Ranking the Offense

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

In which we soothe our starting pitching woes by examining the bright (orange) spot that is the offense.

I had fun writing last week's article that put our starting pitchers in the context of the rest of the American League, so for this week's article I did the same with our offense. How do our hitters compare to those in the rest of the AL?

(Programming note: All data is from Fangraphs. Stats are through Saturday's games. I looked at only AL hitters who qualify for the batting title. This gave me a total of 100 players, making 50 the median rank.)

On the O's, we'll examine:

How good are these guys? Very good! Our offense is third-best in the league. We score 5.06 runs per game, behind only Oakland and New York. Of course, we have a little help. OPACY ranks as one of the top-ten hitters' parks in the game.

With that in mind, let's get into the rankings!

BABIP

Just like I did with our starting pitching, I discuss other offensive stats in terms of Batting Average on Balls in Play. Who's getting lucky and who's getting screwed?

  • Adam Jones: 5th in the American League @ .426. We're all happy that Jones is swinging the bat well, and the runs he creates definitely count in the standings. But it appears he's been coasting on something other than his talent. His career BABIP (excluding 2013) is .316, which is nice and high, but well below his current playing level. Look for him to regress back to it, bringing his batting average down significantly from where it stands now. (If you're curious, the four players with higher BABIPs than Jones are Lorenzo Cain, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Jed Lowrie.)
  • Chris Davis: 14th at .395. I thought this number was really high, but Davis has a career BABIP of .335. So while he's due for some regression, it's not as much as I'd originally thought, and for sure not as much as Jones. Play on, Thor!!
  • Nick Markakis: 36th @ .317. What you're seeing now is true Markakisian talent! His career BABIP is .322.
  • Nate McLouth: 41st @ .310. McLouth is in a little over his head (his career BABIP is .277).
  • Manny Machado: 44th @ .304. We don't know whether this is lucky or not. Machado hasn't had enough big-league time for his career BABIP to be meaningful. What we can observe is that this number is higher than league-average (which hovers around .290-.300).
  • Matt Wieters: 75th @ .250. Wieters has a career BABIP of .293, so he's due for some improvement.
  • JJ Hardy: 92nd @ .184. Ouch -- Hardy is getting royally screwed here. Only 8 other regulars in the AL have worse BABIPs. Unfortunately his ceiling is not very high; his career BABIP is .275.

wOBA

Weighted On-Base Average accounts for the differences between each way of getting on base (walk, double, home run, etc), whereas stats like AVG (and even OBP) do not. Accounting for these differences produces a more meaningful measurement of offensive contribution.

An average wOBA is about .320.

  • Chris Davis: 1st @ .531. We may be witnessing Davis's peak year. As we'll see later, Davis hitting everything in sight, and hitting it hard. When its not in sight, he'll take a walk. He's playing at the top of his game right now, and he's only 27.
  • Adam Jones: 20th @ .391. Jones and Davis are standing tall in the O's lineup.
  • Nick Markakis: 39th @ .340. Comfortably above average.
  • Matt Wieters: 42nd @ .333.
  • Nate McLouth: 45th @ .331.
  • Manny Machado: 55th @ .318. So good, and so young.
  • JJ Hardy: 74th @ .277.

5/7 of our regulars are above average, and Machado is only barely below it.

OBP

On-Base Percentage, AKA, "The Billy Beane Stat." How often does a player get on base?

  • Chris Davis: 2nd @ .471. Davis has a career OBP of .310.
  • Nate McLouth: 21st @ .386. No wonder that when he bats, it's often leadoff.
  • Adam Jones: 29th @ .370.
  • Nick Markakis: 33rd @ .364. Killer M's? Having Markakis and McLouth high in the lineup is paying dividends.
  • Matt Wieters: 41st @ .339. Matt isn't hitting everything in sight, but he is taking walks left and right (no pun intended, and hey, that rhymed!).
  • Manny Machado: 55th @ .307. Overall, you have to be proud of Machado. 20 years old, stellar defense at the hot corner, showing some power, and getting on base at a just-slightly-below-average clip.
  • JJ Hardy: 86th @ .246.

The average AL regular has an OBP of .324; again, 5/7 of our regulars are above average in this department.

BB%

If you're not hitting, you'd better be walking. How often are our guys getting on base via the free pass?

  • Nate McLouth: 5th @ 15.5%. Nate isn't hitting for much power (see SLG, next) but his high walk rate is keeping his OBP playable.
  • Chris Davis: 8th @ 14.3%. Davis is improving both his power and his patience. I don't know what switch he flipped, but I'm glad he did, and I hope the juice keeps running.
  • Matt Wieters: 18th @ 12.7%. Wieters helps maintain his value with a great walk rate.
  • 42nd: Nick Markakis @ 9.1%.
  • JJ Hardy: 59th @ 7.2%. As we saw above, Hardy is getting screwed on balls in play. But he's not helping himself by walking so infrequently.
  • Manny Machado: 71st @ 5.2%. Not good, but remember he's only 20.
  • Adam Jones: 89th @ 2.7%. Abysmal. As his BABIP stabilizes, his OBP will come down significantly unless he learns to take a walk. But walking has never been part of Jones's game - he has a career walk rate of just 4.9%. Why pitchers throw him anything in the strike zone is beyond me. But I am happy that they do!

SLG

Slugging % is a measure of how many bases each player accumulates per at-bat (1 for a single, 3 for a triple, etc). Because the denominator is at-bats (not plate appearances), walks, errors, hit-by-pitches, etc. are not counted.

  • Chris Davis: 1st @ .845. Unparalleled. Literally, in this case.
  • Adam Jones: 17th @ .535. Fantastic.
  • Matt Wieters: 41st @ .444. Great.
  • Manny Machado: 50th @ .423. (I'm out of one-word adjectives) Machado is right at the median for AL slugging percentage, which is impressive given his age. Can you believe his peak is still 7-8 years away? I can't. But it's awesome nonetheless.
  • Nick Markakis: 52nd @ .414. Hit the ball harder, Nick!
  • JJ Hardy: 57th @ .397.
  • Nate McLouth: 69th @ .354. Nate is slugging the least, but at least he avoids the bottom quartile of the league.

The bottom line: this offense is scary, and not in the same way that our starting pitching is. Jones and Davis are punching above their weight, but Hardy and Wieters will even out, and we'll see what Machado's true talent level is.

It's enough to make me wonder if we should trade some of it for some decent starting pitching. We clearly need more of the latter than the former.

What do you think? Who would you trade in order to get some decent starting pitching on the club?

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