First, we all know the Orioles are going to have stretches of a week or more where they play sub-.500 baseball. Last year:
3-5 (May 7-14)
2-9 (May 20-June 1)
3-10 (June 18-July 2)
1-6 (July 8-17)
1-5 (July 23-28)
Note, however, that it didn't happen too often, and didn't happen at all in August or September.
Second, we knew that the team wouldn't go 29-9 in one run games, and that the bullpen wouldn't be as consistently brilliant in high-leverage situations as it was last year (13.86 WPA). These points have been brought home pretty clearly in the first week (0-3 in one-run games, bullpen with 2 losses and a -0.82 WPA so far).
For me, its' too simplistic to say our 3-4 record is "meaningless." My view is, you play 162 games, and they're all important. You need to win 90-95 games to make the playoffs, and when you start 3-4, now you have to win 87-92 out of 155 games, which is just a bit harder to do. So no, the sky isn't falling, but I'd rather be winning than losing.
With that said, here are the aspects of the team that worry me, or don't, based on what I've seen and the track record.
Offense: Overall, I'm not worried. For obvious reasons, I am a little worried about 2B with BRob down. I'm most worried about whether Flaherty will find his batting eye, which at the moment seems way off. I'm not worried -- yet -- about Pearce and Reimold, and everything else seems OK.
Defense: Not very worried at all here. We had a couple of fluky bad plays in the OF, but overall I think the defense has looked good, especially Machado. Also, BRob looked geat turning the DP before he got hurt, turning 5 of them in 3 games, all with good, accurate throws. Davis made a critical error, but overall seems solid at 1B.
Starters: Not worried about anyone -- yet. Chen and Gonzo both have looked good. Hammel has pitched better than his ERA indicates, and I think his stuff looks good. Arrieta was the victim of some bad defense and bad breaks, so I'm not going to slaughter him for one bad outing. I didn't see much of Tillman's game, so I can't comment on him, I'll just say that one start is not a reason to get overly worried right away.
Bulllpen: Not worried at all, yet we do know they can't repeat last year's WPA. In the first week, the BP had a 2.95 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 8.44 K/9, and a 20-3 K/BB ratio. That's all fantastic, and yet the runs that were allowed mostly came in important situations, unlike last year, when the 'pen always seemed to be at its best when it mattered most. This year, we simply have to expect that our bullpen will fail sometimes, even if they have a good year overall. That's normal.
I think if Arrieta and Tillman are better this time through the rotation, we'll all feel a lot better. And if they're not better -- well then, you'll really see folks begining to worry. But even two bad starts would be a bit premature to hit the panic button with either of them.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board