06 December 2016

Examining the Orioles' Offensive Woes in 2016's Second Half

If you watched Orioles baseball in the first half of 2016, you were likely screaming at the TV in joy. Despite its pitching woes, the team's offense stomped opponents into the ground with a 112 wRC+, second-highest in baseball. The sky seemed the limit as the team finished the first half at 51-36, eight games over .500.

If you watched Orioles baseball in the second half of 2016, you were likely screaming at the TV in frustration. The team's vaunted offense curled up in a ball and died, managing a paltry 88 wRC+, 5th-worst in baseball. The team still finished seven games over .500, but that felt like a failure given the optimism of the first half.

Second-half you had reason to be upset. Looking at regular players only, Baltimore's wRC+ dropped over 20 percentage points between halves, the third-largest drop in the sport:

Out of 574 MLB regulars, five Orioles ranked in the 25% largest offensive drops. That's a distinction you don't want to achieve. The following table shows these players, their second half offensive change, and where that change ranks out of 574 regulars:

Name wRC+ Change, 1st Half to 2nd Half MLB Rank (Percentile)
Jonathan Schoop -58 4
Mark Trumbo -46 10
Manny Machado -39 16
Hyun-Soo Kim -37 17
Chris Davis -28 24
Adam Jones -20 33
Matt Wieters -10 44
J.J. Hardy +11 66
Pedro Alvarez +24 79

Only two Orioles regulars improved their batting line: the somewhat unlikely duo of J.J. Hardy and Pedro Alvarez. The rest turned in some real stinkers at the plate.

Jonathan Schoop led the team's decline, and nearly led all of MLB, with a 58 point wRC+ drop, worse than 96% of major leaguers. His offense cratered from a sparkling 124 wRC+ in the first half to an abysmal 66 after the All Star Break.

Some of us saw this coming. In June, Elie Waitzer predicted Schoop's .348 BABIP would fall and it did, all the way down to a measly .255. His core plate discipline skills, which aren't good to begin with, also deteriorated. His walk rate dropped 1.1 percentage points while his strikeout rate rose by 2.1 points. Finally, his power dimmed. His ISO declined from a robust .206 to a more-average .166. 

Mark Trumbo followed behind Schoop with a 46-point drop in wRC+, worse than 90% of regular major leaguers. His BABIP dropped even more sharply, from a high-but-reasonable .327 to an unplayable .216. His ISO dropped about 40 points from an immortal .294 to a very-dangerous .256. But unlike Schoop, Trumbo's plate discipline got better. His walk rate rose 1.7 points while his strikeout rate dropped 2.1 points. He may simply have been unlucky.

Manny Machado's slump ranks next-highest, but Matt Kremnitzer covered his swoon already, so I'll turn to Hyun-Soo Kim. Kim's splits aren't very reliable; despite hitting well, he played only 95 games. He also suffered a hamstring injury right before the first half ended.

But still, his wRC+ dropped 37 points in the second half, worse than 83% of his peers. Although his walk rate remained at 10.4%, his strikeout rate rose more than 4 points to 16.8%. Continuing on a theme, his BABIP dropped from an absurd .370 to a more reasonable .320. That'll stunt anyone's offense.

Of course, not all wRC+ drops are created equal. The following chart shows how Machado, Trumbo, and Kim fell from much loftier heights than Schoop:

So fret not, Orioles fans. The offensive struggles you felt in the second half were real. You aren't going crazy; at least, not in this sense. Here's hoping the team can reach and sustain a higher offensive output in 2017.


Anonymous said...

Can offensive woes be attributed to yearly wasting a roster spot on a rule 5 guy? Dumpster Dan's fascination/fetish with this makes me sick to my stomach, what a waste!

Jon Shepherd said...