The 2016 version of the Baltimore Orioles has the most offensive firepower the franchise has seen since the tail end of the steroid era in the late-00s.
As a unit, they are averaging 4.69 runs per game through 55 games, which means they are on pace for about 760 runs over a 162-game season. The last time the O's topped that was in 2008 when a lineup led by Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott crossed the plate 782 times.
"Because he gets on base"
A big reason for the strength of the Birds bats through the first third of the season has been their ability to get on base. Baltimore currently sits 10th in MLB in on-base percentage (.325) and 15th in walks (177).
Neither one of those statistics is particularly impressive, but it is important for the O's as they have been a team who struggles to get men on in the past. Look at the last four seasons:
2015 - .307 OBP (24th in MLB), 418 walks (24th)
2014 - .311 OBP (17th), 401 walks (26th)
2013 - .313 OBP (19th), 416 walks (28th)
2012 - .311 OBP (23rd), 480 walks (16th)
Those seasons include two playoff teams (2012, 2014) and two seasons in which they went .500 or better but did not make the playoffs (2013, 2015).
On top of that, the Orioles have continued to do what they do best: hit DONGS! They have 80 round-trippers so far; an average of 1.45 per game. That would work out to about 236 over a full season. Only one Charm City club has hit more home runs than that and it was when the 1996 O's went deep 257 times in 163 games.
Home runs are the Orioles bread and butter. There is nothing wrong with that and it tends to work out well for them. But detractors will tell you that the well can run dry at times and, in those moments, you need to rely on "small ball". The Orioles don't do small ball...like ever (except for Paul Janish's bunt single followed by Adam Jones sac bunt in the 3rd inning as I write this on Monday evening. Of course!).
As MASN's Jim Palmer will tell you, the O's don't run, despite opposing pitchers urgency to throw over to first base every so often. So far, the Birds are 9-for-17 on stolen base attempts. That is both the fewest attempted stolen bases and the fewest successfully stolen bases in MLB.
The squad has only one sacrifice bunt over the opening two months of the season. ONE! (The Jones' bunt on Monday doubled the team's number of sacs to two.)
In addition, the team doesn't really hit triples. Not sure if that can really be considered "small ball" or just bad luck, but it's interesting. They only have three triples so far; the fewest in the majors.
These spells of struggling to score runs have popped up occasionally. They have been shutout three times and have scored just one run five more times. But those instances probably balance out with games like June 1 when they scored 13 times without a single home run in a win over the Red Sox.
Manny Machado is having a great season as he continues his assent to stardom. His .308 batting average, .379 on-base percentage and .593 slugging percentage all lead the qualified Oriole hitters. Mark Trumbo is having a renaissance at age 30, leading the team in home runs (18) and tied with Machado in slugging percentage. But is Baltimore relying too much on two players to support their offense?
Matt Wieters has started to come on lately. If he could add a little more power to his .287 batting average and .329 OBP then they may really having something going with that trio.
But the continued struggles of Adam Jones and Chris Davis are concerning. Jones has had one good week in 2016. His .236 batting average would be, by far, the worst mark of his career in a full season. Davis is getting on base at a pretty good clip (.338) but the .215 batting average is worrisome and he is getting out-slugged by Jonathan Schoop. Not that Schoop is a slouch by any means, but he is a young second baseman making near the league minimum while Davis is a veteran on a BIG contract.
We cannot forget that Machado is still just 23 years old. He is, and will continue to be, a franchise-type player, but there are still aspects of the game he is figuring out, especially when you consider he is currently at shortstop again after several years at third base. And Trumbo hasn't hit this well in a long time. It would be wishful think to count on him for this type of production into the dog days of summer.
The season ahead
If the O's are going to continue to be the most productive offense Baltimore has seen since the end of the "steroid era" they can keep most aspects of their current formula.
Sacrifice bunts and stolen bases are overrated. Continuing the improvements in their walk rate and hitting bunches of DONGS will get them in the win column more often than not.
Manager Buck Showalter can probably even continue mixing and matching the corner outfield positions like he has been doing lately. But it is a lot to ask of Machado and especially Trumbo to continue on their current trajectory. At some point, Davis and Jones have to get closer to their normal selves. Not to mention, the return on J.J. Hardy can only help the lineup by removing Janish or Ryan Flaherty every day.
*all stats taken prior to the beginning of play on Monday, June 6