Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How Are They Doing It?

Josh Kalk at the HardballTimes wrote an article about some team off to hot starts. One of those mentioned, of course, was the O's:
"The Orioles' 4-1 start has them on top of the AL East. After dropping their opener against the Rays they won four straight, the last three against a Mariners teams that many thought would compete for a division title this year. Despite their record, the O's have outscored their opponents by only five runs.

The good news for the Orioles is their offense appears to be getting the job done, scoring nearly five and a half runs per game. Last year, they had a lot of trouble scoring, so if they could keep this up it would be quite a turnaround. They also have put up these offensive numbers with a low batting average with runners in scoring position (.231) and only a moderate batting average on balls in play (.288).

The biggest turnaround has been on the defensive side, where they have already put up a +7 in defensive plus/minus and a RZR of .892, which leads the AL. Baltimore was middle of the pack last year defensively, so expect a little regression to the mean here. The O's pitching has been solid, led by their bullpen. George Sherrill, Jamie Walker and Dennis Sarfate have pitched extremely well.

This is nothing new for Walker and Sherrill, who have pitched very well under the radar for the last few years. Sarfate came to the Orioles from the Astros in the Miguel Tejada trade. He throws extremely hard and has shown flashes of brilliance. Last year for the Astros he struck out 14 and walked only one in 8.1 innings. While he isn't likely to be that good going forward, he certainly could have a bright future. He's a name to remember.

Can the Orioles keep this up? It is going to be difficult in their division. All five of their games have been at home. With a ton of games ahead against the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, it still seems unlikely they will finish above .500. Still, it is nice to see an organization that has been so down have some time in the limelight and it does feel like maybe the Orioles are starting to turn things around."
Add in an extra couple of wins since then, and things are looking up. If the defense really is that good, then that should be a big help to the pitching staff. Sarfate is getting some attention, and he deserves it. He has looked very impressive - flashing mid to high 90's heat with movement. Walks have been an issue for him in the past, but he has shown good control so far.

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