29 August 2017

O's Offensive Resurgence Has Been A Group Effort

One strange thing about the season's first half for the Orioles is how mediocre the offense was. You expected the starting pitching to not be good, but the offense was far from great. At the all-star break, the Orioles ranked just 22nd in the major leagues in runs scored and were generally unimpressive offensively.

In the first half, really only Trey Mancini (135 wRC+) and Jonathan Schoop (131 wRC+) were overly productive. Caleb Joseph's 95 wRC+ stood out because it was a significant jump for him, but other than Mancini and Schoop, the only two regulars to post a wRC+ over 100 were Chris Davis (105) and Seth Smith (102). The rest ranged from average to below average (Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Welington Castillo) to not very good or bad (Joey Rickard, Hyun Soo Kim, J.J. Hardy).

To say that things have clicked in the second half, though, would be an understatement. While the starting pitching has also been better -- 5.75 ERA/5.31 FIP first half vs.  5.18 ERA/5.18 FIP -- the offense has been right near the top among all MLB teams. Since the break, the Orioles are second in runs scored (248), first in wRC+ (120), first in home runs (72), fourth in on-base percentage (.341), and first in slugging percentage (.493).

So what's changed? A .325 BABIP has helped (compared to .301 in the first half). Castillo (163 wRC+), Smith (148), Machado (144), Gentry (135), Schoop (133), Jones (131), and Mancini (116) have all been hitting extremely well. Even Davis, who has a wRC+ of just 102 on the season and has struggled mightily at times, is almost back over the 100 wRC+ mark in the second half. That only leaves Rickard (64 wRC+), who's in Triple-A Norfolk until rosters expand, and Trumbo (61 wRC+) as the only regulars who haven't hit well.

Oh, right. There's also been the small addition of Tim Beckham to help solidify the top of the O's lineup. Since joining the Orioles a month ago, Beckham has a wRC+ of 185 and has been worth nearly two wins above replacement. In the last 30 days, Beckham's 1.7 fWAR is tied with Machado for sixth-best in the majors. His wRC+ is seventh-best. No one could have predicted Beckham would play like this, and his performance has helped vault the Orioles back into serious playoff contenders.

To recap, in the first half, the O's had just four regulars with a wRC+ over 100. In the second half, they have eight. As with many things, the true talent of the O's offense is probably somewhere between both halves.

The bad news is that the offense might have to keep being this good or close if the O's are going to take the second wild card spot, thanks to inconsistent starting pitching. The good news, though, is that Beckham seems to be a real find for an inexpensive price, Machado is back to being Machado, Schoop seems to have taken a leap forward, and Mancini has hit better than many of his biggest supporters could have predicted. The future of the Orioles is uncertain, but at least there are a couple more things to get excited about.

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