Unsurprisingly, the difference for Orioles' hitters is their collective ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Here's their MLB ranks in various power categories:
Slugging percentage: 4th (.416)
Isolated power: 2nd (.159)
Home runs: 1st (152)
HR/FB rate: 2nd (12.5%)
And not only do a large percentage of O's fly balls leave the ballpark, but the Orioles are second in the majors in most fly balls hit (37.3%).
So how are the Orioles doing this?
Steve Pearce's impressive run
Pearce has cooled down as of late and hasn't seen his name in the lineup card as often, but he gave the O's quite a boost in May and June. By wOBA (.368), he's been the O's best hitter -- even better than Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones, though with a couple hundred fewer plate appearances. There's no reason to think he's transformed into a .350 wOBA hitter, but he's still effective against left-handed pitching and caught fire for the O's at a great time. Another bonus: He's also making just $700,000 this season.
Addition of Nelson Cruz
Like Pearce, Cruz is no longer on fire like he was earlier in the season. But he is providing the Orioles with precisely what they wanted: offense. His .364 wOBA is a bit higher than his career average (.355), which is perfectly acceptable.
Nick Markakis and Adam Jones being themselves
For Markakis, that means walks and hits, though not a lot of power. And for Jones, that means lots of power, though not many walks. And both have appeared in all 121 games.
Delmon Young contributing
Sure, he has a high BABIP (.351), but Young has been a useful DH and pinch-hitter when called upon. His wOBA (in many fewer plate appearances) of .341 is one of the highest on the team, allowing him to stick with the team even though many (including me) were baffled when he made the opening day roster. His defense in left field, though, has both been amusing and terrifying. Just look at this "web gem."
Some others worth noting:
- Manny Machado had been improving offensively each month before spraining his right knee.
- Despite the power concerns, Hardy has still been fine OBP wise thanks to getting more base hits than usual (.335 BABIP vs. career .279 BABIP).
- Caleb Joseph turned things around after a rocky start.
The O's offense is good enough to win, as they've demonstrated this season. But instead of having to rely on Steve Pearce and Delmon Young as much going forward, it would sure be nice if Chris Davis turned things around. Getting a healthy Machado back soon would also be helpful.
Stats as of August 17. Photo via Keith Allison.