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Some Orioles are walking more and striking out less this season

The sample sizes are still small in early May, but for things like walk and strikeout rates, it’s not that early. Orioles hitters like Manny Machado are showing good signs.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The beginning of the baseball season is an exciting time. Baseball is back after all. However, the numbers always look a little funny to start the season. Batters hitting .400, relievers with ERAs in the 10s. The numbers need a little more time to settle down. Well, as the calendar turns batters have enough plate appearances and pitchers have enough batters faced to dive into some numbers, though still not many.

The concept of stabilization points and sample sizes are relatively simple to understand. In a small sample statistics mean very little. There exists a point at which enough events occur to stabilize the statistics.

For example, pitch velocity is a statistic that stabilizes quickly. If a pitcher throws a fastball at 95 mph, then that is going to be where he lives around give or take a tick or two. I could not throw a pitch 95 mph.

However, something like batting average takes much longer to stabilize. I could theoretically get one hit in four at bats in a major league baseball game (use your imagination), but that does not make me a .250 hitter. It takes a lot more samples to determine a hitter’s “true” batting average.

You can read more about sample sizes and stabilization points here. Another writer who has tackled this topic is Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus.

Now, that being said, the statistics that do stabilize early on for hitters and pitchers are strike out rate and walk rate. Some other ones as well, but I am going to focus on those. It’s a little early still for walk rates, but I am anxious. Now, what is meant by stabilization point is that you can expect a 50% regression to the mean. So, even if a number sticks out, expect it to stick out less by the end of the season.

Now, let’s get to it. These numbers don’t include Tuesday’s game. I included their career numbers in the table as well to provide some context for the changes.

Hitters Sample Size.csv

Player PA Strikeout %(Career) Walk % (Career)
Player PA Strikeout %(Career) Walk % (Career)
Jonathan Schoop 93 17.2%(22.9%) 3.2%(3.0%)
Adam Jones 107 16.8%(18.9%) 7.5%(4.5%)
Manny Machado 106 17.0%(16.8%) 15.1%(6.9%)
Chris Davis 96 37.5%(31.5%) 11.5%(9.9%)
Mark Trumbo 104 23.1%(24.9%) 5.8%(6.7%)

I’ll highlight a couple of these numbers for brevity’s sake, but feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the changes as well. First, Jonathan Schoop’s reduced strike out rate combined with his .298/.333/.536 could be promising. Even a four percent reduction for Schoop could be big because he makes hard contact so more of it can only be a good thing.

Second, Manny Machado is walking like crazy, walking slightly over double than he has in his career. Machado got off to a slow start, but is now batting .225/.340/.449 and has been heating up recently. If Machado adds some more plate discipline to his game he’ll somehow be even better than he has in the past.

Lastly, I’ll point out Adam Jones’ walk rate, which is at a respectable 7.9 percent in 2017. Jones has never been patient, but he looks healthy, has been playing some great defense, and is off to a .296/.355/.459 start. If he can boost his walk rate even a little from his career levels, it will be a boon to his offensive value.

Now, on to the pitchers. Again, these are pitchers with enough batters faced to really read something into their strike out and walk rates. Again, I have included career numbers in parentheses for some context.

Pitchers Sample Size.csv

Player TBF Strikeout %(Career) Walk % (Career)
Player TBF Strikeout %(Career) Walk % (Career)
Dylan Bundy 151 16.6%(20.4%) 6.6%(8.4%)
Kevin Gausman 147 13.6%(21.2%) 11.6%(7.0%)
Wade Miley 128 29.7%(18.8%) 14.8%(7.5%)
Ubaldo Jimenez 108 14.8%(21.1%) 13.9%(10.7%)

Again, for the pitchers I’ll try to keep this short, if you see something that sticks out, let’s talk about it in the comments. First, Dylan Bundy. The Orioles ace that may actually be an ace is off to a great start with 39.2 innings of 1.82 ERA ball under his belt. His strike out rate is down slightly, but so is his walk rate. It’ll be interesting to see if those strike out numbers make a bit of a comeback.

Second, Kevin Gausman who has looked pretty much all season long. He is sporting a 7.50 ERA currently and is walking nearly as many as he is striking out and both numbers are way out of whack compared to his career line. Something is wrong with Kevin Gausman to start the season.

Lastly, Wade Miley has been a little ridiculous. In 31 innings pitched he has a 2.32 ERA which is very good. This has been buoyed by his insane 29.7 strike out rate, however he is also walking guys 14.8 percent of the time. Miley appears to be trying to become the three true outcome pitcher.

As the season continues to progress all of these numbers should start to fall in line with career levels more and more. However, these early season numbers do mean something, even one month in. They’ll mean even more after two months. For now, keep watching and keep reading and keep watching out for weird statistical outliers even if they may be just that, outliers.