While the Baltimore Orioles have started off the 2013 season with a 16-11 record, the Orioles still have areas of their game that need to be fixed. Baltimore finished the month of April at third in the division and already look to be playoff contenders again this year.
While Baltimore had one of the best team batting averages in the month of April, at .265, they struggled at the plate in other aspects of the game. What are some things that the Birds can improve on to carry over their early-season success into May?
Batting Average Against Left-Handed Pitchers
The Orioles have destroyed right-handed pitching so far in 2013, hitting .276 as a team. Baltimore has struggled to see production at the plate against opposing left-handed pitchers.
The Orioles have hit only .237—as a team—against left-handed pitching, ranking them 19th in the league in that category. Their team on-base percentage of .325 also significantly drops when facing a lefty pitcher. They have struggled to the tune of a .291 on-base percentage against lefties, good for the 25th-best on-base percentage in the league.
Part of Baltimore's struggles against left-handed pitchers could be due to the fact that they don't have a single hitter on their roster with 10 or more at-bats who is hitting above .300 against southpaws. Guys like Adam Jones and Manny Machado are hitting a combined .247 against lefties, something that shouldn't be happening with hitters of their caliber.
If Baltimore can find a way to improve their average against opposing left-handed pitchers while continuing their success against righties, they should see an increase in their May performance.
While the Orioles' starting rotation has posted a 14-11 record, so far on the season, their overall performance has been fairly underwhelming.
Baltimore's starters have an ERA of 4.70, the eighth-highest of any team in the league. In addition, they have also allowed opposing hitters to hit .262 off them, while giving up 113 earned runs on the season in their first 38 games.
If there are any bright spots in the Bird's rotation, it would come from the arms of Wei Yin-Chen and Chris Tillman. Despite just a 3-3 record on the season, Chen has posted a 3.04 ERA, the best of any starter on the team. Behind him is Tillman, who currently sits at 3-1 on the year with a 3.76 ERA.
Not to be overlooked is starter Jason Hammel, who posted a strong April for Baltimore, who went 4-1 on the month with a 3.79 ERA. He has struggled through his first starts in May, giving up a total of 10 runs in his first two starts of the month. His team-high five wins is still worthy of mentioning, however, given that he has more than one-third of the starters' wins this season.
Production at Second Base
The saga that is the injury history of Brian Roberts seems to be growing as time goes by.
After injuring his hamstring on a stolen-base attempt in the final game of the opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays, it was initially thought that he would miss around four weeks. Earlier this week, Baltimore announced that Roberts will miss at least another six weeks after opting to have surgery to repair the injured hamstring.
This news certainly doesn't bode well for a team that has struggled offensively at second base since Roberts' departure.
Since Roberts' injury, both Alexi Casilla and Ryan Flaherty have spent time manning second base. The result? The two fill-ins have played in 35 games and combined to hit .142 when playing second, driving in only five runs, all by Flaherty, and hitting one home run, which was also hit by Flaherty.
For a lineup that has been as productive as Baltimore's has been this season, it's amazing that they haven't been hampered too much by their issues at second base. Should Roberts actually return healthy, his addition could prove to be one of the biggest upgrades to Baltimore's offense.
*Unless noted otherwise, stats are courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.