• Apr
    03

    Bats and Luck by Kerry Leibowitz


    by Kerry Leibowitz

    Bats and Luck

     

    There’s no point in sugarcoating it—the Orioles were not a good offensive team in 2012.  The club ranked a mediocre ninth in the AL with 712 runs scored, but adjusting for context, things were worse.  Camden Yards played as a very hitter-friendly ballpark last year, with a run index of 118.  There’s a fair amount of noise in single-season park effects, and 118 is the highest single season run index mark for the ballpark since its opening in 1992, but even a three-year running average (2010-12) puts the index at 109.  The two-year average is 108.

     

    Here are the American League Team Offensive Winning Percentage (OW%) numbers for 2012, with OW% calculated by adjusting park effects based on a single-year run index:

     

    Team

    OW%

    LAA

    .589

    NYY

    .568

    DET

    .519

    TEX

    .519

    OAK

    .508

    TB

    .496

    CLE

    .489

    SEA

    .485

    MIN

    .474

    KC

    .473

    TOR

    .471

    BOS

    .463

    CWS

    .452

    BAL

    .435

     

    Here are the OW% numbers using a two-year park index:

     

    Team

    OW%

    NYY

    .568

    TEX

    .559

    LAA

    .546

    DET

    .534

    CWS

    .510

    BOS

    .508

    OAK

    .483

    KC

    .481

    MIN

    .481

    TOR

    .478

    BAL

    .474

    TB

    .469

    CLE

    .466

    SEA

    .409

     

    Personally, I’d go with the two-year numbers as being more meaningful.  (Check the Mariners, for instance; the one-year run index number for Safeco Field last year was 69.  Safeco is definitely a pitcher’s park, but 69 is, by far, the lowest single-season mark in the history of the ballpark, and almost certainly a fluke.  Using multi-year numbers removes a lot of the effects caused by extreme single-season events.)

     

    While the Orioles almost certainly weren’t the worst offensive team (in neutral terms) in the American League last year, as the one-year impacted OW% numbers imply, they were undoubtedly subpar, by essentially any meaningful analysis.  A great deal of the skepticism that surrounds the Orioles in 2013 is centered on last year’s poor offense coupled with the absence of major off-season additions.

     

    I don’t think that the Orioles were in denial about their offensive shortcomings, despite the absence of the acquisition of additional impact bats.  Rather, I think that the largest part of the Orioles’ thinking, in recognition of needed offensive improvement if the club expects to contend for another postseason spot in 2013, was the notion that several of the incumbent players can anticipate taking a major step forward offensively—specifically, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, simply as a function of innate ability and where they lie in terms of their respective career arcs. 

     

    It’s not an entirely unreasonable belief.  Here’s a list of last year’s individual OW% numbers:

     

    Player

    PA

    OW%

    Bill Hall

    14

    .843

    Nolan Reimold

    69

    .658

    Nick Markakis*

    471

    .634

    Adam Jones

    697

    .609

    Nate McLouth*

    236

    .601

    Chris Davis*

    562

    .599

    Matt Wieters#

    593

    .518

    Wilson Betemit#

    376

    .509

    Steve Pearce

    83

    .496

    Mark Reynolds

    538

    .493

    Jim Thome*

    115

    .483

    Manny Machado

    202

    .453

    Nick Johnson*

    102

    .442

    J.J. Hardy

    713

    .367

    Xavier Avery*

    107

    .360

    Omar Quintanilla*

    110

    .355

    Ryan Flaherty*

    167

    .309

    Robert Andino

    431

    .262

    Lew Ford

    79

    .261

    Steven Tolleson

    76

    .207

    Taylor Teagarden

    64

    .193

    Endy Chavez*

    169

    .179

    Ronny Paulino

    64

    .117

    Brian Roberts#

    74

    .101

    Luis Exposito

    22

    .000

    L.J. Hoes

    1

    .000

    Joe Mahoney*

    4

    .000

     

    As you can see, there’s a fair amount of headroom space for most of the players on that list who are on this year’s roster, between players who are in the growth part of their careers (Wieters, Jones, Machado), players who had truly bad seasons, within the context of their own career performance (Hardy), players with (hoped for) better health (Markakis, Reimold) or phoenix-like rebirth (Roberts).  And then there’s addition by subtraction (Andino). 

     

    With a break or two (e.g. Brian Roberts discovering the metaphorical fountain of youth), the potential exists for a better-than-average offensive club in 2012.  That’s important because—those ballpark effects?  The ones that indicate that the offense looked better than it really was?  Well, they impact the pitching staff too.  That staff was better than it looked (finishing fifth in the AL in ERA+).  With a better than average offense and pitching staff (something the Orioles haven’t had since the 1997 season), there will be no need to rely on “luck” for a contending season.


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