The Orioles are a very good baseball team. If you haven't figured that one out yet, you're probably not into this whole baseball thing or just a Yankees fan. If you live on this planet and follow the numbers that the O's have put up over the course of the early season, you'll know that it's very hard to deny that Buck Showalter's team looks like a legitimate playoff contender.
Of course, the contrarian's argument would be based on the trends. They'll note that a fall-off is inevitable for some of the top performers, causing a mid-season slump and an overall season that falls short of getting back to the postseason.
That argument is somewhat valid. But it surely doesn't take into account the fact that many players on the Orioles 25-man squad haven't even been good yet this season. The fact is simple: the O's are going to contend for the playoffs ... they might not look quite the same in August and September, but they'll be there.
There's no denying that the efforts from the mound this season have been remarkable. For an organization that was lambasted in the offseason for constructing "the worst rotation in baseball", the Orioles have proven with certainty that simply looking at names on a spring training depth chart is a brutal way to make a projection.
Okay maybe they looked bad in spring training, too. But they're dominating now, and that's all that really matters.
At this point of the season, we're getting past the ever-so-straining "small sample size" conversation. Guys are settling down, making their starts and are playing out to what we should expect over the course of the season (or at-least somewhat close to their current numbers).
With that said, we can take Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Tyler Wilson and put them into the "encouraging" category. They've all thrown at-least 30 innings and have ERAs of 2.58, 3.00 and 2.93 respectively. Could they fall off a bit and sink back into their career averages? Of course. But that's not the entire point. If for some reason they slip up a bit, there's an entire opportunity from a whole set of guys to get remarkably better - guys that haven't shown up early.
Take Ubaldo Jimenez for example...
Furthermore, there's a very good chance that either Yovani Gallardo or Mike Wright shows up and provides a handful of winning performances during the rest of the way, picking up slack that might be created if and only if someone in the Gausman/Tillman/Wright trio falls off miserably.
For the starters, it's a simple situation. Yes, they've been surprisingly good through the early going. But when you boil it all down, there's absolutely no reason to believe that there will be a drastic drop-off from the totality of their efforts. It appears they'll be hovering around league average or just a tick above it. With this offense, that should be plenty to compete for the AL East crown.
On a large scale, this can probably be broken down into the wildly impressive early performances and the underwhelming, "bound to pick it back up" guys. So, we'll start with the former and stop the doubters in their tracks first.
For those saying that the Orioles can't sustain their early offensive success, I'd be very intrigued to learn what numbers they are measuring their argument upon. Sure, everyone in the lineup has been fairly good, but who has been on a torrid pace that can't be sustained?
Manny Machado? Sure, he's hitting at .333 with a 1.040 OPS, but it's truly far-fetched to believe he'll enter a massive mid-season slump to cut a large chunk into his numbers. It's May 18th. He may regress a bit, but the reasonable assumption would be that Machado ends the year over .300.
Mark Trumbo? He's in his sixth full year of Major League Baseball and he hit 66 home runs between 2012 and 2013. Perhaps his current .307 average will slip, but it's completely possible that he'll end up over .290 on the year pushing 40 HRs and 100 RBI. He has the talent...maybe this is simply the year that Trumbomb is getting it all figured out.
Aside from those guys, the O's lineup is littered with bats that should either stay consistent or get increasingly better. Adam Jones (.267 average), Pedro Alvarez (.205 average, 2 HR) and Matt Wieters (.229, 2 HR) are just a few bats that should get heated up with the weather, helping counter any snags that the big early bats may hit.
Any questions thus far, Oriole doubters?
The bullpen and the conclusion
It's difficult to analyze this bullpen due to the many moving parts. However, it's safe to say that there isn't much room for a total collapse for the group as a whole.
Brach, O'Day and Britton look poised to at-least pitch out to their averages, Mychal Givens has the potential to turn his raw talent into a nice weapon, and Dylan Bundy appears ready to establish himself as a full-time big-league pitcher.
Mash everything together and you get a simple result.
The 23-14, AL East leading Orioles are here to stay. To begin the season, we said that a mere average rotation would be enough to help the O's compete in September. Now a reality, there's actually a chance for the 9-games-over-.500 number to improve by a great deal.
If the offense does what they should, it sure looks like the pitching has plenty in the tank to do what they need to do - be average.
So sure, the Orioles have started at a pretty decent pace. But that doesn't mean that they can't get even better as the summer rolls around.