By Matt Vensel
The Baltimore Sun
12:09 PM EDT, May 31, 2013
The thing the Orioles have done most consistently this season, even more so than their repeated outbursts at the plate, has been playing exceptional defense, whether it has been Manny Machado scooping up slow rollers at third base, Matt Wieters throwing out runners or Adam Jones gliding to make catches in center.
Through 54 games -- the first third of the season -- the Orioles have committed a league-low 19 errors and are second in baseball with a .990 fielding percentage. They are on pace to set club records in both categories.
When it comes to more advanced statistics, the Orioles are fifth in the major leagues with 15 defensive runs saved and are ranked third in ultimate zone rating behind the Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Not every ball has been hit to Machado, obviously, but his play at third base has given the defense its biggest boost from a year ago, when the Orioles ranked 18th in baseball in fielding percentage.
Machado is second among all major-league defenders with 12 runs saved (right fielder Norichika Aoki of the Milwaukee Brewers has saved one more) and leads all third basemen in defensive WAR.
Wieters has thrown out 10 of the 19 runners who have attempted to steal on him and his .526 stealing percentage is second in the major leagues only to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis.
The defense is perhaps the most overlooked reason why the Orioles are six games above .500 and in the thick of things in the American League East. The Orioles have few pitchers who consistently overwhelm hitters and the team’s 4.44 ERA reflects that. That ERA might be even higher if not for the Orioles playing excellent in the field behind them. It has been a big factor in this season’s success.
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