All you have to do is be above average
The Orioles have been steamrolling the major leagues in June. A 19-8 mark so far is absolutely illustrious as they have opened up a 5.5 game lead in the AL East. Yet, the starting pitching is still suffering to get the job done.
The rotation in June, not including the stats from Wednesday’s game, has posted a 5.49 ERA good for 24th in the major leagues. Sandwiched right in between the Phillies and the Angels. Not very good.
One of the keys to the success of the 96 win 2014 AL East Champion Orioles (I never get tired of saying that) was that by the end of the season they had five starters in a regular rotation who had an ERA+ above 100. ERA+ is a way to measure how below or above league average a pitcher’s ERA is in a given year.
An ERA+ of exactly 100 is exactly league average. A point above is one percentage point better than league average and the reverse is true for a point below 100. The five pitchers that year were Miguel Gonzalez (125), Chris Tillman (122), Wei-Yin Chen (111), Kevin Gausman (110), and Bud Norris (108). Good enough to get the job done, not good enough to win a Cy Young.
This year the Orioles need that now more than ever. With an offense that just cannot quit hitting the ball incredibly hard all over the field, keeping the game in hand is all the rotation needs to do. Go 5 to 6 innings and give up four runs or less. The lock down bullpen will keep the game close and the offense given enough chances will keep scoring runs.
This year only Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman have been above average with ERA+’s of 126 and 113 respectively. Tyler Wilson is sitting right on the line at 99. Wright, Jimenez, and Gallardo have all combined to be absolutely terrible. Although Jimenez and Gallardo have been good enough in their past couple of starts.
Adding a great starter to this rotation sounds nice in theory, but may not be necessary for the final run. All they need is above average, all they need is good enough.
The offense, the inverse of the starting pitching
Unlike the starting pitching, the offense cannot help but have above average players. The Orioles offense currently (and this is before yesterdays 12 run performance) has nine hitters with OPS+’s above 100.
Much like ERA+, OPS+ has set the league average performance at 100 and a point above means the hitter has an OPS one percentage point above league average and the reverse is true for a point below 100.
Right now, Manny Machado (158), Hyun Soo Kim (136), Chris Davis (128), Mark Trumbo (128), Jonathan Schoop (117), Matt Wieters (107), Adam Jones (104), Pedro Alvarez (101), and Nolan Reimold (101) are all above average hitters.
Furthermore, many of those guys play everyday and the ones that do not play everyday manage to find their way into a lineup multiple times a week. The only guys with a significant number of plate appearances with an OPS+ below 100 are Joey Rickard (86), Ryan Flaherty (77), and J.J. Hardy (75).
Rickard has finally settled down into a role and has come on some in June, Flaherty only receives significant playing time when someone is injured, and J.J. Hardy is a defensive wizard. These are not huge holes in the Orioles lineup. The offense is a freight train.
How’d you do this month?
One thing I noticed about the Orioles teams in 2012 and 2014 (sorry 2013 and 2015, you guys were fun, but not fun enough) is that they took off in the second half. In August and September of 2012 the Orioles went 37-18 good for a .673 winning percentage. That was after a middling May, June, and July only propped up by a decent 14-9 April.
During the 2014 season it started off in June somewhat going 16-12, but the team team really took off come July. In July, August, and September of 2014 the Orioles went 53-27 good for a .663 winning percentage during the last three months of the season which they really needed considering they came out of June only four games above .500.
This year however, as you may have noticed, the Orioles have started out ripping and roaring. A 14-9 April (.609 winning percentage) and a to date 19-8 June (a monstrous .704 winning percentage) sandwiched between a respectable 14-13 (.519 winning percentage) May.
That’s what gets you to an early 5.5 game division lead and 17 games above .500. Maybe the roles this year will be reversed, the Orioles riding out to a big lead and coasting in the latter months. Or, maybe they keep the rolling thunder strategy going. I’ll take the rolling thunder.