With 17 games in the books, the 2016 season is now more than 10% over, and the Orioles, at this point in time, are the only one of their division competitors who have an above .500 record. Of course it's still early and a lot can change over the span of one week, but for now, things are looking good, even with the O's having a couple of disappointing losses in the last week.
So far, the Orioles look like a team that's going to compete. Mostly their offense is good enough to overcome shaky starting pitching so far, and there might even be room for improvement in that rotation with Kevin Gausman coming back. I'll take it.
Last Week: 3-3 (2-1 vs. Blue Jays, 1-2 at Royals)
Games Ahead: +2.5
Upcoming: 3 games at Rays, 4 games vs. White Sox
The White Sox are in fact one of the surprise teams of the 2016 season, with their 13-6 record representing the best in the American League at this point in time. The O's will find out who they are over a four game series against this strong early division leader - though they may not be a division leader by the time the O's get around to playing them.
As it turns out, the O's will be playing the White Sox on the anniversary of the no fan game, in which they also played the White Sox.
In the week that was, the big development was the injury to Yovani Gallardo, who expressed shoulder discomfort that he said he had not felt in any previous start. His signing was essentially to ensure that the Orioles didn't have to press both Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson into the starting rotation. Those guys are now both in the rotation.
Pedro Alvarez is batting .108. Adam Jones is batting .205. And their rotation is the second-worst in the AL by ERA.
Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 3-4 (0-1 vs. Blue Jays, 1-2 vs. Rays, 2-1 vs. Astros)
Games Behind: 2.5 (lost half a game)
Upcoming: 4 games at Braves, 3 games vs. Yankees
The only team in the AL with a worse starting rotation than the Orioles is the Red Sox. As bad as we all know the O's have been, the Boston crew has been worse. They get a bit of a cakewalk this week, however, in facing the moribund Braves, who have hit all of three home runs as a team for the whole season. The O's have two players who have doubled the Braves combined home run output.
Not that it's all bad for the Red Sox, who've shaken the gritty white guys tree and had Travis Shaw and Brock Holt fall out and start hitting like legitimate big leaguers. Shaw is sporting an .892 OPS while Holt is hitting to the tune of an .838 OPS. And the soon-to-be-retiring David Ortiz is somehow batting .295/.411/.574 in his farewell tour. Sounds legit.
Speaking of Ortiz, the Astros gave him a cowboy hat as part of his farewell tour:
I hope the Orioles eventually give him nothing, or, if they absolutely must, some kind of gift along the lines of a replica of the shattered bullpen phone.
Red Sox Fan Panic: On Over The Monster, Ben Buchanan writes about a big problem with the Red Sox, namely that they have a number of relievers they can't trust, and this is causing stress on the back end of the bullpen. Hey, doesn't this sound familiar?
Red Sox Injury Stuff: The Orioles aren't the only ones having a starting pitcher go down with a shoulder problem. Joe Kelly is now on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement. Oh, and it will be weeks before they even know whether Pablo Sandoval will need surgery on his own injured shoulder.
Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 4-3 (1-0 at Red Sox, 1-2 at Orioles, 2-1 vs. Athletics)
Games Behind: 2.5 (gained half a game)
Upcoming: 3 games vs. White Sox, 3 games at Rays
There was one big positive development for the Blue Jays this week: Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had a good week. He hadn't been hitting much at all, but his last six games have seen him post a .300/.440/.650 batting line. Even with that good week his season OPS is still .664. If he's heating up, that's one fewer problem in their lineup, which still has some straggling performers, including catcher Russell Martin (.410 OPS).
Speaking of underperforming hitters, the Jays had someone get popped for taking PEDs. No, it wasn't Jose Bautista. The guilty was Chris Colabello, a great story last year as he hit .321/.367/.520 in 101 games. He maintains he never knowingly took any banned substances, but then, that's what they all say. Maybe sometimes they're right.
Some person or group of people thought it would be a good idea to make a giant version of a Josh Donaldson giveaway bobblehead:
That's the stuff of nightmares.
The Blue Jays Strike Out A Lot: On Bluebird Banter, Matt W. made the observation that a quarter of the league-wide increase in strikeouts over last year belonged to the Blue Jays. That number has calmed somewhat in the days since the article was written, but the Jays do still strike out 24.9% of the time.
Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 3-3 (2-1 at Red Sox, 1-2 at Yankees)
Games Behind: 3.5 (same)
Upcoming: 3 games vs. Orioles, 3 games vs. Blue Jays
The Rays brought one of their top pitching prospects, Blake Snell, up for a spot start on Saturday. It went fine enough for Snell, who gave up a run on two hits and a walk in five innings of work. Snell struck out six Yankees. His team went on to lose the game, 3-2, because Masahiro Tanaka was even better than Snell and the Yankees bullpen was better than the Rays bullpen.
If you want some more material on how things are going with the Rays, check out my series preview from earlier today. It's a real struggle for them on offense so far.
Rays Fan Cautious Optimism: On DRaysBay, Ian Malinowski broke down Snell's debut start and finds reason to be optimistic but also reason to worry, depending on how Snell's command progresses (or not).
The Rays Catchers Kind Of Suck So Far: Here's DRB's Adam Sanford noticing a trend that Rays catchers really suck so far. This is not an exaggeration. Rays catchers have combined to bat .161/.190/.232 in the 2016 season.
New York Yankees
Last Week: 2-4 (0-3 vs. Athletics, 2-1 vs. Rays)
Games Behind: 4 (lost a game)
Upcoming: 3 games at Rangers, 3 games at Red Sox
The last place New York Yankees ahahahahaha that's awesome, hold on, let me start over. The last place New York Yankees - yup, still hilarious - have gone 2-4 over each of the last two weeks, and one reason for that has been that they have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position. At one point last week they were 2 for their last 50 with RISP.
Dellin Betances has struck out 22 batters in nine innings. Andrew Miller has struck out 15 batters in eight innings. Both of these gentlemen have FIP numbers in the negatives. You can't give up negative runs! That's not how any of this works.
This is why everyone hates the Yankees and/or Yankees fans:
Lmao hold up..... pic.twitter.com/07BFEokRQy— Joe Berg (@JoeBleedsBlue) April 24, 2016
Actually, someone claims in replies to this tweet that he had the shirt made custom in order to troll Walgreens bandwagoners in the seven innings before they leave the game. I may need to buy this person a beer.
Giant Yankees Prospect Strikes Out A Lot: On Pinstripe Alley, Nikhil Chaturvedi wonders whether there should be concern about top outfield prospect Aaron Judge's strikeout rate. If a hyped Yankees prospect is secretly heading for bust status, I would not object.
So there's your AL East for this week. The Orioles are still on top! If they manage to hold or even extend their division lead over the next week, when they'll be facing the Rays rotation and then whatever the White Sox are, things will be looking pretty good after a month of baseball.