Carroll County Times

Orioles Analysis: Defense keeping on record pace

BALTIMORE - The Baltimore Orioles have played better defense this season than any team in the Major Leagues.
And by the end of the season, the Orioles may have had the best defensive season of any team in history.
When Baltimore sends out its starting lineup on a nightly basis, there is typically not a single weak spot on the entire field.
The Orioles have a two-time Gold Glove catcher behind the plate in Matt Wieters. He has thrown out 39 percent of potential basestealers, most recently Tampa Bay's Kelly Johnson to end Wednesday's game on a throw that reached second in 1.75 seconds.
Baltimore also has three former Gold Glovers in the outfield in Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. And it also has J.J. Hardy at shortstop, who won a Gold Glove last season and almost never mishandles a routine play.
But the Orioles defender who has turned the most heads all season is 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado. He's made throws from the left-field grass, from foul territory nearing the visitors' dugout, and flashed the leather with a multitude of diving stops.
"He's phenomenal. Definitely the best I've ever played with, for sure," Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts said. "Every night you kind of think you're going to see something you haven't seen before."
Machado is a key reason why the Orioles had just 38 errors through their first 126 games. That has them on pace for 49 errors at the end of the season, which would be 16 less than any team ever.
The 2003 Seattle Mariners currently hold the record for fewest errors in a season with 65.
And Baltimore entered the weekend with a .992 fielding percentage. If the Orioles can keep that up, they would have the best fielding percentage in baseball history, topping the 2007 Colorado Rockies' mark of .989.
The Orioles' fielding percentage is two points better than any other team's, and they also have seven fewer errors.
And, along with the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore is one of two teams to have not committed more than two errors in a single game all season.
Roberts hasn't been at second all season. But he still said this team is "definitely" the best defensive team he's played on in his 13 seasons with the club.
"It doesn't get a whole lot better than that," Roberts said. "The one thing you can't do at this level is give extra outs too often, and we've done a really good job of that."
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said defense is emphasized to players throughout the entire organization, not just in the majors.
"Our guys know in Bowie and Norfolk, and they hear it in spring training, they hear it in the off-season, when we're talking about players, it's always, 'What kind of a defender is he?'" Showalter said. "It's part of the job description."
By the end of the season, the Orioles will possibly have a handful of players named as Gold Glove finalists.
And many of them should have a good chance at winning. Showalter said he's excited to see.
"It will be interesting to see how some of the awards go when the season's over," Showalter said.