1st-Quarter Grades for the Baltimore O's
The MLB regular season is closing in on the one quarter mark of completion.
Yes, it's already been that long since Opening Day.
For the team to be leading the way in their division, they obviously have to be playing well. But the amazing thing is, few Orioles are impressing individually so far this season.
The team is playing together and finding ways to win, which is a good sign. Because when the individuals get hot and start putting up numbers, the team as a whole will be that much better.
While analyzing the numbers that the guys on the Orioles' 25-man roster are putting up, I'm going to assign first-quarter grades for each individual player.
Matt Wieters, Catcher: A-
Switch-hitter Matt Wieters has been one of the Orioles' best hitters this season, leading in batting while hitting over .500 and driving in 18 runs, good for third on the team. Unfortunately, the O's were forced to place Wieters on the DL on Sunday due to elbow soreness.
Chris Davis, First Baseman: D-
The slugging first baseman has yet to slug this season and just returned from the DL on Sunday after nursing an oblique injury. With just two homers, a .239 batting average and 30 strikeouts in 88 at-bats, the O's would love for Davis to turn his season around as soon as possible. However, his .349 OBP helps to set the table for the batters behind him.
Jonathan Schoop, Second Baseman: C
Schoop is performing about as well as any team or fan could hope for from a rookie. His .232 batting average and .277 OBP need work, but he does have seven doubles, three homers and 14 RBI to his name. He's taking his lumps, both offensively and defensively, but he's also helped the O's win at least a couple games with his bat.
J.J. Hardy, Shortstop: D
Great defense from the shortstop position is always expected of Hardy, and he always delivers. But his bat has yet to show up in 2014. His average (.255) is right on par with his career number, but the Silver Slugger has yet to hit a homer this season and has just nine RBI. Like Davis, the O's need Hardy to get himself going.
Manny Machado, Third Baseman: B
Machado (pictured) receives a 'B' rating simply because he is now healthy. The youngster returned to the team at the beginning of May and has since had trouble at the plate, but that's to be expected from any player returning to play from a serious injury. So far, Machado's defensive ability seems to be just about all there, and he'll eventually get his bat going as well.
Nelson Cruz, Left Fielder: A+
Nelson Cruz has arguably been the O's most important bat this season. Leading the team with ten homers and 30 RBI, Cruz has provided an incredible lineup presence and at times has carried the team offensively this season. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but he isn't terrible. And besides, the O's signed him to destroy baseballs with his bat. So far, so good.
Adam Jones, Center Fielder: C-
The face of the O's franchise, Jones has struggled somewhat at the plate so far this season, and anyone who follows him on twitter knows he'll be the first to admit it. And yet while he's struggling in the batter's box, he's still managed five homers and 21 RBI, some solid numbers for a guy who seems to be lost at the plate at times. Don't worry O's fans, Jones will get himself going.
Nick Markakis, Right Fielder: A
Markakis (pictured) is doing exactly what the O's need him to do: be a seriously good leadoff hitter. Currently, the right fielder is batting .301 with a great .357 OBP. Markakis has been successfully setting the table for the big bats all season, and the O's can't ask much more from him.
Delmon Young, Left Fielder/DH: A-
Young has provided everything the O's have hoped he would and then some, posting a .305 batting average with a .339 OBP off the bench. Young gives manager Buck Showalter a strong pinch-hitting option to use in certain matchups late in the game, or a bat to slot into the lineup against a lefty.
Steve Pearce, First Baseman/DH: A
When Davis went on the DL, Pearce (pictured) filled in admirably, belting three homers and playing solid defense at first base. The O's would certainly love to find a way to keep him with the organization all season, an organization that is overflowing with quality depth.
Ryan Flaherty, Utility Infielder: C
Flaherty has struggled with the bat, but it's hard to knock a guy who is mainly on the roster to provide great defense at every position on the infield. "Flash" has done just that, as few in baseball can rival his defensive ability at each infield position.
Steve Clevenger, Catcher: A-
Providing a breath of fresh air to the O's backup catcher position, Clevenger appears to be well on his way to becoming a fan favorite. With Wieters on the DL, Clevenger figures to get most of the playing time behind the dish. Clevenger has roped six doubles and a triple this season.
David Lough, Outfielder: D
Lough has been great in the field, but has struggled at plate and is currently batting under .200 on the season. He's been relegated to a late-inning defensive replacement role, but he can certainly provide value in that role as well as being a pinch-runner.
