by 25 Nuggets
Chris Davis stinks. There's no second baseman. Matt Wieters is down. Nobody can take a pitch. JJ Hardy is homerless. Nobody can play LF.
These are arguments I've heard over the summer. And true, the offense at one time was floundering. The Orioles were scoring runs on pace with the Kansas City Royals.
Check out how the team is doing now though:
Team OPS+ 106
1st in hits
2nd in HR
2nd in batting average
3rd in SLG
7th in OBP!!
The Orioles are still struggling (11th) in the doubles department; I guess a lot of those 2B turn into HR. But they are now 6th in the AL in runs/game at 4.34, passing six teams in the process. This may still seem a little low for such an offense but the Orioles are getting penalized for being the most station-to-station team in the league. So with all these problems how are they doing it?
The first answer may be obvious: Steve Pearce. This man's hot streak has not only provided a raw statistical bump for the team, but also stability in the lineup. Either he or Nelson Cruz can man the LF spot with the other DHing. This moves the worst bat on the team (David Lough) to the 4th OF role and defensive replacement. Pearce is also solving the vacuum that was 2nd in the batting order left behind by Manny Machado... allowing Nick Markakis at leadoff to score more runs. We can only hope Pearce continues his torrid pace for a while.
The second answer comes in the form of team leader Adam Jones. He has risen his OPS+ from 100ish to 131 just in time for the All Star game, and he's done it the best way he knows how -- see the ball, hit the ball. Combined with his improved glove, he is (rather quietly in the national eye) putting together his best season yet.
The third answer may not be so obvious: Chris Davis. He is not hitting for average but he can still hit the long ball... and he is walking. A lot. Davis, Markakis and Cruz account for 112 of the team's 217 walks. That's over half the walks on the entire team, between three players. Cruz has been there since the start of the year and Markakis has been pretty steady too -- Davis however having come back from the DL is still contributing.
The fourth answer comes from regression to the mean. And by that I mean Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado. Not long ago both were OPS+ing under 60... and now they're both over 80. There's a big difference between those two numbers. You could also throw Nick Hundley into this category, as he grows acclimated to his new team. OPS+ing 80-85 still isn't good but it is no longer a liability. And that's the idea, to reduce the holes in the lineup.
Finally I would point out the intangible effect of having excellent team defense and a good locker room. Having positive vibes helps in times of trouble. When the guys who are scuffling know the team has their back, they might get out of it sooner rather than later. Of course this line of thinking straddles the lines of quackery among statisticians. There's just too much testimonial from the players to simply ignore the factor. Plus Yogi himself said, "90% of the game is half mental".
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