In the bleak midsummer
In the past two seasons, I've used the All-Star break as an opportunity to pause and take account of the Orioles' first half in statistical terms. This year, I've browsed through most of the pertinent numbers, and there isn't much to report that isn't already obvious to a casual observer. Nevertheless, I'll recap a few first-half team statistics and then add a few notes on individual players.
- That 41–49 won-lost record ain't lyin': the O's truly have been one of the worst teams in the American League this year. Indeed, the only AL team that played significantly beneath the Orioles' pre-ASB level was the comically hapless K.C. Royals. According to the Adjusted Standings at baseballprospectus.com, Baltimore's performance actually has been a bit worse than its won-lost record, after accounting for factors such as run differential, league- and park-adjusted offensive and defensive stats, and quality of competition. Here, the statistical evidence supports the standings. There is a clear dividing line in the AL East this year: Boston, Toronto, and New York are in a legitimate fight for the division crown, while several rungs below them, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are trying to avoid the ignominious odor of the cellar.
- The bats have been mediocre. At the break, the Orioles' rate of 4.84 runs scored per game was a smidgen below the league average of 5.05. (Home park adjustments didn't make much of a difference in the rankings.) In every significant offensive statistic, the O's fell in the middle of the pack or worse. The only positions on the O's that hit markedly better than the league average for their position were shortstop (Miguel Tejada) and catcher (Ramón Hernández); most of the others were in the lower third of the rankings in OPS. And the saddest thing is that none of the members of the starting lineup figures to improve much in the second half, except perhaps Nick Markakis.
- The pitching, supposedly the organization's long suit, has been appalling, and both the starting rotation and bullpen have blame to claim. The team ERA of 5.29 and RA/G of 5.57 (source: The Hardball Times) were both next to last in the AL, ahead of just the Royals. The staff currently leads the league in free passes issued (3.9 BB/G as calculated by THT) and has struck out batters at a below-average rate (5.9 K/G according to THT, compared to a league rate of 6.3). Add in a high rate of home runs allowed (1.3 HR/G; league mean: 1.14) and you have a group of arms that has lived up (or down) to its low ranking in nearly every way.
- The defense has been suspect. The team defensive efficiency of .688 was third-worst in the AL at the All-Star break, and most of the other fielding stats I've seen also indicate that Oriole glovework has been subpar, though not to an extreme.