01 September 2017

How The Orioles Have Performed Against Top Pitching

The Orioles, supported by MLBs best offense in the second half, have pulled off a seven game winning streak (and counting as of Wednesday) while placing themselves in the midst of the playoff race. Don’t look now, but the Os are one game behind the Twins for the second wild card spot and just two and half behind the suddenly slumping Yankees. Playoffs may indeed be in the future for the Orioles.

But this begs the question of how the Orioles hitters might perform in the playoffs. Playoff teams are typically better than the average team, and that means on average that their pitchers are of better quality than usual. How have the Orioles performed against top pitchers? To test this, using Statcast data, I looked at how Orioles batters performed against pitchers in the top third, middle third and bottom third of wOBA. Here’s how they did against pitchers in the bottom third.

On average, the Orioles have over-performed against pitchers in the bottom third of MLB, but Statcast thinks they’ve been lucky. Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop all have above average performance against these pitchers, but Tim Beckham has an amazing .624 wOBA against them. As an Oriole, he has a .550/.571/.900 line against these pitchers in 21 PAs. In addition, Chris Davis is showing some decent plate discipline against bad pitchers with a 16.5% walk rate and a 32% strikeout rate. That’s a potential red flag because it suggests that Davis is able to see pitches when bad pitchers are throwing them. If so, this may be a skill problem and not an overall sight problem. Meanwhile Jonathan Schoop has an 8.3% walk rate and a 21.8% strikeout rate, suggesting that it’s easier to get walks against bad pitchers than good ones.

The Orioles have done about average against pitchers in the middle third of MLB. A number of players are above average against these pitchers (Jones, Schoop, Machado and Smith) but the one who has really gone bananas is Tom Beckham. His .484/.515/.806 line in 33 PAs is making him a terror to all mediocre pitchers. Chris Davis, with a 13.5% walk rate and a 38% strikeout rate, doesn’t have terrible numbers against average pitchers, but it’s clear to see how his performance has gotten worse. His .284 wOBA is below average against these pitchers, and suggests his success has largely been due to his performance against bad pitching. Schoop has a 4.4% walk rate and a 23.2% strikeout rate, showing that he still has plate discipline issues against decent pitchers.

The Orioles have done slightly above average against top pitchers with Schoop, Castillo, Mancini and Gentry leading the charge. Adam Jones has a 1.85% walk rate, a 24% strikeout rate and just a .182 wOBA against the best pitchers. This suggests that we should perhaps expect another quiet postseason to go along with his postseason career line of .155/.206/.207. Simply put, he doesn’t seem to be good enough to go head-to-head with MLBs top pitchers. Chris Davis has a slightly below average wOBA of .256 against top pitchers, but an 8.89% walk rate and a 45.6% strikeout rate suggest that he’s largely been solved by top pitchers. He’s probably not the guy you want to use against an ace.

Jonathan Schoop has gone back to his free-swinging ways against top pitchers, and it seems to be working for him. He may have only a 4.25% walk rate to go with a 20% strikeout rate, but he has a .361 wOBA against the best pitchers. It seems he’s a threat against anyone if he just puts the ball into play.

Manny Machado has struggled with his plate discipline against the best pitchers with a 5.1% walk rate to go with a 25.4% strikeout rate. His actual wOBA is considerably below average against the best pitchers, but Statcast thinks his performance has been above average. It seems clear that Manny need to work on his plate discipline though if he’s going to do well against the best pitching. Meanwhile, Mark Trumbo is showing an ability to perform at the same level offensively regardless of the pitcher. This might make him more valuable than expected to a playoff team, and therefore suggest his value is higher than one might think.

Tim Beckham is taking apart bad and decent pitching, but good pitchers aren’t having any trouble with him. His .181/.250/.273 line against top pitchers in 12 chances is slightly worse than his line against other pitchers. Part of his problem may be a low .222 BABIP.

It’s worth noting that this data is descriptive as opposed to predictive. It could be that knowing the results of a players previous 100 plate appearances against good pitching gives us no insights about his next 100 plate appearances. But that stated, some of these results are what one would expect to see.

This data suggests that the Orioles are slightly above average against top pitching. But it also suggests that the Orioles have largely taken advantage of bad pitching this season and have a number of batters that can hurt bad pitchers. If so, the Orioles may be in for some bad news this October if they make it to the playoffs. A merely above-average offense will struggle to make up for the Orioles weak pitching staff. If the Orioles can’t find a way to pound good pitching, any playoff appearance is likely to be short.

1 comment:

Ace said...

Very nice perspective shown here. Proof that the postseason is all about pitching; the Orioles have an above average lineup against top pitching but don't have the starting pitching to shut down playoff caliber lineups. A net negative. If they had one more quality pitcher to combine with Gausman and Bundy, they might have a shot at contending. Clearly that isn't the case this year and won't be the case next year, unless something completely unexpected happens.