Throughout much of the offseason build-up to the 2016 Orioles season, expectations and reasonable projections were set. We all knew what the lineup had to do in order to get wins, and it was rather well-known that the pitching staff needed to be a tick above average to have a shot to contend for an AL East crown.
Things didn't have to be perfect; they just needed to be... well, "Orioles". It doesn't always make sense, but the magic formula that Buck Showalter has tucked away in the bottom drawer always seems to appear at just the right time.
In 2016, that perfect timing has been more than enough to propel these Birds to a multi-game lead in the division.
How they'll fare in the months to come remains to be seen... for now, it's all shaping up to be quite the entertaining summer stretch.
Team Average (.271) - 4th in MLB
We knew there would be a whole lot of power stored up in the entirety of the lineup, but the balance one through nine has been encouraging.
Since the start of the year with Mark Trumbo and Joey Rickard spraying hits across the diamond, through the current state of Adam Jones' red-hot mashing of baseballs, it's been a very encouraging season for the entirety of the offense.
Pre-season, experts would have agreed that a .250-.260 average would have been plenty to warrant a serious "contender" situation. If the team number stays even close to the .265-.270 range, it'll be quite the final result in the win column - regardless of what the pitching staff manages to do.
Team Home Runs (120) - 1st in MLB
Team Slugging Percentage (.470) - T1st in MLB
These guys have pop - if you were ever concerned about that, there's a very good chance that you didn't peek at the lineup at any point in the past few months. Bottom line: underwhelming isn't exactly the adjective you'd use to describe this crop of hitters.
With 123 homers and counting, it's safe to say the Birds aren't going to be leaving the top of the leaderboard any time soon. Think they're doing a little bit better than the Atlanta Braves, who have crushed all of 38 baseballs over the fence through 76 games?
With power just constantly jumping from one bat to the next on a night-to-night basis, there's no telling what the ceiling might be for a team on record-setting pace before the All-Star break.
These guys bring new meaning to video-game power. Keep it up, and it'll hardly matter what the starting rotation amounts to for the rest of the year.
Pitching ERA (4.18) - 15th in MLB
At the beginning of the season, the narrative was a simple one: if the pitching is average, the Orioles will make the playoffs.
Here we are on June 29th... the pitching is average and the Birds are cruising and well over .500 - I suppose things are relatively on track.
The encouraging part about the sum of the pitching potential is the idea that the performance can get better. The numbers won't necessarily improve drastically (they might even decline), but there's room for back-end arms like Yovani Gallardo and Tyler Wilson to limit the run damage.
Even Chris Tillman at 10-1 isn't exactly keeping runs from crossing the plate (3.52 ERA). With slight improvement from the bullpen and steady growth from the starting arms, there's no reason to believe that the team ERA will take a drastic dip.
Fielding Percentage (.985) - T11th in MLB
This number might not be the one that tilts the season in one direction or another, but it's somewhat interesting to take a look at the error total of members of the infield defense that we tout as the "best in baseball" when things go well.
- Manny Machado: 7 errors in 621 innings
- Chris Davis: 4 errors in 642 innings
- Jonathan Schoop: 4 errors in 665 innings
- Ryan Flaherty: 3 errors in 322 innings
- J.J. Hardy: 2 errors in 268 innings
- Pedro Alvarez: 3 errors in 52 innings
The total number: 42 errors.
Random totals of note
The Orioles are 12th in the league in most strikeouts on offense, far from the record-setting pace that everyone was expecting. The Astros have nearly 100 more to lead the league.
They also take home the title of worst base-stealers in the league by a wide margin. They've swiped just 12 bags all year - Milwaukee leads the league with 65, Houston tops the AL with 60.
Triples? Showalter's group doesn't exactly capitalize on those either. They've hit just three of them all season long; the next worst number comes from the Angels who have doubled that number with six.
What it all means
Currently sitting pretty, there can't be much concern flying around the Orioles locker room. There isn't room for doom and gloom when you're healthily leading your division.
It's easy to play the "what if" game and toss around endless scenarios, but the basic theory holds true: stick to the fundamentals, do what you do well and keep pounding with your head down.
As long as home runs keep flying out of the park and the Zach Britton's of the world keep dominating, is there any reason to think these 2016 O's won't be the winners of the AL East?