11 April 2018

Yes, It's Early. Here Are Some Orioles Observations Anyway

The Orioles have played 11 games, and they're 4-7. You can panic if you want, or you can relax knowing there are still lots of games left. It's your choice!

Still, it's not even mid-April yet, so we can't say much definitely about this team. But because we can't write 100 articles about how awesome Dylan Bundy is pitching, here are a few brief observations about various parts of the team:

Run differential

The Orioles are 4-7, which isn't terrible, but they've also been outscored by 23 runs. That's the worst in the American League, and it's third-worst in the majors after the Marlins (-30) and Reds (-25).

Again, as the 2012 Orioles demonstrated, run differential isn't the most important thing in the world (especially for teams with excellent bullpens). But it's obviously a negative thing if teams are being outscored by a large margin.

Offensive woes

The stabilization point for many offensive categories hasn't arrived yet, but some of the performances from Orioles' batters are concerning. Overall, by runs per game, the O's are 11th in the AL, at 3.45. The AL average, at the moment, is 4.24.

Collectively, the O's are tied for 9th in walk percentage, last in strikeout percentage, t-13th in on-base percentage, 11th in slugging percentage, and 11th in wOBA and wRC+.

Pedro Alvarez (218, in 18 PA), Manny Machado (182), Trey Mancini (117), and Adam Jones (116) are the only O's hitters with a wRC+ above 100. The bottom six are Tim Beckham (54), Jonathan Schoop (52), Chance Sisco (52, in 19 PA), Chris Davis (14), Colby Rasmus (-10), and Caleb Joseph (-13). Again, just the facts.

Bullpen issues

Due to some short outings by starters and extra-inning games, the O's bullpen is already dealing with a heavy workload. O's relievers have already thrown 50 innings, the third-most in the majors.

The team's 4.68 bullpen ERA is 11th in the AL, and some early season performances by Mychal Givens, Nestor Cortes, and Jimmy Yacabonis (promoted and then demoted almost immediately) have been particularly ugly. Alex Cobb's arrival, along with not playing as many extra-inning games, will help, but this is still a group that needs Zach Britton's help.

Dylan Bundy's excellence

Bundy has made three starts this year, and all three have been outstanding. In 20 innings, Bundy's pitching line looks tremendous: 11.25 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 1.35 ERA, 1.93 FIP. With an fWAR of 0.8, he only trails Max Scherzer (0.9).

Thanks to off-speed pitches that are moving more than ever, led by a slider that he's throwing more than a quarter of the time, Bundy's getting more swings and misses. If this is the new Bundy, fans should be thrilled.

What to do with Chris Davis?

It already feels like it's been a long season for Davis. He started the season as the leadoff batter, which did not work at all, and since then has been dropped down to fifth or sixth, while still not hitting (or even hitting the ball hard).

As noted above, Davis is far from the only hitter not contributing much, but he's also playing in the third season of a team-record $161 million contract. Whether he cares or not is irrelevant. If Davis isn't producing, he's going to be a problem.

So what next? I'd drop Davis to seventh or eighth in the order and keep running him out there. At some point, Davis is going to become an albatross, but the hope is that it's not here yet, when he's 32. The Orioles are not going to cut Davis. And he's not hurt, so the disabled list isn't an option (for now).

Throwing in the towel so early just seems like the wrong thing to do. Davis has to be on the roster, and he has to play. If you want to limit his work against left-handed starters, that would be one thing. (Since 2016, Davis has a 108 wRC+ vs. RHP and a 83 wRC+ vs. LHP.) But with a team that has Davis along with Trey Mancini, Pedro Alvarez, and Mark Trumbo returning soon, keeping a bunch of 1B/DH platoon types seems nearly impossible. And that's a shame for Alvarez, who is actually hitting right now.

Note: This post was written before the game on April 10.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not send Davis to the minors to see of he can get straightened out? I kinda think he'd pass through waivers. My other idea would be to feed him a steady diet of Adderall and let him hit until he's suspended. That way you get the best of Davis both ways - hitting while enhanced and off the roster when not enhanced.

Anonymous said...

I'd also drop Schoop lower in the lineup until he starts hitting. Right now he's looking bad. Last night's GIDP was a killer.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm going to ignore the first comment because I'm not sure if you're joking.

