How is it possible for the Baltimore Orioles to be only one game out of the final AL Wild Card spot with 10 games left to go in the 2013 season? The team is hitting just .222 (10-for-45) with runners in scoring position on their current road trip. They haven’t scored more than five runs in 15 straight games. Their starting pitching has been at best middle of the pack. So, what is the real reason this team known for their big bats, led by Chris Davis and his 51 home runs, is still in the playoff chase?
While this may sound like something I would say about the Baltimore Ravens, it is in fact the Orioles’ defense that has served them well this year. The team recorded their 114th error-less game this season last night against the Boston Red Sox. Baltimore has now passed the 2008 Houston Astros‘ season record for the error-less games, the most since 1900. The Orioles are on pace for a .992 fielding percentage, which would be the best in baseball history.
Yes the 2013 Baltimore Orioles might just be the greatest defensive team of all time in Major League Baseball. But a closer look shows that except for maybe one spot on the field we should not really be shocked that the team is solid on defense.
All of baseball already knew about the great play of the Orioles three Gold Glove stars from 2012. Let’s start with shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones and then we will end with the best catcher in the American League, Matt Wieters who won his second straight Gold Glove Award in 2012.
So with those three as a solid start you can add to the mix the outstanding play of third baseman Manny Machado, who is a human highlight reel. The return to the lineup as the everyday second baseman of one Brian Roberts has been a big help to the team’s defense.
Nick Markakis is back in form, using his cannon of an arm to keep base runners from taking that extra base when the ball is hit to right field. In left field some people forget that Nate McLouth, who has played the most out there for the Birds, is now and always has been an above average fielder.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the defensive play of first baseman and resident home run hitter Chris Davis. He has become a very good defensive star, picking up the low throws or making the tough stop and knocking down the ball or beating runners to first base
If the Orioles make a return trip to the playoffs – and according to Baseball Prospectus there is a 13.8 percent chance of that happening – it will be because the team used their gloves to keep them in key games so those big bats could launch some game winning home runs.