Baltimore Orioles: April Report Card
Depending on how Monday's games play out, the Baltimore Orioles could find themselves in first place atop the AL East.
The Orioles are currently 14-8 and it is the first time they have been six games above .500 since the 2005 season.
Buck Showalter has the O's playing good baseball and the pitching has held up to this point in the season, but the Orioles have won five games this month when trailing after seven innings. They only won five such games all of last season.
The O's are playing exciting baseball and showing that they are capable of overcoming late deficits, but they can't rely on this formula all season.
Here is how the Orioles grade out this April.
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The Orioles offense has been good enough to win and there is room for improvement, but there is also a chance the O's go through offensive dry spells with their offensive style.
Thus far in April the O's have hit 30 home runs which is good for third in the league. The Orioles are reliant on home runs for offense, which for the time being is fine. The Orioles are third in the league and Mark Reynolds is yet to circle the bases, so once he comes around the Orioles will have a solid run producer in the bottom of the order.
Baltimore's power output boosts their grade here, but their OBP pulls them down to Earth.
At this point in the season Baltimore is only getting on-base at a .309 clip. That mark has them ninth in the league and pulls their OPS down to .742, which is sixth in the league. Now that means the Orioles offense is the sixth-most productive in the AL, but if the Orioles could improve their on-base numbers they could have one of the top offenses in baseball.
April Grade: B
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The Orioles defense was terrible in April. As of right now, they find themselves last in Fielding Percentage.
Baltimore is a team of extremes this season when it comes to defense at each position. They either have a Gold Glove candidate or an absolute butcher.
Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Robert Andino, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters are excellent fielders. Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis, however, are in the lineup for their bats.
Showalter and the Orioles front office knew what they had defensively and were okay with it, and it seems to have worked out until now.
The Orioles have let some games slip away because of defense, but their power potential has helped them win more, so sacrificing defense for extra offense has kept the Orioles winning games, at least for the time being.
April Grade: C
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In baseball, it starts and ends with starting pitching, and to this point the Orioles have gotten solid performances from their starters.
Jason Hammel has made Dan Duquette look like a genius by being one of the best pitchers in baseball to this point in the season, while Jeremy Guthrie has struggled thus far.
Jake Arrieta started strong and has since had consecutive mediocre starts. Arrieta's stuff has been sharper this year and he could have a fantastic season.
Tommy Hunter has by no means been dominate, but he eats innings and gives the O's a chance to win most outings.
Wei-Yin Chen has been a pleasant surprise. He is yet to give up more than two runs in a start this season while consistently pitching deep into games.
Brian Matusz is the wild card of this April's report card. He started out terrible, then was mediocre and most recently okay. Logic says his next start should be really good, but for now he remains a question mark in the Orioles rotation, with Zach Britton eyeing a return.
April Grade: B+
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The Baltimore Orioles' bullpen has been fantastic this month. Much of the O's late-inning rallies can be credited to the bullpen.
In years past, the Orioles might have let a two run deficit grow to three or four and suddenly find the game out of reach. So far this season, that has not been the case, as the Orioles' bullpen leads the Majors with an 1.88 ERA.
The emergence of Pedro Strop, who was dominant last September, has given the Orioles a formidable set-up/closer combination with Jim Johnson.
A healthy Darren O'Day plus the arrivals of Luis Ayala and Matt Lindstrom has given the Orioles a multitude of plus arms to turn to in the 'pen.
Kevin Gregg has continued to be mediocre, but only plays in games that are out of hand, while Troy Patton has proven he belongs in the Majors.
April Grade: A
Final April Report Card
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Starting Pitching: B+
Final April Grade: B GPA: 3.08
It seems odd that a team six games above .500 would only receive a B, but remember this team needed several unlikely late comebacks to get where they are. They have time to improve their defense and offense so they could improve their grade even if they don't win more games per month. If the Orioles can sustain their pitching grades, this could be an exciting summer in Baltimore.