18 August 2014

Orioles' Offense Remains Strong Despite Davis, 2B Struggles

Watching the Orioles' offense at work can be maddening. They are tied for 28th in the majors in walk percentage. They are tied for third in the highest percentage of swings of pitches outside the strikezone. And they are a middle-of-the-pack on-base percentage group (.312, t-17th). And yet, the Orioles are tied for seventh in runs scored per game (4.29) and are performing better than expected considering the struggling Chris Davis and the offensive black hole that is their second base platoon of Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty. And don't forget to throw in Matt Wieters's season-ending Tommy John surgery, Manny Machado's knee injuries, and J.J. Hardy's power issues.

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.


Jim D. said...

What is the quantitative definition of "offensive black hole"? Schoop and Flaherty have been about replacement level offensively.

Jon Shepherd said...

Having the second to worst wRC+ is a start. I imagine the term is rather comparative.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

MLB average 2B: .300 wOBA
Schoop: .274 wOBA
Flaherty: .253 wOBA

Anonymous said...

Given the Orioles' propensity to chase pitches combined with their league-leading homerun power, I am amazed that opposing pitchers throw in the strikezone around a league-average rate against them. I would expect the Os to have one of the lowest zone rates in the majors. Is this something that opposing pitchers/coaches should be exploiting more? Is there any evidence that the Orioles' zone% is changing over the course of the season, and is there data to suggest any relationship between zone% and offensive production?

Phil said...

I still think the Schoop bashing is a bit overstated here. Considering those with minimum 300 PA, yes he is 22nd in the MLB in wOBA among 2B and his BB% is the lowest and K% third-highest. Though with a BABIP of .257, it seems plausible to assume as ZiPS does that he is likely to see a small improvement down the stretch. I would also assume that giving him the playing time will help him to continue to adjust to major league pitching. Simply replacing him this season could be detrimental to his development.

On the overall fWAR, he is 16th, which is largely thanks to being 4th in both DRS (10) and UZR (6.6) among qualified players, and those above him have considerably more innings played.

The point being, continuing to devalue his contribution makes him seem more of an all-around liability than he really is.

(all stats from FanGraphs)

Huntermh88 said...

I agree Phil, and not to mention Schoop has been on an offensive tear as of late, he's hit 4 homers in his last 10 games and is hitting .313 in those 10 games too. He's also slugging .500 in the second half. Maybe he's finally going to show his potential now. I wouldn't be surprised if Schoop finishes with around 15-18 homers, and I'd gladly take that from a rookie second baseman along with his good defense.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

This post was about the O's offense, not defense.

Phil said...

Yes... I admit it was a bit of a tangent, mainly to defend Schoop from the general consensus among the posts on here that we need an upgrade. My point was to counter that with an assessment that shows overall value still above replacement level at minimal cost and as a rookie, significant upside.

I was being more general related to the fact that our "2B woes" are not really as bad as it sometimes seems to be made to sound.

I am not researching it, but I would assume most teams have a offense/defense tradeoff on at least one position player and most don't come with the potential Schoop brings as he continues to become more comfortable. He is currently on a pretty good streak of late, though obviously the sample size is meaningless overall.

Jon Shepherd said...

One thing to keep in mind is when one considers Schoop to be worth about a win or a shade less so far this year, it is the threshold between second tier and third tier starters. The backend of a first tier starter is about two wins more than where Schoop is at.

I think regardless of how one chooses to look at it, Schoop has been, at best, a near replacement second baseman. His defense appears sufficient while his bat has greatly struggled.

That is not a useful player. I want to say though that I think he will be a useful player. He will not be an all star, but he will be someone that will make you content at second or third.

Floozal said...

I must say I disagree with the notion Schoop has not been a decent player. First, he's 14th among 2B in MLB in WAR with a 1.14 on the year. He is also 3rd in HR's and 20th in RBI, this all coming with considerably less gametime as everyone ahead of him. Being a rookie, I feel he has performed as expected and very well can improve for several years seeing as how is he only 22 years old. He deserves to be the everyday 2B and has earned the right to stay there at least to begin next season as well. As these other crazy overused stats are given way too much importance. Schoop has been big at the plate late in games and has been a key contributor in several of our late game wins. I don't understand how anyone could expect much more out of him than what we have gotten. Just my opinion.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm not sure how this post turned into some huge criticism of Jonathan Schoop. Overall, he's been OK. Certainly his defense has been pretty good. But, regardless, his offensive numbers (.220/.256/.361) are abysmal. That doesn't mean he can't improve or isn't improving, or that he hasn't come up with some huge hits.

The Orioles have received below average offensive production from their second basemen. This isn't debatable.

Musicturtle said...

It really is impressive how different players have stepped up at different times during the season. Sign of good team. You are going to have holes in your lineup from time to time, but its how all the pieces fit together and pick each other up that makes a team.

Yes I know that I didn't quote any fan graph stats or cybermetrics to make my point, but I have watched enough baseball to know there's more than statistics to the game.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Has anyone here ever said that the only thing to baseball is statistics? I'm not sure who you are arguing against.

OrioleTitan said...

I don't know what games you're watching but the Orioles are having fun.Thank goodness we have the Davis's,Flahertys and Loughs,to take up the defense.The job they do is outstanding.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Again, this post was just covering the Orioles' offense. Obviously their defense has been excellent. I'm not sure what "having fun" has to do with anything. Winning is fun.