Are the Orioles the slowest team in the league?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a team slower than the Orioles?

The Orioles of recent years have been known more for their power than their speed. In 2012, the first year of the turnaround, the O's ranked last in stolen bases. Last season, thanks to a full season of Nate McLouth, the O's were 16th in the MLB. McLouth is gone this year, and as a result the Orioles are back to 29th in the majors at 15 stolen bases, one more than the Miami Marlins. Of course, stolen bases aren't the only indicators of speed. I will try to assess the Orioles' speed through various measures.

Stolen bases alone do not capture the speed of the team. A superior measure is stolen base attempts percentage, stolen base attempts per stolen base opportunity. The O's are again second last in the league, ahead of only the Marlins. The Orioles attempt to steal 2.97% of the time when they have the opportunity. The league average is 5.69% and the Los Angeles Dodgers, thanks to Dee Gordon, lead the league by a mile at 10.05%.

By Ultimate Base Running (UBR), the Orioles have actually been a slightly above-average base running team. UBR measures base running events other than stolen bases and caught stealing, such as scoring from second on a single. The O's have not achieved this by being aggressive on the bases. On the contrary, the O's have taken the extra base on a hit (more than one base on a single or two bases on a double) only 35% of the time, far below the league average of 41%. The O's are fourth last in the league in this department. Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis have taken the extra base only 23% of the time. Leading the O's is Adam Jones at 68%. The cautiousness of the O's is rewarded by the number of outs they have made on the bases. They have only made 9 outs on the bases (league average is 15). The only team that has made fewer outs on the bases than the O's is the San Francisco Giants at 6. The cautious approach allowed the O's to be average on the base paths despite its lack of speed.

If only we had a stat that captures all the aspects of baseball that involve speed. We do? Bill James developed a statistic called speed score that incorporates stolen base percentage, frequency of stolen base attempts, percentage of triples, and runs scored percentage. By speed score, the O's are third last in the league at 3.7 (league average of 4.5), ahead of only division rivals Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox (both at 3.4).

The Orioles might not be the slowest team in the league, but it's close. At positions where speed is expected, namely 2B, SS and CF, the O's have Ryan Flaherty, Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, who have combined for a grand total of 0 stolen base attempt, and Adam Jones. The most threatening base runner the O's have is Lough, but he can't get on base often enough to make himself a threat. We should not expect this team to run their opponents out of the game, but at least we can count on this team not to make outs on the bases.

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