There’s little to compare this 2017 Orioles season to, at least in the Buck Showalter era. It’s been strange. It’s been, at times, a tough watch. And considering how the year started, it’s been somewhat of a surprise.
It’s doubtful that anyone in the baseball-watching universe thought the Orioles would be the American League’s best at the season’s end — we’ve seen teams with hot starts fall to earth year after year, and that seemed to be the path the Birds would take. But it’s equally as doubtful that many saw the team’s recent slide as something that could realistically happen.
And while the team is still in contention, the statistics alone shed light on quite a few disappointing trends. It’s not just Manny Machado’s regression that headlines the total numbers either. Compared to the rest of the league, the Orioles aren’t nearly where they need to be.
Orioles starters have a combined 5.54 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
Both of those numbers rank worst in the American League, and the WHIP (walks and hits per inning) number is 30th in Major League Baseball by almost an entire tenth. The Blue Jays — fourth in WHIP in the AL East — have a 1.41 number that is well below league average.
The ERA is bad, but the WHIP, perhaps the simplest yet most telling stat for pitchers, is beyond concerning.
It doesn’t take too much digging into the stats before pinpointing the reason for the league-worst number either — walks, walks and more walks. With 163 free-passes by starting pitchers, the Orioles rank worst in that category as well. The next highest number comes from the Miami Marlins staff, whose starting pitchers have compiled 153 walks.
Both Wade Miley (1.61 WHIP, 40 walks) and Kevin Gausman (1.92 WHIP, 37 walks) are in the “top 10” for walks by starting pitchers in the 2017 season. So yes, it’s been less than ideal to say the least.
Orioles rank 8th in HRs (99), and 18th in doubles (115) through 69 games
These numbers aren’t cringe-worthy, however they become significantly more disappointing when you insert them into the bigger picture. The narrative was simple before the season — “the Orioles pitching will be mediocre, but the bats will hit for absurd power compared to the rest of the league”. It’s what we all believed, and it hasn’t necessarily come true.
The Orioles current team slugging percentage is at .429, actually a rather impressive number in comparison to previous years. However, the league as a whole is slugging at .425, which would be the highest combined number in Major League Baseball since 2006. So while the O’s have hit the ball well, the team hasn’t seen a spike as other teams like the Yankees (.469) and the Rays (.443) have.
The Orioles don't have a player in the top-30 on the league home run leaderboard. Chris Davis’ 14 HRs leads the team, ranking 35th in MLB. Mark Trumbo has 11, and his .410 slugging percentage would be a career-low.
Healthy young stars underwhelming
If you were able to look at the list of Orioles injuries at June 21st before the season, you could’ve at least had a few sliver-lining comments.
“At least Manny Machado will be healthy and his usual self!”
“And Kevin Gausman — he’ll make all of his starts!”
“Don’t forget about Donnie Hart, the bullpen’s secret weapon!”
Machado, of course, is hitting .214 and getting on base less than 29 percent of the time. Gausman has a 6.60 ERA in 15 starts, owning a 54-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75 innings pitched. Hart has spent plenty of time at Norfolk, and not due to injury issues. We certainly can’t predict baseball, but these regressions added to the disabled list names have been particularly difficult.
Baseball is a weird game, and most times you can’t argue with the numbers. Before the year, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that the starting pitching would rank dead-last, Caleb Joseph would have a higher batting average than Machado or that Gausman would allow 107 hits in his first 75 innings of the year.
It’s truly been the perfect storm for the Orioles. And unless a switch is flipped rather quickly, it appears there might just be too much going against Buck Showalter’s guys in 2017.
All stats prior to Tuesday night’s games.