The Baltimore Orioles are currently atop the American League East with a record of 6-4. It’s not exactly time to print playoff tickets, but the current version of the Orioles has proven to be entertaining. Baltimore lacks the pitching to be a serious contender but for right now the team is winning on the strength of the long ball.
As a team Baltimore has clubbed 18 home runs in just ten games. The power explosion has been led by catcher Matt Wieters, center fielder Adam Jones, and left fielder Nolan Reimold. Wieters has emerged as an offensive force in the early part of his third full season in the Majors. In nine games played Wieters has four home runs, nine RBI and a staggering OPS of 1.212. Sure, it’s still early, but Matt Wieters looks like he’s about to fulfill the immense hype and fanfare that surrounded his arrival in Baltimore.
Wieters maturation as a hitter shouldn’t come as a susprise to anyone who’s been watching closely. In 2011 Wieters improved his strikeout rate and slugging percentage over his 2010 performance. So far in 2012 he has exhibited improved strike zone judgment with 7 walks and just four strikeouts in 32 at bats. As his strike zone judgment has improved Wieters’ power has emerged. After hitting a disappointing 11 home runs in 130 games for the 2010 Orioles Wieters was labeled a draft bust by some commentators. Wieters was only 23 years old in 2010 so any labels assigned to him were decidely premature.
Wieters improved to 22 home runs in 139 games played in 2011. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter moved Wieters up in the lineup to begin the 2012 season. After hitting in the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup for much of his young career Wieters has settled into the fifth spot in Baltimore’s order this season. Wieters has not only flourished with the move up in the order but he has provided valuable protection for Adam Jones. It should be taken as no coincidence that with Wieters now hitting behind him Jones has already pounded four home runs for the birds.