4 Biggest Takeaways from the First Month of the Baltimore O's Season
One month can teach a fan a lot about a baseball team.
We're over a week into May, and April is far off in the rear-view mirror. The Baltimore Orioles have fought hard to remain at or near the top of their division for most of the young season.
The team is finding success in ways many fans wouldn't have anticipated going into the season, highlighted by a lack of power yet an ability to outscore opponents on a nightly basis.
That isn't the only thing O's fans have learned about their team so far this season, though. There are some major points the O's have shown us during the early part of the 2014 regular season.
Let's take at what we've learned so far.
The Rotation Needs Help
I believe it's a good idea to tackle the elephant in the room first.
This isn't exactly something Orioles fans needed to be taught this season, as the team's starting rotation is a question mark going into every season.
So far, unsurprisingly, the O's rotation is struggling. The rotation has just 10 quality starts in 31 games, three of which belong to staff ace Chris Tillman and just one coming from Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal last offseason.
What's worse than the lack of quality outings, though, is the last of innings the starting rotation is providing, causing the bullpen to be taxed early and often. Starters have reached the seventh inning or later just five times, two of those outings having been pitched by Tillman.
Even worse, starters have made it through at least the sixth inning just 12 times this year. Not even half of the time.
Something is going to have to change soon if this keeps up. If the team wants to contend, then they're going to have to make sure their bullpen is well rested throughout the year.
Tons of Homers Aren't Necessary
The O's currently sit 20th in the majors in homers with just 26 big flies on the year.
Didn't see that coming, did you?
The team is also in the lower-middle of the pack (tied for 19th) in runs scored, yet is still sitting above .500 on the season.
The O's are finding ways to score enough runs to win without the benefit of as many long balls as last season much to the credit of guys like right fielder Nick Markakis (pictured), left fielder/DH Nelson Cruz and catcher Matt Wieters.
Markakis has done a good job of setting the table at the top of the order, and Cruz and Wieters have done nearly all the heavy lifting while the rest of the lineup tries to find itself. Center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and first baseman Chris Davis (prior to the DL) are having trouble getting their power stroke going so far, but luckily Markakis, Cruz and Wieters have been able to shoulder the load.
The team seems to be scoring mainly on home runs, but is also finding other ways to tally more runs than the opposition night in and night out.
Once the rest of the lineup finds themselves, watch out.
The Team May Never Be Fully Healthy
The Orioles haven't been the luckiest team in the league this year when it comes to keeping all of their players on the field, and the reality is that the team may not be lucky enough to all season.
The O's started the season without young third baseman Manny Machado, who returned to the lineup just last week. And just before Machado's return, Davis (pictured) strained his oblique and required a trip to the DL.
Now, Wieters looks to be dealing with some soreness in his elbow, and while yesterday's news that the injury doesn't appear to require surgery is good, it's unclear how long Wieters will need before he can play the catcher position once again. He'll become the team's primary DH until he's deemed healthy enough to resume his normal position, which could be just a few days or possibly a few weeks.
One thing is for sure, the team can't afford to lose his hot bat for an extended period of time.
One injury to a key player after another. And while that doesn't necessarily mean the team will be a man or two down all season long, it certainly isn't comforting in that regard either.
Teams have injuries, and it's just another possibility that the O's may have to deal with.
Tommy Hunter Is the Ultimate Troll
Apparently, Orioles' closer Tommy Hunter loves to play with the emotions of the team's fans.
Hunter has had success so far as the O's closer, converting 10 of 11 save opportunities and sporting a 1-0 record to accompany a 2.84 ERA.
On the other side, he's allowed 16 hits, three walks (two intentional) and one hit batter in 12.2 innings pitched, making for a heart attack waiting to happen every time he enters a game that the Orioles have a slim lead in. Opponents are batting .320 off of the right-hander.
Hunter does have 12 strikeouts on the year, which is obviously a good sign. He may just be one of those closers who has to pitch around hits and constantly bends but rarely breaks.
Hunter is getting the job done, and he's doing pretty well. He'll definitely have to cut down on baserunners, though, if he wants to keep experiencing success. Otherwise those baserunners will come back to haunt him eventually.