Baltimore Orioles: Statcast Standouts and Shockers In 2019
Now into the long stretch of second-half baseball and brutal summer weather, let’s take a moment to dive through some interesting Statcast numbers for the Baltimore Orioles.
Across the country, millions of people are suffering their way through a brutal heat wave which many places across the country haven’t experienced before. Here in my tiny little town, we’re expected to break the record for highest record temperature in the month of July in each of the next three days. The weather is hot and so are the Baltimore Orioles.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Orioles dropped three of four to the Tampa Bay Rays and were outscored 11-33. After another day off, things continued to spiral with an 8-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday evening. Now, entering Saturday, the Orioles are winners of their last two and have outscored the Nationals and Red Sox by a combined score of 20-4. Every win in 2019 is extra-sweet, but big wins against the Nats and Sox make you forget about the rest of 2019, just for a moment.
We all knew there wasn’t going to be much to cheer for this season. Fringe players are getting their shot to prove they belong in the big leagues, Rule 5 pick Richie Martin is still learning the game, and if it wasn’t for the emergence of John Means from ignored minor leaguer to All-Star changeup master, the league’s worst pitching staff would be an even bigger nightmare. I would say 2019 isn’t about the wins and losses, but after the excitement of draft day and knowing a stud like Adley Rutschman is a Baltimore Oriole, I want to do it all over again next year, meaning it is about the wins and losses, preferably losses.
Despite the lack of noteworthy statistical performances to dive into, a look through the Baseball Savant leaderboards show a smattering of big plays and performances from Baltimore Orioles hitters and pitchers. Since I can’t sleep and I’m spending my Friday night browsing through endless Statcast searches, I thought I would highlight the more noteworthy Statcast numbers here for you.
Keon Broxton- Baltimore Orioles Statcast darling?
Let’s start with a real attention-grabber, center fielder Keon Broxton. No, I’m not talking about an elite sprint speed number of some massive Outs Above Average production, at least not yet. I’m talking about his bat. Since joining the Orioles, Broxton is hitting .192 with a .245 OBP and a 46% strikeout rate. His wRC+ is a whopping 46 (remember, 100 is league-average).
Broxton has found the barrel of the bat in just 1.9% of plate appearances this season. While that’s much better than Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton‘s 0%, it’s among the lowest barrel percentages in all of baseball. Despite this, Broxton’s 474-foot home run back on May 24 in Colorado is tied for the seventh-longest home run in the majors this season. There are other’s who rarely put barrel to baseball yet sit near the top of the leaderboard for longest home runs hit this season, but just one other player with a Brls/PA% less than 2% ranks in the top 100 for longest home run in 2019, Yan Gomes.
As expected, Broxton owns a hard-hit rate (95 mph+ exit velocity) of just 29.5%. Using the same leaderboard of home run distance, just one other player ranks in the Top 100 and also owns a sub-30% hard-hit rate, Chicago Cubs Albert Almora Jr (26%).
Now we can move onto his fielding. Among qualified outfielders, Broxton ranks 8th in Major League Baseball with 7 Outs Above Replacement. For reference, Byron Buxton and Kevin Kiermaier lead the way with 12, with Victor Robles (11) and Lorenzo Cain (10) falling in just behind them. Compared to his Orioles teammates, Trey Mancini is at -2 and Dwight Smith Jr.is at -8, one of the worst marks in baseball.
Broxton is also outperforming what the metrics say he should be catching. Per Statcast, Broxton should have successfully caught 89% of baseballs hit his way. He’s far exceeded that mark by nabbing 94% of batted balls in his direction, which ties with St. Louis Cardinals second-year man Harrison Bader for tops in the league. Only four other outfielders have outperformed in this metric more than Broxton. I don’t want to pick on Dwight Smith Jr.again, but the left fielder owns an expected catch rate of 85%, but has caught just 80% of balls hit his way. His actual catch percentage and negative difference between the two numbers both rank near the bottom of all qualified outfielders.
Gotta Go Fast!- Sprint speed as always been the one Statcast metric which has fascinated me the most, probably because of how extremely slow I am. The speeds at which these guys can run never ceases to amaze me. The Orioles have two of those speedsters on the current roster in Richie Martin and Broxton. Overall, Martin’s 29.4 ft/sec sprint speed is the 19th fastest in baseball, while Broxton’s 29.3 ft/sec puts him 26th. Broken down by position, Broxton ranks 14th among center fielders and Martin ranks 4th among shortstops. Now if either one could start to hit the baseball, there might be a little something more there with both of these guys.
When Reality Doesn’t Meet Expectation- As for Martin’s bat, it’s lagged behind his defense this season, to say the least. It’s hard to fault the Rule 5 pick as he goes from facing Double-A pitchers to major league studs, so he gets a free pass in 2019. Currently hitting .162 with a .217 wOBA (in case you’re curious as to what the heck wOBA is), Martin’s expected numbers, per Statcast, are significantly higher. His xBA is still a dismal .195, but the 33 point difference is the 20th biggest negative difference among all hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. His xwOBA is currently. 236, a 19 point difference. A massive learning curve and a bit of bad luck have seemed to combine to form a tough season for Martin at the plate.
Chance Sisco‘s Numbers Aren’t Really Shocking- Since his call-up, Sisco has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, hitting .266 with 11 extra-base hits in 25 games and a .376 OBP. The issue with Sisco has always been his defense and those problems continue to shine through. In those 25 games, 23 runners have attempted a stolen base against Sisco, 20 of them finding success (13% caught-stealing rate, league average is 27%). How is that possible? Well, among 64 catchers who have attempted at least five throws to second base, Sisco ranks 61st in pop-time with a 2.11 second time to second. His exchange rate (0.78 seconds) is the second-worst time in the majors and his arm strength (79.4 mph) ranks 45th.
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The Curious Case Of Hanser Alberto– When I look back at the 2019 Baltimore Orioles season, I will look back fondly at the emergence of John Means but the story of Hanser Alberto will also stick with me. Whether he continues with the Orioles or finds a role with another franchise, Hanser Alberto has made me a fan for life. His love of the game, infectious personality, and odd numbers are always a joy to watch.
When you look at Alberto’s 2.3 barrel percentage (bottom 6% of the league), 19.5% hard-hit rate (bottom 1% of the league), and average exit velocity of 83 mph on batted balls (bottom 2%) you wouldn’t expect to see his name listed among some of the top hitters in the game. His .304 batting average ranks 16th in the majors, tied with George Springer of Houston and Alex Verdugo of the Dodgers. Among the Top 50 in batting average, just two players have a lower on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Alberto and just one player has a lower OPS. I don’t get it, but I love it.
Stay cool and safe, Orioles fans. Give us a follow on Twitter and let’s talk O’s baseball over at @BirdsWatcherFS.