“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in his classic work, A Tale of Two Cities. The same could be said for the Baltimore Orioles this season as the team has seen some of the best of times and the worst of times.
Hey, I do realize this sounds like a negative start to this piece. Having a mix of good and bad things to write about sure beats multiple years of nothing but bad stuff to complain about! Been there, done that … and this is much better! Overall I remain optimistic about the Birds, but the nest still houses a mix of results when the flock comes home to roost each evening.
There are some really crazy mixed statistics of highs and lows in a number of categories of analysis. Let’s crunch a couple of numbers in the next few minutes … only to ask at the end how much any of these statistics really count in terms of wins and losses.
Living and Dying by the Sword
An amazing Orioles statistic that has been true pretty much all season is that the Birds have hit more home runs than anyone else, while at the same time giving up the most homers allowed. At this moment the Orioles have hit 169 homers, 18 more than the Jays, 19 more than the Braves and Mariners, and 24 more than the Tigers. One the other hand, the Orioles lead all of baseball with 160 home runs allowed; and second to them again is Toronto, threatening to take the lead by giving up 158.
Actually, the numbers are not as bad as one would expect. Here are some comparisons to other teams (hit/allowed):
- Oakland – 131 / 126
- Tampa Bay – 133 / 121
- Texas – 140 / 122
- St. Louis – 101 / 85
- Pittsburg – 119 / 86
- Atlanta – 150 / 98 !!!
Of course there are differentials related to ball parks and the two leagues, but it would be optimal to have about a plus 30 ratio in this category. The Orioles are at a plus 9. Where would the team record stand if there were, say, even just 20 less homers by opponents? It would probably be good enough to have them at the top of the AL East.
It’s Outta Here / You’re Outta Here
On the theme of home runs … what an exciting year it has been for the Orioles to have Chris Davis crushing balls everywhere he goes. He is certainly on pace to set a franchise record for home runs. But how do his homers/strikeouts compare historically to some of the other top Orioles dinger-boppers? The following lists – Plate Appearances / Homers / % / Srikeouts / % …
- Chris Davis (2013) – 525 / 46 / .088 / 152 / .290
- Frank Robinson (1966) – 680 / 49 / .072 / 90 / .132
- Brady Anderson (1996) – 687 / 50 / .073 / 106 / .154
- Jim Gentile (1961) – 601 / 46 / .077 / 106 / .176
- Rafael Palmeiro (1998) – 709 / 43/ .061 / 91 / .128
- Boog Powell (1964) – 506 / 39 / .077 / 91 / .180
- Cal Ripken (1991) – 717 / 34 / .047 / 46 / .064
These statistics reveal what a beast of a year Chris Davis is having. He is on pace to break Anderson’s all-time Orioles record – and doing it in 100 less plate appearances! Yet at the same time, it also shows that he is roughly twice as likely to strike out as the average of all these Orioles power hitters of the past. Again – it is the good and the bad at the same time. The only good thing that can be said for a strikeout is that the batter did not hit into a double play.
Should R.I.S.P just R.I.P?
I have seen several recent articles by bloggers who blast the worth of the statistic for team batting average with runners in scoring position. It baffles me as to how this cannot be a very significant number. And Orioles fans have been frustrated much of the season by the frequent scoring opportunities that are lost. Well, it must be worse for fans just about everywhere else, because the Orioles are currently fourth in MLB with a .275 average (St. Louis is at .327, Detroit .284, and Tampa Bay .277). However, with two outs, the Orioles drop to 15th place (.235), while being 13th with the bases loaded. A team could post high numbers in this category by having huge successes in blow-out wins, while more frequently failing in close, low-run games.
So what does it mean?
Statistics give you a piece of the puzzle, but not enough to define what the picture looks like. You have to put together a lot of pieces before you can solve the identity of the puzzle. Last year the Orioles did surprisingly well with a narrow total runs differential. They were setting records in one-run games, while this year that statistic is sadly rather awful. Yet the record at this point is virtually the same.
It all comes down to finding a way to win the games at hand. Right now, that is against Oakland. The Orioles need to win these games one way or another. It is “just do it” time.