Orioles a better team. However, not only did the Orioles miss a player who hit 68 extra-base hits and was the best defensive player in baseball, but his absence forced other players to play out of position. Jonathan Schoop struggled defensively at times on the hot corner, and fortunately with Machado’s return Schoop can return to his natural position of second base. Being more comfortable in the field could translate to a more relaxed approach at the plate.
The biggest boast to the team could come from several of the marque guys who underachieved offensively through the first month. J.J. Hardy battled injuries through the first month and missed 12 games. However, in the 17 games he did appear in, he batted only .242 with 5 RBIs and zero home runs. Coming off a season where he hit 25 homeruns, the Orioles expected more production from the silver-slugger winning short-stop. If Hardy can stay healthy his numbers should trend more toward his career averages.
The most surprising slow start has come from Adam Jones. The Orioles’ center-fielder has had back-to-back 30 homerun seasons, but coming into Thursday’s double-header he had left the yard only once. It’s hard to remember a month where Jones had only one homerun, and it’s even more difficult imagining it would continue. Power hitters tend to be streaky and most likely this is just a cold streak to start the year. If his numbers going forward are near his career averages, the Orioles will have a huge boast in the middle of their order.
The pitching woes for the Orioles have been often discussed. However, the offense has yet to become the power-house Orioles fans expected. Despite those issues, the Orioles are only two games behind the Yankees after the first month. With the return of Machado, the lineup gets a lot better, and Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy should hit better than their first month’s stats. On paper the lineup looks strong. The Orioles will miss Chris Davis’ bat in the lineup while he is on the D.L., but If the other players can play up to their abilities the Orioles should see themselves moving up in the standings.