Baltimore Orioles: Don’t Believe the Hype

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.





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8 Responses to Baltimore Orioles: Don’t Believe the Hype

  • Mike B. says:

    Ahhh, statisticians. I love the run differential argument because it is inanely stupid. Here’s what you miss in your assumption that the Orioles are an average to mediocre team because there run differential is poor…wait for it…CLOSE GAMES! The Orioles are fantastic this season in close games, in fact they are the best team in baseball in one run games and have won thirteen of them in a row. So let’s examine why this might happen, oh wait, I don’t have to go very far, they have one of the best bullpens in baseball. When your losing a blowout, you don’t use your pen as much, but when games are close in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, your going to see a lot of the pen. Strop, Patton, O’Day, now Matusz and especially Johnson have been lights out for most of the year. That’s why I have some faith in the team. Dan Duquette went out and sured up the bullpen to the point that it has been largely unhittable this year. Could if flame out in September, sure, anything can happen, but I for one am going to put a little faith in what I’ve been seeing for four months now. This team is good, it’s not great, but it’s going to compete right down to the end for a playoff spot. Something Baltimore hasn’t seen for fifteen years, so you go ahead and trust your run differential stat, but if you look “deeper” as you suggested, you’d see that run differential can be deceiving when a team wins close games. By the way, since the All Star break, the Orioles have the fewest errors per chance in Baseball, so there goes that stat too.

  • Bob Blair says:

    I don’t know who this guy is but he fails to mention in this article that the team is led by Buck Showalter who has been remarkable in pushing the right buttons for this team. I am a lifetime Oriole’s fan and the last 14 years have been hard to accept and even if the Orioles fail to make the playoffs, who really gives a damn. It has been great watching this team this season. Nobody has expected it. I wish and hope them well and guys like this writer who depends on #’s to make his prediction can kiss my butt.

  • douglas trower says:

    I wish I knew the name of the author of this terrible article apparently it is a “bean” counter and NOT a baseball person. In no way does the writer take into consideration baseball intangibles like the managing and coaching, ability to win close games,fantastic bullpen, ability to WIN games they hit a homerun, greatly improving defense, very young pitching staff getting BETTER with every staff and total team cohesion. So take your WAR and shove it!!

  • Tom says:

    “On paper” many teams should be heading to the playoffs. “On paper” players should be MVP or Cy young candidates. But sports are not played on paper, it’s between the lines. Stats are just that. Records of how things turned out over a given time. If a team wins 1-0 and then losses 1-7 the next night, does that make the team the scored a combine 7 runs in two games better then the team that scored 2? Maybe in stats, but the only one that matters is the win-loss stat. Full discloser, I’m an Orioles fan, so I disagree with most of what you say. That said, a team like the A’s are in the small boat as the Orioles and they are finding a way to get it done. Maybe luck is key, but “on paper” Chris Sale vs Chris Tillman last night was a no brainier and we see how that turned out.

  • TD says:

    Baseball is such a magnificient sport…until the stat geeks try to pretend it’s all about math.

    This year’s Orioles team is like a football team in that regard; the only stat that matters is the W at the end of 9 innings (or in the birds’ case more often than not, extra innings).

    This article smells of sour grapes or someone who spends their time playing pen and paper baseball where hits are based on rolls of the dice. In the real world, timing–not stats–is everything. The Orioles have had great timing all season long thanks to their manager and a hell of a lot of heart.

  • Steve B says:

    Stats make for intersting discussion. But here is another point of view and it goes with the close game scenario. The young O’s starters typically pitch one of two ways. They pitch very very well or they totally stink up the place. So if a starter goes 6 or 7 innings twice and gives up 2 or 3 runs each outing they likely win both of those starts. Then said starter has a real bomb and goes 3 innings and gives up 5 runs. They probably lose that outing. Looks at the stats and this pitcher has an ERA of around 5.5. That stat says the team should be awful but in fact then are 2-1 in those games.

    So take your stats and write some more articles. Then come back the first week in October and eat some crow. Are the O’s going to make the playoffs? Sure as heck hope so but I don’t know. But I am willing to bet a fair amount of money that they aren’t going to fold. I have five months of “data” that says othewise….its called 71-57.

  • Mike says:

    Not to sound rude, but I’m going to ignore the intangibles argument and manager argument. W/L as a result of a manager are very, very small.

    As for the close games. The pen is the main reason they are doing so well in close. But because the rest of the team is not that good, don’t expect as many one run games. Expect quite a few more “lopsided” scores so to speak. And 21-6 win% is really good. Even if there was a one run game skill, to be 21-6 means there will be some upcoming regression.

    I just can’t trust a team that can’t hit, get on base, or pitch that well. As for the defense. Okay, they don’t make errors but the range of their players is what is screwing them up. That leads to more hits and more runs allowed. And sure enough when you look at the specific components of UZR and DRS, it’s the range and plays made that are killing them.

  • Jeff Randolph says:

    My grandmother said there were three types of liars: plain liars, damn liars and statisticians. Winning is winning. Just enjoy the moment for the “birds.”

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