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Yearly Wrap: The best Oriole performances of the year

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Welcome to a special year-end edition of the Weekly Wrap, where we cover the best performances of the year.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Results and Standings

The Orioles went 81-81 this year against, well, against a lot of teams. They scored 713 runs and allowed 693. Compare that to 2014's Orioles, which scored 705 runs but allowed just 593. They finish third in the AL East standings at 12 games back and five games out of a Wild Card spot.

Best Hitter / Worst Hitter

Do I even need to tell you? This year's best hitter was Chris Davis, who slammed 47 home runs and batted .262/.361/.562 for a 147 wRC+. Not far behind him though was youngster Manny Machado, who slashed .286/.359/.502 with 35 home runs and a 134 wRC+. These two and Adam Jones, were the only Orioles to qualify for the batting title. This makes Jones the season's worst qualified hitter, although at .269/.308/.474 with 27 home runs (109 wRC+) he wasn't a slouch at the plate. If we gather more Orioles by expanding the plate appearance minimum to 300, we (obviously) end up with J.J. Hardy as the team's worst hitter. His batting line of .219/.253/.311 with eight home runs was good for a 49 wRC+.

Best Pitcher / Worst Pitcher

To simplify things, I'm going to use xFIP as my tool. Among the starters, Kevin Gausman had the team's best xFIP at 3.74. A lot of his 4.22 ERA can be attributed to bad luck on more fly balls than expected leaving the yard. xFIP doesn't penalize him for this though and instead sees the good 21.9% strikeout rate and 6.2% walk rate.

Conversely, this year's worst starter would be Mike Wright, who owned a poor 12.8% strikeout rate and a slightly bad 8.8% walk rate. These contributed to his xFIP of 5.70, which ... well, that's not good.

In the bullpen, among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, who but Zach Britton earns the crown with a 1.75 xFIP. His devastating sinker contributed to a 31.8% strikeout rate while he walked just 5.5% of batters faced. Both rates were markedly improved since last year.

On the flip side, the formerly mustachioed T.J. McFarland owned the 'pen's worst xFIP this year at 4.06. Now, his value doesn't really lie in strikeouts and walks as he makes his living as a groundball pitcher. If you look at SIERA, which factors in batted-ball types, his projected ERA would look much better at 3.77.

Have a Game, Why Don't Ya! (Nine-Inning Edition)

Among all regulation nine-inning games the Orioles played this year, Chris Davis had the best single-game performance of any Oriole. It came on August 15th against the Oakland Athletics. Against starter Chris Bassitt in the bottom of the first, Davis struck out swinging (as he so often does). But then in the bottom of the fourth, he launched a home run to deep right field that also scored Gerardo Parra. The shot turned a 3-0 lead for the A's into just a 3-2 deficit.

After Parra tied it with a solo shot in the 6th, Davis tried to follow suit but ended up grounding out to end the inning. But all was forgiven when he came to bat in the bottom of the 9th, with the game still tied and facing beguiling switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. On a 2-2 count, Davis was badly fooled by a slider well off the plate. But he got enough on his swing to launch the ball over the right-center wall for a game-winning, walk-off home run.

As a reminder, here is where the ball was (from the catcher's perspective) when Davis connected with it:

davis-venditte

Yowza. He contributed 60.4% to the Orioles' chances of winning that game, the most any player did all year in a nine-inning contest.

Have a Game, Why Don't Ya! (Extra-Innings Edition)

The leverage is higher in extra-inning games, so players have more chances to add win probability than in nine-inning games. That's why these games need to be analyzed separately. Even so, only one player topped Davis' performance, and that was Matt Wieters on July 27th against Atlanta.

The game didn't start that well for him. In the bottom of the second, facing lefty Alex Wood, Wieters struck out swinging. In the bottom of the fourth, with the score still tied 0-0, he grounded out. He managed a base hit in the bottom of the 7th, a single on a 2-0 pitch. The next time he came to bat, the Orioles were down 1-0 after Zach Britton blew the save on an Adonis Garcia solo shot in the 9th. But the game wasn't over.

With the Braves' own closer and former Oriole Jim Johnson on the mound, Wieters rapped out a single on an 0-2 pitch to move Adam Jones from first base to third base. That one hit increased the team's chances of winning by 33%. Jones scored on a J.J. Hardy sacrifice fly to tie the game, which eventually went into extra innings.

The next time Wieters came up to bat, it was the bottom of the 11th inning and the score was still tied 1-1. Lefty Luis Avilan had come in to pitch. Wieters looked at ball one, then launched the next pitch over the right-center wall for a walk-off home run. Pandemonium. In total he increased the team's chances of winning by another 36%, all the way up to 100%.

Clutchiest Relief Performance (Nine-Inning Edition)

Because he's often used in the highest-leverage spots (late in the game with the score close) it's no surprise that Zach Britton tops this list. But one performance stands out. On June 9th against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles were ahead 1-0 heading into the 8th inning. But Chaz Roe hit Dustin Pedroia to start the frame, and then Brock Holt walked to push a runner into scoring position. After Rusney Castillo failed to push the runners up (he bunted back to the catcher and Pedroia was thrown out at third), Buck brought Zach Britton in to face David Ortiz.

Naturally, Ortiz stuck out looking. And the next batter, Mike Napoli, struck out swinging. Britton stayed on in the 9th to close out the game and get the save, and the Orioles won 1-0. He added 37.4% to the team's chance to win.

Clutchiest Relief Performance (Extra-Innings Edition)

But Britton can't lay claim to the most WPA for an Orioles reliever this season. That honor rests upon Oliver Drake, who pitched three innings in a 1-0 loss to Miami on May 23rd. Drake started the bottom of the 9th with the score tied 0-0 and retired all three batters. In the bottom of the 10th, two Marlins runners reached base but Drake got out of the inning. In the 11th, he set down Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, and Martin Prado in order. The game would go on into the 13th, when T.J. McFarland lost the handle and gave up the game-winning run on a Martin Prado single. Still, don't blame Drake, who added 38.5% to the team's winning chances.