Going into the 2016 season the Orioles had a blueprint for an ideal season. It looks very similar to the 2014 Orioles season. The 2014 team had an above average offense, defense, and bullpen. The rotation was good enough to get the game to the bullpen. If the Orioles were going to be good in 2016, the team was built for a similar style of play. Thus far, the results in the win column have been pretty good. I wrote before the season started about what was going to have to go right. So I have wondered how the team has ranked so far in 2016 in those categories. Below is a table of where the Orioles rank in the league in a number of categories.
|Year||wRC+||Offensive WAR||Starter ERA||Bullpen ERA||UZR|
Not so surprisingly considering the 18-12 record, the plan so far has been executed. The offense is in a very similar territory (please note these numbers do not include yesterday's dong fest). The rotation has been better of late and is right around the middle of the pack which is all this team needs at this point. Furthermore, Kevin Gausman's improved curve ball and Chris Tillman's cutter give the rotation a bit more upside.
Also, the bullpen, probably the surest thing going into the season, has been fantastic. The 3rd best bullpen ERA in all of baseball and everyone of the key members of the bullpen have been consistently great.
The surprising laggard to date has been the defense. A bottom third defense for the Orioles is going to severely hurt their run prevention. To be quite honest I am surprised to see the ERA of the team so low with such a poor defense. It is still early in the season for defensive metrics, but on a team wide basis the trends have already come into focus.
The drag on the defense so far probably will not surprise many ardent Orioles observers. The outfield defense has been atrocious. In fact, it has been the worst defensive outfield in baseball according to Ultimate Zone Rating (-11.1) and Defensive Runs Saved (-16). The only above average aspect thus far has been avoiding errors. The outfield defense was not going to be the strong point of the team coming in, but so far it has been a glaring weakness.
If you have questions about UZR, DRS, or any of the other crazy acronyms I throw in these posts, the Fangraphs Glossary is a great tool for learning. They have concise definitions and links to articles that go more in depth about each statistic.
To date, only Nolan Reimold has posted a positive UZR in a mere 110 innings in the outfield. The typical outfield of Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, and Joey Rickard have altogether dragged down the defense. Adam Jones currently at -1.2 UZR and -4 DRS. Mark Trumbo has also dragged the defense down with a -4.5 UZR and a -5 DRS. Surprisingly, to me, is that Joey Rickard has been particularly poor according to the metrics posting a -7.3 UZR and a -7 DRS.
Rickard in particular is of a concern to me. The book on Rickard was that the Orioles should expect good defense. His numbers are likely hurt by being pressed into center field duty, but you would still like to see some better results thus far. Also, I am aware that is still early in the season and especially early for individual defensive metrics, but to my eye Rickard hasn't been inspiring on defense.
He takes some "banana routes" as noted Twitter personality Luke Jackson has pointed out. I did pick up on the broadcast this week someone talking about Rickard's defense and according to Buck the upper decks of major league stadiums can mess with a fielders' depth perception and it may take some time getting used to. I'll buy that premise for a bit, especially after today when Rickard had two good running catches in the left center field gap.
I know that I have thrown out a lot of acronyms at you and I know I keep reminding you all and myself that it is still early and that a whole lot more innings are needed to know anything certain about the team especially the defense. Yet, the early trends are not great for the blueprint. A substandard defense will come back to hurt a team that already has a lackluster pitching staff. For the Orioles sake, they need their pitchers to keep the ball on the ground and hopefully headed towards Manny Machado.