With Labor Day still weeks away, it’s rare to declare MLB division winners, but the Baltimore Orioles show every sign they have run away with the American League East against the expensive competition. Manager Buck Showalter and his squad now have a 7.5 game lead over second-place Toronto and an 89.5 percent chance of winning the division, by far the highest among AL division leaders. Here’s how the Orioles put themselves in position for their 2014 postseason run.
Stats are current as of August 14, 2014.
Lineup and rotation balance
The Orioles don’t have a hitter batting .300 or a starting pitcher with an ERA below 3.68, but the performance of both has been above-average in the AL. They rank sixth in both team pitching and team batting, while their fielding ranks second in the league.
One category where they dominate is home runs. Playing in the extremely hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the Birds have jacked an MLB-best 152 HR in 2014. No fewer than seven Orioles have 10 HR or more, with Chris Davis (21), Adam Jones (23) and Nelson Cruz (31) the three players with more than 20 long balls. This balance turns close ballgames like the contest against the Yankees on August 13 into romps in the matter of minutes. Once Jonathan Schoop tied the game with a solo shot against Dellin Betances, Adam Jones sealed the deal with a three-run bomb off Shawn Kelley.
Critics of Baltimore’s starting rotation typically point out there is no dominant force on the team. While that may be true, the Orioles throw out several pitchers that qualify as strong No. 2 or No. 3 starters.