Consider this simple table showing Ultimate Zone Rating by catcher, infield, and outfield. The catcher value also includes an adjustment for Baseball Prospectus' pitch framing stat plus a projection for this season based on previous seasons pitch framing success (2017 pitch framing numbers so far are junk as MLBAM is trying to adjust to a new system). Additionally, the 2017 numbers are extrapolated to a full season.
Outfield defense has always been a bit of an issue for the Orioles. 2014 was a bit of an outlier as the entire club seems energized by a healthy and spectacular David Lough and strong supporting roles from Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Steve Pearce. Beyond that season though, the outfield tended to struggle with balls emerging from the infield. Part of this reason has come from trouble when perfectly fine outfielders have to cover for other players. Other issues arise from once fleet star defenders poorly adjusting to a loss of a step or two. Regardless, outside of that lone season, outfield defense has not been a great strength of this club.
On the other hand, infield defense has been a strength. This is perhaps outsized by Manny Machado's amazing 2013 season when he got to everything. His 2014 season was utterly spectacular and he still shows solid range, exceptional hands, and stunning accuracy. That said, while he has plus plus range, it is not what it was that 2013 season when he was simply stunning with plus^plus range. Machado has thickened up slightly and has had some surgery, so maybe that took away some measure of that insanity. However, a very solid +15 third baseman remains. Much of the Orioles defensive brilliance was built on that.
That brilliance was largely a strength with plus play from JJ Hardy and good support from Jonathan Schoop and Chris Davis. Davis still looks like Davis. Below average skills off the bag and plus skills on the bag. However, 2017 has seen Hardy look clunky out there. He seems to have lingering issues with his back which makes his first step a little slow and his ability to get down on balls a bit worse. He needs to get healthy or he needs to sit. The annual concern about Jonathan Schoop is also coming to look like reality. Schoop has managed to stick at second, somewhat surprisingly, due to nimble play around the bag, soft hands, and a strong arm. The concern had been that as he ages, his lower half with thicken up. This would decrease his low end speed and make it difficult for him to get down on grounders. We have seen that quite a bit this year.
At catcher, we have a lot of the same in years past. Wieters made a name for himself as a defensive wiz prior to the acceptance of pitch framing metrics. That said, he is a very solid catcher and any diminishing of those skills were replaced by Caleb Joseph's excellent pitch framing. This season, Castillo combines very good non-pitch framing skills with terrible pitch framing skills. Joseph is able to offset much of that, so we have a rather similar defensive outlook there behind the plate again.
In the outfield, the Orioles have seen some solid play by a risen Joey Rickard, who should actually get accolades for his defensive performance this year. He has managed to be a bit more realistic on his chances of getting to fly balls and toning down that senseless aggressiveness has been a boon for him. Seth Smith has also provided plus defense, which validates my thoughts of his defensive play coming into the season. Hyun Soo Kim and Trey Mancini have also provided some solid innings in the outfield. Beyond them, Mark Trumbo is Mark Trumbo. He is a butcher out there. And, Adam Jones, I hate to say it, but he is missing a lot of Texas Leaguers in front of him and is not gunning runners down. It seems that it does not matter much whether he plays his preferred depth or sits back deeper. My thought was that when Jones would shift back, that he would be nabbing higher value batted balls. My thought also was with more competent corner defense that he would be able to control his playing area more effectively. So far, those things are not happening. He is performing, overall, the same.
Anyway, the outfield has improved. The infield has lost some luster. Catching is the same. So, where is the club offensively and with pitching? Offensive, the same level of play is coming out of the box--about league average. However, the Orioles have put up one of the worst performances of the year on the basepaths and are in line to be worth about -3 or 4 wins through poor decision making in the field and maybe some infamously plodding baserunners. Pitchers, things look the worse they have during Duquette's era by a smidge. The starters look worse than last year and so do the relievers.
So far, this doom and gloom has not been devastating in the won-loss column, so hopefully that continues or, perhaps, the Orioles start performing in ways that make the win column look more explainable.