As I took a break from packing for school, I sat down to watch the Baltimore Orioles finish off a shutout win against the Chicago White Sox. The O’s are now fourteen games over .500 for the first time since 2005 and have moved into second place in the AL East. With only a month and some change left in the season, people are starting to jump onto the Orioles bandwagon. Don’t count me amongst those people.
In fact, I’ll go as far to say that the Orioles aren’t even an average, mediocre team. How could I say this? Because the numbers don’t match up with their results.
The first thing I look at when analyzing a team is their Runs Scored-Runs Allowed differential. To win games you need to score runs and prevent runs, so this is an excellent indicator of how a team is actually performing. Baltimore has a negative 45 run differential. That is not good. As a result, their expected (otherwise known as pythagorean) record is 59-68. That would put them in last place in the pythagorean standings. Alas, standings aren’t decided by RS/RA but actual wins and losses. So let’s dig deeper.
Why does Baltimore have a below average run differential? Because they have been below average in just about every aspect of the game: hitting, base running, pitching, and defense. According to fWAR the Orioles are dead last in baseball when it comes to offense. Their offensive players have a collective 8.4 fWAR. That is BAD. Mike Trout himself has a 7.5 fWAR despite missing a month and could still lap the entire Orioles offense. The team slash line (OBP/SLG/wOBA/wRC+) is .307/.408/.309/91+. That is bad. The league average is .319/.406/.315. The only true star player the team has is Adam Jones, who sits at a 3.6 fWAR. Matt Wieters has a 2.6 fWAR while JJ Hardy and Nick Markakis both have average WARs at the moment. But that’s it for them. They are getting no other major contribution on offense. Moreover, their base running has been below average at -3.8 base running runs.
Their pitching has been better, but still not good. Baltimore’s starting pitching fWAR is in the bottom third of the league at 7.3. The major problem is the long ball. The O’s starters have a HR/9 of 1.36, the third worst mark in baseball. That leads to a 4.59 FIP, the fifth worst mark in baseball. Their only saving grace is the bullpen. The pen contributes 4.5 fWAR and is able to strike batters out, prevent walks, and prevent home runs. I know the O’s have a fantastic record in one run games, and the majority of the credit should go to their bullpen.
As for the defense. It’s bad. Really bad. Their UZR is -34.1. Only two more teams have a worse figure: the Mets and the Rockies. Don’t like UZR? Look at DRS. When you do that you will find that Baltimore is -32 and only three more teams have a worse DRS.
Putting it all together, the Orioles have a total fWAR of 20.3 A replacement level team would win 50 games. So right now Baltimore should be expected to finish with around 73-75 wins. Now, in reality that is not the case. The O’s already have won 70 games. They have a remarkable record in close games and have outplayed their pythag. Sometimes teams ride out their luck all season and never come crashing down to earth. But one should never bet on that team. 162 games is still a small sample size when you think about it and if a season was two or three times that amount we should expect them to have a record that more accurately reflects how they’ve performed in 2012. That is why I expect the O’s to flame out in September.