Caleb Joseph, Catcher: B
Joseph has just three games and nine at-bats to his name, and while he has smacked just one base hit, he can't be faulted for his limited play since his recent call-up. Joseph will likely be on his way back to Triple-A Norfolk once Wieters returns, and until then will be the backup catcher behind Clevenger.
The Starting Rotation
Chris Tillman: D+
While Tillman is doing a good job of keeping the Orioles in every game he pitches, he hasn't been able to maintain the hot start he got off to. With an ERA of 3.97, the O's need Tillman to pitch to the same ability he displayed in 2013. The righty has pitched six innings in just one of his last five starts. To succeed, he'll need to better manage his pitch count. The biggest issue I have with Tillman right now is that he needs to provide more innings for the team. With that said, I'm confident he'll come around and get better as the season goes on.
Bud Norris: A
Outside of Norris' (pictured) first start of the season, when he gave up five runs in five innings against the Detroit Tigers, the right-hander has arguably been the O's most consistent and reliable starter of 2014. Norris started the season as the team's fifth starter, and currently has an ERA of 3.98 in seven starts.
Ubaldo Jimenez: C-
In April, Jimenez was the biggest disappointment on the team, but that comes as no surprise as he's historically struggled during the season's opening month. Since the start of May, Jimenez has made three starts and has pitched much better in each of them, lowering his ERA to 4.02. If he keeps improving at this rate, he'll quickly become the O's best starter.
Wei-Yin Chen: C+
Chen has put up a solid ERA of 3.95 this season, but like the rest of the rotation, he's struggled to give the team innings. Opponents are hitting .301 off of the lefty, which of course isn't a good sign, especially when you consider Chen isn't a strikeout pitcher (32 in 41 innings). Still though, Chen is doing his job at the back of the rotation.
Miguel Gonzalez: D
Turning in his best start of the season his last time out, Gonzalez pitched seven innings against the Houston Astros, giving up just two runs on six hits. That start got Gonzalez's ERA down below 5.00, as it's currently sitting at 4.78. The further Gonzalez's ERA drops, the higher his grade rises. The bullpen would surely appreciate some more innings from him, though.
Brian Matusz: B-
So far so good for Matusz, who has posted an ERA of 3.75 over 12 innings this season. He's still having trouble with righties, as they're batting .333 off of the left-handed pitcher. But long as he strands runners and gets left-handed batters out, he'll be fine.
Darren O'Day: A+
O'Day has been the typical pitcher O's fans have had the pleasure of watching since the start of the 2012 season. The submariner is 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings pitched, and even has a pair of saves to his name.
Troy Patton: B
The lefty Patton has only had a chance to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings since his return from a 25-game suspension and has allowed one earned run for an ERA of 2.45. It'll be interesting to see how he does for the next few months.
Tommy Hunter: F
With three blown saves in 14 chances, Hunter isn't performing how the O's would have liked. Those are the best of his numbers, though. His atrocious 6.60 ERA and embarrassing .365 BAA numbers are obvious signs that Hunter needs some time in a middle relief role to correct himself. Hunter doesn't appear to be the answer at closer for the O's, but he could regain his solid set-up form of 2013.
Zach Britton: A+
Along with O'Day, the lefty Britton has been the O's best reliever this season. in 21.1 innings, Britton has an ERA of just 0.84 and a BAA of .162. His success could earn him a few starts this season, or it could solidify his role as a trusted bullpen arm. Regardless, the O's are just happy to have another successful pitcher.
Ryan Webb: C
Webb got off to a bit of a rocky start this season but has since settled down and is slowly bringing his ERA down as well. At 4.20, the O's would like to see his ERA down at least a run to a run and a half, but I think Webb will get there. Batters are hitting .241 off of him, and he has 14 K's in 15 innings pitched. At $2 million a year, there isn't any reason to complain about Webb thus far.
T.J. McFarland: C
I realize McFarland was recently sent back down to Triple-A, but considering he pitched seven innings for the Birds this season and will likely be back up at some point, grading him is more sensible than any other pitcher the O's have called up and sent down. McFarland was summoned from Triple-A to provide a long relief option out of the bullpen, and he did his job just fine, giving up three earned runs in three appearances and managing six strikeouts. He did allow too many hits though, giving up a dozen in his seven innings pitched.