Drop Schoop in the lineup to... where? And who takes his place? If Schoop and Davis aren't hitting, the Orioles are in serious trouble. You can't just drop everyone who isn't hitting in the order. It hasn't been that long that Schoop has been struggling. It's tough to lump him in with Davis.

Aaron Smith said...

I 2nd Roger's comment on dropping Davis to the minors. Can it be done? Would he have to pass thru waivers? If another team decides they want Davis thru the waivers wire, would the O's be free of his contract?

Look, Davis is completely lost at the plate. Considering his clear drop off the previous two seasons, the fact he already has a sub .200 avg. season in the books, and his age, is there really any reason to assume Davis will be able to hit MLB pitching again at a decent clip? Perhaps maybe he can figure out how to hit minor league pitching fist...is it really that crazy of a concept?

Aaron Smith said...

I also disagree with dropping Schoop. I wouldn't worry about him much, he'll get it going. I like what Alverez is doing at the plate right now, he should automatically be in the 5 hole against righties.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

No, Davis cannot be optioned. He is a major league veteran with 5+ years of service time, so he can refuse any assignment to the minors. The Orioles cannot get rid of his contract that way.

I'm completely baffled as to why anyone thinks ANY team would assume Davis's contract if he were to pass through waivers. The whole point is that his contract already looks like an albatross.

Aaron Smith said...

Got it. Didn't realize the 5 year vet rule. So we just have to accept that we have a Ryan Howard like Zombie decaying before our very eyes just about every single day, somewhere in the O's lineup. This is going to be miserable.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes.

Justin Lego said...

What would it take for the O's to consider cutting Davis? I realize they owe him a lot of money and the contract is guaranteed, so Chris Davis will get paid. That said, if he's playing at a sub replacement level, wouldn't you better off cutting bait and putting just about anyone else in the lineup day in and day out? The contract certainly looks like a huge financial mistake, but why does that mean the O's have to double down and also make an everyday lineup mistake too?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

What would it take? Possibly for him to be in the last year or two of his deal. There's no way they're going to eat that much money, and I can't imagine any team would with there being four years on his deal after 2018.

At least for now, they have to hope he gets better. How many teams would just eat $100+ million?

Justin Lego said...

I get that it's a lot of money, but if he's playing at a sub replacement level, aren't you eating $100M+ over the next 5 years anyway? and by playing him frequently, making your team worse from a statistical point of view? At a fundamental accounting level, that money is already sunk, even if the total bill isn't due yet.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

That depends how you view Chris Davis. If you think there is absolutely, positively no chance that he recovers from this and turns into a semi-useful player again, then yes, maybe you'd get rid of him right now.

But still, in year 3 of a 7-year deal? I can't imagine any team cutting bait that quickly.

Lincoln Steele said...

I know not many expected the Orioles to perform like WS champions, but a year ago they had a pretty good record and started to tank in May (anyone remember that game against NYY where they were ahead 9-1 and then lost??). This team has its ups and downs so I think after 12 games it's too early to write the whole year off yet (or 4 years of CD). They will pick up the pace. If not, 3 months from now there will be some big trades going on. The rebuild can then start.

Lincoln Steele said...

Currently the Dodger and Yankees have losing records as well (and Nationals/Cubs are at .500). Anyone can have a bad first couple weeks.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Who's writing them off yet?

PTCello said...

I have a question about WAR. A tweet said that Bundy was at .9 already but the rest of the pitching staff was negative.
Cashner has looked pretty good: even in his first start, he looked better than his results.
Why is his WAR so bad so far?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

FanGraphs WAR is based on FIP. Many of the Orioles' pitchers don't have very good peripherals, and don't rate well in FIP.

Baseball-Reference WAR, meanwhile, is based on runs allowed, so O's pitchers fare better. BR WAR is more descriptive, while FIP is more predictive.

PTCello said...

So BR is how they are doing right now and Fangraphs is predicting how they will produce going forward?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Sort of. It depends how much credit/penalty you believe a pitcher should get for each run that is allowed.

Jon Shepherd said...

No...BR is looking at outcome more directly while FG is trying to isolate performance from the context moreso.

These are not predictive metrics.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Thanks for clarifying, Jon. Got mixed up in what I was trying to describe.