The All-Star break is here, which means it's time to reflect on the first half of the Orioles’ 2016 season. One metric I enjoy looking at is Win Probability Added (WPA). Summed over a game, it tells you how much a player contributed to the Orioles' chances of winning that day. For example, a +.300 WPA indicates a player increase the team's chances of winning by 30%.
What follows are the five best single-game performances by an O’s batter, according to WPA, through Saturday's game. These fellas didn't necessarily dominate the game they were in, but they got key hits when it counted, often turning a deficit or tie game into a win.
5. Adam Jones, May 10th vs. Minnesota Twins, +.385 WPA
Adam Jones had a slow start to the 2016 season, but on May 10th he contributed in a big way to a 5-3 win over the Twins. The game was close from the start, with the Orioles going down 0-1 in the very first inning but tying it up in the 4th. In the 5th, Jones hit a back-to-back solo dinger after one from Machado to make it 3-1 Orioles. But Trevor Plouffe tied it up in the next inning.
Both teams traded scoreless innings until the top of the 9th. Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen entered and got two quick outs. After Joey Rickard doubled, manager Paul Molitor walked Machado intentionally to set up a force at any base. Fortunately for the O’s, the opposite happened, as Jones slapped a 2-2 pitch into deep center field, bringing both runners home and setting up the win.
4. Chris Davis, April 30th vs. Chicago White Sox, +.396 WPA
The Orioles lost this game 8-7, but you can’t blame Crush. It didn’t start out auspiciously: he grounded out attempting a bunt in the bottom of the 1st and flew out in the 5th. He did contribute a single in the 3rd and an intentional walk in the 6th, but no runs scored on either play.
However in the bottom of the 8th, with the Orioles trailing 7-5 with two outs, he slammed a line drive to deep left center that scored both Machado and Jones, tying the game and giving the Orioles a big chance to win. Unfortunately Vance Worley surrendered the winning run the next inning, but Davis did his part.
3. Chris Davis, April 11th. vs. Boston Red Sox, +.487 WPA
Two weeks earlier Davis had an even better game. Playing in Fenway, they fell into an early hole when Yovani Gallardo surrendered three runs in the bottom of the 1st. But the Orioles surged ahead in the 3rd with the help of Davis’ two-run single.
Davis struck out in his next two PAs but saved the game late. In the top of the 9th when the game tied 6-6, John Farrell brought in ace reliever Craig Kimbrel. After Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Machado, and Rickard went groundout, walk, strikeout, walk, Davis stepped to the plate and sent the 0-1 pitch deep over the wall in center field, giving the Orioles a 9-6 lead. Zach Britton gave up a dinger in the bottom half but the Orioles won easily, 9-7.
2. Matt Wieters, June 5th vs. New York Yankees, +.565 WPA
Any time you can contribute more than 50% to your team’s chance to win a game, you’ve done something special. Matt Wieters did so here, and he did it in one plate appearance against one of the best relievers in the game. Playing in Baltimore in the bottom of the 8th, the Orioles trailed 1-0 against Dellin Betances. Mark Trumbo walked and Chris Davis singled.
Betances struck out Nolan Reimold, but since that was his 7th batter, Joe Girardi brought in closer Aroldis Chapman, who promptly struck out Jonathan Schoop. Starting catcher Francisco Pena singled though, bringing up Ryan Flaherty ... until Buck Showalter pinch-hit with Wieters, who hits much better against lefties.
Wieters didn’t disappoint, going down 0-2 but singling in Trumbo and Davis, with Pena also scoring on a wild throw by Jacob Ellsbury. The Orioles were now up 3-1 and Zach Britton made sure they stood there.
1. Matt Wieters, May 21st vs. Los Angeles Angels, +.755 WPA
Wieters was even better in destroying the hopes of the Angels a couple weeks earlier. Like they did against the Yankees, the Orioles trailed 1-0 late in this game. Wieters hadn't done much: he'd popped out, doubled, and lined out.
In the top of the 9th the Angels brought in Joe Smith to save the game. Machado and Jones made the first two outs quickly, but then Chris Davis singled and Mark Trumbo walked. Wieters stepped up, took the first pitch for a ball, and blasted the next one into the left-center seats for an Earl Weaver special. Up 3-1, the damage was done, and Britton closed out the win for his 12th save.
These masterful performances just hint at what the Orioles are capable of. With an airtight bullpen and infield defense keeping games close in the late innings, and home run power to score runs quickly, the team has plenty of chances to do damage late in games.