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Disappointment explained: 2018 Orioles by the numbers

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Going beyond surface level stats can sometimes indicate things aren’t as bad as they seem for a baseball team. That isn’t the case for the O’s.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Those who have faithfully watched the Orioles this season don’t need any numbers other than 19 and 48 to tell them how woeful the club has been. We’ve seen offensive ineptitude, defensive breakdowns, sub-par pitching, and incredibly creative ways to lose games.

I wanted to dig slightly deeper to find numbers and statistics that help explain why the Orioles have the worst record in Major League Baseball. These numbers confirm what anybody watching games has seen with their two eyes: the 2018 Orioles are not sound in any aspect of the game.

-23.4: Orioles’ defensive UZR according to Fangraphs

Remember when the Orioles defense was a game-changing facet of their game? The O’s have made defense a priority under manager Buck Showalter and they have been sound defensively during their recent successful seasons.

According to Fangraph’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, measuring how effective a defense is at preventing runs), Baltimore’s 2013-2015 clubs fielded stellar defenses. If advanced stats aren’t your thing, the 2014 American League East champion Orioles compiled at .986 fielding percentage, tied for best in the major leagues. Those were good times.

The defense started slipping after that and was especially noticeable in 2017. Showalter and team officials talked ad nauseum all offseason about improving with the glove in 2018. To put it nicely, that hasn’t happened. The O’s fielding percentage this season ranks 22nd in the bigs and they have the eighth most errors.

This adds up to a league worst -23.4 UZR. For context, the second worst team comes in with a -16.3 rating. This is simply abysmal. Finally, something old school baseball fans and new age statisticians can agree on.

4.31: Bullpen ERA

Like defense, great pitching out of the bullpen was a calling card of the Orioles’ resurgence. Their bullpen ERA from 2012-2017 was 3.37, a mark that ranked them third in baseball during that time. The 2012 Wild Card club’s bullpen had an ERA of an amazing 3.00. The names that comprised those bullpens are very talented and effective pitchers: Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller, Jim Johnson, and Mychal Givens to name a few.

The success of the last few years is what makes this year’s bullpen ERA of 4.31 so shocking. There are a number of reasons for this. Going without All-Star closer Zach Britton until this week has been a major blow and necessitated the reshuffling of the bullpen. Mychal Givens has endured some difficult stretches this season and his ERA of 4.24 is well above his career mark of 2.98.

Brad Brach’s ERA of 3.86 is over half a run worse than his highest mark in an Orioles uniform. There is also the complication of carrying Rule 5 pitchers that aren’t major league ready in a bullpen. Pedro Araujo and the long-gone Nestor Cortes have each pitched to an ugly ERA of 7.71.

An interesting point about this year’s bullpen is that it hasn’t been taxed. Recent bullpens have been effective despite the starting rotations’ inability to consistently get deep into games. The 2018 bullpen has tossed 238 innings, which ranks 15th in baseball. Being overworked is not an excuse.

The return of Darren O’Day and Zach Britton seemed to indicate the bullpen getting back to full strength. But Richard Bleier, one of 2018’s pleasant surprises, left Wednesday’s game with an injury and figures to miss an extended period of time. The bullpen turmoil will continue and could intensify with potential trades looming.

27: Number of quality starts this season

While quality starts (at least 6 innings pitched while allowing at most 3 runs) isn’t a perfect statistic to judge the effectiveness of a starting pitcher, it is a good measure of how well the pitcher keeps his team in the game. The O’s 27 quality starts ranks 25th in the majors. Those 27 quality starts have come in 67 games played, so they’ve registered one in 40% of their games. While this isn’t impressive, the rotation is on pace to eclipse their total of 61 quality starts in 2017.

Other metrics back up the claim that the O’s rotation hasn’t been very good this season. The rotation’s ERA is an ugly 5.33. At least this is an improvement over 2017’s ERA of 5.70, though it would be hard to get worse than that without re-signing Ubaldo Jiminez.

.282: Pitching staff’s batting average against

This is a good indication of how poor Baltimore pitching has been this season. Imagine if every batter in the opposing lineup having a .282 batting average; that would be be a formidable challenge. O’s pitchers have made that possible for opponents. For context, the league batting average this season is .245. .282 ranks them as the worst pitching staff in terms of giving up hits.

Giving up hits at this rate combined with the fact that they’ve walked more batters than all but seven other clubs has meant plenty of traffic on the basepaths against them. It helps to explain their team ERA of 4.92, next to last in Major League Baseball.

.212: Batting average with runners in scoring position

The O’s offensive struggles this season are well documented. They are currently last in the entire league in runs scored and there are a variety of reasons for that. One glaring issue is their struggles hitting with runners in scoring position. Their .212 mark is somehow not the worst in the league (thanks Royals and Rangers!) but is abysmal. The 2017 team excelled in such situations, ranking third in the league with a .287 average.

Trey Mancini is an incredible microcosm of this problem that has afflicted the entire club. Last year he batted an exceptional .340 with runners in scoring position. This season he has four hits in 46 at bats (.087).

-2.1: Chris Davis’ WAR according to Baseball Reference

This isn’t meant to pile on the much-maligned (former) slugger. He’s been a lightning rod of criticism to the point where a Baltimore bar is offering free shots whenever he gets a hit. But the highest paid player on the team ranking as the worst player in baseball (in terms of WAR) goes a long way in explaining the team’s offensive and overall struggles.

Davis is being paid to produce and help the team win games. In his 57 games played, he has managed the cost the O’s over two wins. Captain Obvious says, “that isn’t good.”

19- Number of Orioles wins

On June 15. Everything above leads to this number. Enough said.