This has been an interesting season for the Baltimore Orioles in regard to the varieties of unique statistics heard just about every day about this squad and its interesting array of players. One of the most attractive features for me about the great sport of baseball is the way the game yields itself to countless statistical analyses. The computer age has given us an explosion of this information. And now we are able to track just about everything, right down to the players’ averages on days they call their grandmother before the game versus days they spoke to their agent.
So today, I thought I would pull out a few statistics that have caught my ear or eye in recent days – these being garnered from various Orioles media outlets and Baseball-Reference.com.
The Tale of Two Defenses
The Orioles lead all of baseball with a .992 fielding percentage, which would be a club record if sustained through the end of the year. The value of a great defense was seen last evening in Texas, and I would submit that it was the difference in the game. While the Orioles had Nick Markakis pulling back a home-run ball over the fence and a Rangers runner being picked off third on an 8-6-5 throw, Texas failed to make a couple of not terribly difficult plays (at first base and left-center field) that would lead to the decisive Orioles runs. Texas is 8th in the AL in fielding, and 13th overall.
Mind Boggling Davis / Machado Numbers
You know the guys on your favorite team are having a good year when you hear comparisons of their stats in the same breath as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Manny Machado’s 39 doubles, and Chris Davis’ 37 homers lead the majors … and the last time teammates did this was in 1927 when Gehrig had 52 doubles and Ruth 60 homers.
I am not making this up when I tell you that at the very same time I was writing the paragraph above, my phone buzzed with a text message from the Baltimore Sun – advertising an app to track Machado and Davis. It is called “Chase Street: Chris Davis and Manny Machado Stat Tracker.” Very cool!
Davis is the only player in major league history to have 25-plus doubles, 30-plus home runs and 85-plus RBIs prior to the All-Star Game. This is not normal baseball behavior.
Jul 19, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Orioles managerBuck Showalter
(26) watches the game against the Texas Rangers during the third inning at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Showalter’s 1132 Wins (4x 250+)
With the win in Texas last night, Buck Showalter became the fourth manager in the history of baseball to have at least 250 wins with four different teams. The others who have done this are Joe Torre, Gene Mauch, and Dick Williams. Buck now has 250 wins with Texas and Arizona, along with 313 for the Yankees and 319 with Texas. I’ll make the not-so-bold prediction that Showalter goes down in baseball history ultimately for what was done in Baltimore!
But what does it say about a person who has wins spread out like this? It says that a guy knows how to win. Buck himself, when questioned about it in the post-game interview, humbly acknowledged that there were nearly as many losses. This is true in a macro way, as his career record at this moment is 1132-1061 for a win percentage of .516. But remember this: in each of the four cities, the first full year was a major rebuilding challenge (a combined record of 281-367 / .437 winning percentage).
That Buck has moved on three times might also indicate that he was a prickly personality that wore out his welcome (see Gene Mauch!). I’ve read these kinds of things and cannot imagine it from what I see of the guy. Maybe he has grown personally and learned interpersonal skills not previously possessed … or maybe it says he is a bit A.D.D. (I can relate to that one, and being a year older than Buck, and even called “Buckie” growing up – we didn’t have Ritalin and Adderral to calm us down!)
Home Run Witnesses
Speaking of what Buck Showalter has had to endure, he is the manager in baseball who has been the witness this season of the most home runs hit – both by his own team and the opposition. The Orioles’ 133 HRs are the most in MLB – leading the Mariners and Blue Jays by 14. BUT, the Orioles have allowed 123, which is one more than Houston. In fact, 42% of all runs scored against the Orioles this year have been by the long ball. Some of this is simply the realities of playing half of all games at Oriole Park, but we know that much of it relates also to pitching woes.
The Pitcher’s Best Friend
A lesser statistic that balances out those painful homers allowed numbers a little bit (maybe?) is that the Birds’ pitchers have also induced the 3rd most GIDP in MLB with 90. This again likely also highlights the great Orioles infield defense. Interestingly, the team with the most GIDP is St. Louis (95) – not surprising, given their great pitching. But in second place is Houston with 92. Hmm! So, I guess this is one of those statistics that may not mean as much as one would think at first glance. Teams that allow more baserunners probably have more situational opportunities for double play grounders. It all depends upon when they happen.
Undeniable Necessary Stats
It does not take a very insightful baseball analyst to know and understand what the Orioles must do to have success in the final 65 games. Pitching will be the key (as it always is, but especially with this team at this juncture). I am encouraged that this will happen. It is interesting to know that the Orioles staff ERA at the All-Star break last year was 4.77, while this year it is a near identical 4.79. This year, the Orioles were 10 games over 500, while they were but 45-40 in 2012.
For the Orioles to return to the playoffs, they are going to need to return to the great pitching that carried them through August and September of the season past. This is doable – especially since the offense and defensive support is even better. It is not a “done deal” but it is attainable. And there is no way it can be anything but a close dog fight the whole time.