It’s no longer too early for the baseball season. The teams have been jostling and while the standings are far from settled, the cream has begun to rise to the top. The Orioles, while struggling recently, have played well. They are in second place in the AL East with a record of 22-14. A hot start fueled by some good early performances. However, all of these performances need some context, as in where do the Orioles rank.
Below is a table of the Orioles position players with their respective rankings league wide. As the designated hitter is AL-only, that one is limited to 15, but the others include all 30 teams. All of these numbers are before Tuesday’s game and use Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement.
Position Player Rankings.csv
The Orioles thus far have been led by their infield. In particular their catchers, which you read more about here from our very own Tyler Young. Welington Castillo, Caleb Joseph, and Francisco Pena have teamed up as a solid defensive tandem and both of them can swing it a bit at the plate.
Castillo has been a revelation both defensively and offensively hitting .314/.333/.443 in the early going while putting up +3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) as well.
Behind them is Jonathan Schoop over at 2B, you can read a bunch of more words about me on him over here. He is still not loved defensively, but his 122 wRC+ and five home runs have been enough to be an above average player at 2B.
Then two Orioles stars at 3B and 1B rank just above average in their positional rankings. Chris Davis has rebounded from a sub par 2014 to put up a decent start to the 2017 hitting .252/.368/.445 good for a 124 wRC+.
First baseman do not get much credit for their defense, but Davis remains superb posting a 5.3 UZR/150 to date(read more about UZR/150 here). And I expect Manny Machado to climb these ranking as some more of his hard hit balls start to fall in, he’s still only running a .222 BABIP which is destined to come up in a big way.
The laggards are all over the outfield. Adam Jones in center field has been alright, but the numbers still do not love his defense (from my eye, he looks better than ever playing deep this year, maybe that’s just me though) and his offensive production is still below league average as of now with a 94 wRC+.
The multiple headed monster has produced very little in Right Field with negative values both offensively and defensively. However,, Seth Smith and his 149 wRC+ have kept the rest of them afloat. Mark Trumbo has been horrendous both offensively and defensively when he has played in right field which has dragged down their numbers overall. The left fielders, primarily the .288/3.18/.600 hitting Trey Manicni, have kept their numbers up by hitting and are still struggling defensively.
The overall worst position player to date on the Orioles roster is the shortstop J.J. Hardy. He is still producing defensively, but his lack of production at the plate has really cost the Orioles and that’s why he ranks 28th in baseball for value at Shortstop. Hardy to date is batting .203/.240/.276 good for a 36 wRC+. 36. That is 64 percent below league average. Also known as bad.
Now on to the pitchers. Here I have divided up the categories into the entire staff, the starters, and the relievers. I have provided ERA, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and WAR for pitchers. I provide their totals and in parentheses the ranking in regards to all of MLB.
Pitcher Player Rankins.csv
Overall the staff ranks 14th in ERA at 4.07. The starters have done decently well in the run prevention department ranking 11th in baseball with a 4.22 ERA and the relievers have led the way for the pitching staff with a 3.86 ERA. The ever present FIP likes the Orioles pitchers a lot less, especially the starters with a 4.55 FIP.
The FIP stat has its flaws, but it’s worth mentioning when evaluating pitchers. Since Fangraphs calculates their version of pitcher WAR using FIP, the Orioles pitchers also rank low in WAR.
Leading the way for the starters is Dylan Bundy who has a 2.26 ERA, 3.38 FIP, and a 1.3 WAR to start 2017 and has been the only Orioles starter to provide even a modicum of consistency. Wade Miley, save for last night, has also been a decent due to his crazy spike in strike outs in 2017 posting a 2.45 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and a 0.6 WAR. Chris Tillman only has two starts under his belt, but the Orioles need him to regain his 2016 form.
Unsurpisingly, Ubaldo Jimenez is bringing up the rear for the starers. He has a 6.75 ERA, 6.64 FIP, and a -0.3 WAR to start 2017. It is going to be difficult to explain running Jimenez out every five days when pitchers such as Tyler Wilson, Alec Asher, and Jayson Aquino have all pitched well enough in limited action.
The relievers have been lost a bit without the anchoring presence of Zach Britton. All of them however have been decent at the very least. Leading the way is Donnie Hart who has a 2.08 ERA, 1.94 FIP, and has posted a 0.5 WAR already (an excellent number for a relief pitcher).
It is still early enough for these numbers to change, but the Orioles so far have been great on the infield, bad in the outfield, and good enough on the mound. They will probably need a little bit more from somewhere to keep up the hot start.