It seems like every year, in pretty much every sport, there is a team or two that gets off to a hot start, to the surprise of pretty much everyone. Sometimes, those teams have the chops to reach the postseason, but typically they fade as the season goes on.
Enduring 14 consecutive losing seasons, most figured that the O’s would be heading for yet another season of mediocrity in the toughest division in baseball, the American League East. That hasn’t been nearly the case, though, as the Orioles have gotten off to one of the hottest starts in baseball, posting the best record in the American League to this point.
Naturally, there are many out there that are skeptical to this hot start and are wondering if Baltimore will be able to maintain it, especially given the division that they play in. But as we near the end of May and head into the summer months, it might be time to start taking this Orioles squad seriously.
Two players, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have taken a step forward and look ready to establish themselves among the best in baseball. Jones looks to be entering his prime, with 14 home runs already on the year to go along with his .308 average. Wieters has also flashed the power, with eight home runs, even if his average is lacking. He’s also adding top notch defense behind the plate, and he may not be too far off from claiming the title of “best catcher in baseball”.
Other guys in the order have also found success early this season. J.J. Hardy earned himself a new contract with a solid year last season, and already has nine home runs and 20 runs knocked in on the year. After underwhelming with the Texas Rangers, Chris Davis has performed very well this season, with an average up near .300. And you can never forget about Nick Markakis who has been swinging a hot bat lately.
But the biggest reason for the success of this team in 2012 has been the pitching, mainly the pitching coming out of the bullpen. The starting rotation has been average, outside of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, but the relief corps has been absolute dynamite for the O’s.
Prior to going on the disabled list, Matt Lindstrom, who was acquired in the same deal that brought Hammel to Baltimore, was among the best relievers in baseball, with a 1.29 ERA. Pedro Strop has also been unbelievable and Jim Johnson is becoming one of the better closers in all of baseball, with 15 saves on the year.
I’m sure few expect the Orioles to actually continue at this torrid pace. But I wouldn’t expect them to fall off and sink back into the AL East cellar anytime soon. This is a team with legitimate stars in the field, in Jones and Wieters. The starting staff has room for improvement, but the bullpen is among the best in baseball. It might not be too long before we see top prospect Dylan Bundy joining their ranks, as well.
At this point, it looks like it’s about time to take this Orioles team seriously. While we shouldn’t be handing them the AL East crown just yet, they should continue to make noise in the American League and, at the very least, should be ready to end their miserable streak of losing seasons.