Sometime during Sunday's ESPN
worship of the Boston Red Sox broadcast of the Baltimore vs Boston game, one of the droids announcing the game broke from its programming to find something good to say about the Orioles. "This is a team that set a Major League record last year with the fewest errors," Announcer BSR-179 stated.
But is it?
Is this year's team the same team that, however metric you choose to use, was one of the best defensive teams in history?
For a few, important reasons, the answer is No. At least, it is so far in this season.
First base is solid. In my opinion, Chris Davis is the most athletic big dude in the league. Second base has seen a minor upgrade with Steve Lombardozzi, if nothing more than getting a league-average glove that will consistently play the position. I will call right field "decent".
The right side of the diamond for Baltimore passes a lot of anecdotal tests. You have guys who play hard and are there as often as they can be, but Baseball Reference's "Defensive Runs Saved Above Average" (Rdrs) has all three of these players in the negatives so far for 2014. Other than Markakis, all of these guys have posted a career negative Rdrs, and Markakis hasn't posted positive numbers in the past 5 years.
Adam Jones and Matt Wieters up the middle. Again, like most of the right side: solid. Rdrs did not like Wieters last year, and if anything, it was pretty bored by Jones. But you have consistency, you have strong arms, and you have #StayHungry. Whatever -- it works.
The left side of the field hurts. Without getting into the replacements, I want to look at what was.
Nate McLouth had a 0 Rdrs rating last year in left field, but he was there 136 times. JJ Hardy played in 159 games with an 8 Rdrs. Machado: 156 games for 35 Rdrs.
Nate's gone, but Lough is just as good (if not better, as Rdrs has him at 4 for this year so far). But the story has already been told in the numbers mentioned so far.
Last year, going by Rdrs and not including pitchers, the main defensive boost that the Orioles found came from JJ Hardy and Manny Machado. This is not some big news. Anyone watching would have said that their best defenders are at SS and 3B.
What is important to mention is that, in 2014, Machado hasn't played and JJ has missed 6.5 games. Take these guys off the field, and you notice.
I like Schoop's bat a lot. I like Flaherty and his glove, maybe more than I should. But I want JJ to be healthy.
And, after watching Schoop (for no reason) fail to cut off a phenomenal throw by Lough to try and get behind a runner, I miss Manny. More than ever. I bet when Manny comes back and JJ gets healthy, the 2014 O's look like a historically good defensive team once more.