The Fall of the Orioles

You guys are never going to believe this, but the Baltimore Orioles are no longer in position to win one of the American League wildcards. It’s true – the powerhouse of the AL East has fallen. Now, for someone who looks at things like “runs scored” and “runs scored against”, you may have been able to see this coming. You see, the Orioles have scored 60 runs less than they have allowed this year. Kansas City, the worst team in the AL, is at -57. The fact that the Orioles are 55-50 with a negative 60 run differential is impressive in itself. That run differential projects a record of 46-59, which seems much more reasonable when you actually look at the players Baltimore is playing on a regular basis. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves – the O’s are still only 1.5 games back of the Angels for the 2nd wildcard spot. They could still make it!

Now, so far this year as a team Orioles hitters have produced 6.1 fWAR.The Orioles only have 2 regulars in their lineup that project to be above average major leaguers this year (as judged by fWAR >2) – Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Jones has cooled a bit from his hot start, but is still on pace to put up over 5 wins this year. Wieters’ bat has been slightly below average, but his defense is good enough that he’ll likely be worth over 3 wins. JJ Hardy is the only other Oriole who is league average. So, that’s 3 of 9 in the starting lineup that are league average or above. To compare, the Cincinnati Reds have 8 regulars that are average or better. The Cincinnati Reds have only won 9 more games than the Orioles.

Here are the fWAR numbers by position for the Orioles this year:

C: 1.6

1B: 0.1

2B: -0.9

SS: 1.4

3B: 0.2

LF: -0.5

CF: 3.4

RF: 0.0

DH: 0.7

That’s not great. Some might even say not good. I would say poor.

Orioles pitching on the other hand – sorry, my mistake – it’s actually still on the same hand – as their starters have been pretty poor as well. Jason Hammel was their best pitcher this year (2.8 fWAR), but then he got hurt. The staff ace is now Wei-Yin Chen (no relation to Bruce) , who has pitched better than anticipated, (and some might say better than Yu Darvish*). The rest of the rotation has been bad – to the point that acquiring Joe Blanton at the deadline would have been an upgrade.

*I apologize for the racism.

The bullpen has been half-decent with a number of relievers having nice seasons – including such household names as Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Jim Johnson and Troy Patton.

Even though I knew it was coming, I was still sort of sad to see the Orioles fall out of a wild card spot, which they have held for a good portion of the season. But then I think how awful it would be if they somehow made it all the way to the World Series, and we had to watch Brian Matusz get pummeled for 9 runs in 1-2/3 innings in game 3. We’re all better off. The Orioles have a good chance of finishing the season under .500; just like they have every year since 1997. It’s where they belong.

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