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The Orioles have stayed afloat without their best players

The Orioles have struggled greatly in recent weeks, but they remain above .500 (for now) even though many of their best players haven’t been very good.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles have played very poorly in recent weeks. They stand at 26-24 after last nights game and have gone 11-16 in the month of May so far and that has included both a four game losing streak and a seven game losing streak, though they had a six game winning streak earlier on.

The recent skid has been particularly frustrating because the Orioles got out to such a great start—15-8 in April—and have lost many games in the past few weeks by blowing leads and losing one run games. They started the season 8-1 in one run games and are now 9-8 in one run games.

However, if you compare this year’s team to last year’s team, it may be a minor miracle that the Orioles are above .500 at all. Many of the Orioles standout players from 2016 have produced little to nothing in 2017. Some of them have been lost to injury and some have simply produced poorly. And the lost production has happened on both sides of the ball.

The Hitters

Manny Machado produced 6.5 fWAR in 2016 posting a 129 wRC+ with a batting line of .294/.343/.533 hitting 37 home runs and knocking in 96. He was far and away the most valuable player on the Orioles, producing at a superstar level on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

In 2017 Machado has produced only 0.8 fWAR with almost all of his value being on the defensive side of the ball. He has still been the Orioles second most valuable position player, but his offense has gone down greatly. He is hitting .215/.298/.424, good for a 92 wRC+.

There is no good reason Machado has not been hitting. All of his peripheral numbers look good, including a paltry .225 BABIP which is stubbornly climbing in recent weeks, but the production has not been there.

Another position player that has not produced in 2017, but did in 2016, is J.J. Hardy. Hardy was worth 2.3 fWAR in 2016 almost all of it coming from defense. But, he still hit .269/.309/.407 good for a 88 wRC+. Not great, but agood enough line for a great defensive shortstop.

In 2017 Hardy is batting .212/.253/.309, which is only good for a 48 wRC+ and has been worth -0.5 fWAR. He has been one of the worst regulars in MLB. He is still worth something with the glove, but his bat has been a disaster.

Lastly, Mark Trumbo, who had a break out year in 2016 with the Orioles leading the league with 47 home runs was worth 2.2 fWAR to the team last year posting a 122 wRC+. In 2017 Trumbo has been worth -0.1 fWAR and has only posted a 95 wRC+.

In 2016 Machado, Trumbo, and Hardy were three of the Orioles top four every day players. In 2016 they combined for 11 fWAR. So far, in 2017 they have accrued 0.2 fWAR total.

The Pitchers

The pitching side has been even worse.

The most valuable pitcher for the Orioles in 2016, according to fWAR, was Kevin Gausman. He posted a 3.0 fWAR with a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts. Through 11 starts in 2017, Gausman has been worth 0.1 fWAR and has posted a 6.17 ERA although he has has looked slightly better as of late.

The second most valuable pitcher in 2016 was Zach Britton. His perfect save season is the stuff of baseball legends. Britton posted a 2.5 fWAR season as a reliever pitching to a 0.54 ERA over 67 innings pitched.

Britton has been sidelined for most of the 2017 season with a forearm injury and may not be back for a while yet. He has pitched in only 8 games in 2017 and has been worth 0.2 fWAR.

The third most valuable pitcher in 2016 was Chris Tillman. He posted a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts, good for a 2.4 fWAR. He stepped forward in a major way, but a lingering shoulder injury kept him out for the first part of the 2017 season and he has been pretty bad since returning. Not including last nights disaster of a start, Tillman has posted a 5.24 ERA and a 0.3 fWAR in only 22.1 innings pitched.

Gausman, Britton, and Tillman combined for 7.9 fWAR in 2016 and so far have accrued 0.6 fWAR in 2017.

Unsurprisingly, when a team’s best players perform poorly, the team does so as well. The Orioles have been kept afloat by the likes of Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, Trey Mancini, Welington Castillo, and Jonathan Schoop, but they need production from their stars to truly contend in 2017.

There is some reason for hope. Britton will return and Machado will almost certainly start producing at the plate. Tillman is still shaking off rust and Gausman always has potential to be dominant. However, just as those banked wins early in the season help, these banked losses hurt just as much. The Orioles need these players to turn it around soon to keep the team in contention.