Camden Depot and Camden Crazies
People seem to be optimistic about the Orioles' offense this year. Really optimistic. I've heard it on the radio and seen it on Twitter. Comments tend to be along the lines of "the offense was really good last year, and they added Nelson Cruz!" Being more detached from the sport than I used to be, I figured I was missing something.
2013 Team A: .255/.327/.420, .328 wOBA, 109 wRC+
2013 Team B: .257/.330/.409, .325 wOBA, 109 wRC+
|An Offensive Celebration | Photo by Keith Allison|
Trick question, they're the A's and Rays. The O's were 14th with a very average 101 wRC+.
My guess is that because of the team starting out hitting better, Chris Davis' amazing season, the Major League leading 212 homers as a club, and park effects (the .324 wOBA makes them look about as good as the Rays), people overrated how well the 2013 team hit. Memory can be tricky like that, along with one's lying eyes (but man, there were some impressive home runs).
Davis was indeed great. Adam Jones was good. Danny Valencia and Steve Pearce added a bit off the bench. Then there were Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, and Nate McLouth each around a 100 wRC+ with pretty much everyone else falling below that. Overall, the O's hit OK last year. Why would we expect a substantial improvement this year?
Matt Wieters posted a .302 wOBA in 2013 due largely to a low BABIP, but ZiPS has him rebounding to .321. Nick Markakis will hopefully be better than the career low .356 SLG and .304 wOBA he posted (ZiPS projects a .322). Manny Machado should improve some (assuming no after-effects from his injury). And Nelson Cruz's .340 wOBA (ZiPS) would be a vast improvement over the .304 the O's got from the DH position last year.
On the other hand, Chris Davis probably isn't likely to repeat what he did (.421 wOBA to .377 ZiPS). David Lough is projected to hit worse than Nate McLouth did last year (.296 vs. .323). Plus 300 PA of ~.365 wOBA off the bench (Valencia and Pearce) isn't expected.
Throwing all the ZiPS* projections together with some guesses about playing time produces a wOBA in the neighborhood of .325, which is marginally better than 2013 -- the plusses and minuses mostly cancel out. And playing half their games in Camden Yards means that'll translate into a wRC+ that's above 100 again. A little above (maybe 102) -- which can be perfectly fine. If the Orioles are going to make the playoffs though, they'll need the pitching and defense to be sound, as it seems unlikely to me that the offense will carry them the whole way by itself.
* Steamer is slightly higher. Oliver is more positive still, projecting Chris Davis as the third best hitter in the Majors. PECOTA appears to lean the other way.