Sometimes, when trying to decipher a baseball team, one can only chuckle.
The 2012 Baltimore Orioles are a case in point.
When comparing this Orioles team to Baltimore teams of the past five years, one can’t help but wonder how this team is not just as bad as the past four teams that finished in last place in the AL East.
Before continuing, let me be the first one to admit I am by no means an obsessive statspulsive. I do not lock myself in a dark room with just enough light to squeak saber metrics on a whiteboard while surviving on warm soda and stale potato chips.
When analyzing teams, I try to keep things simple. Thus, when comparing the 2012 Orioles to their teams of the past half-decade, my formula included Win-Loss and Home-Road records. It also compared final records, along with team average, OPS, ERA and fielding percent.
That being said, here is how the 2012 Orioles stack up against themselves since 2008.
Looking at the above data one may see some intriguing things.
For one, the 2012 Orioles have the lowest batting average (.244), second lowest OPS (.713) and lowest fielding percentage (.979) of any Orioles teams over the past five years.
Yet, to this point this club has by far the best record.
Now I know people may look at Baltimore’s outstanding 4.23 ERA in 2012 and say, “it’s the pitching staff, stupid.”
To those who say this, I think you are half right.
The team’s starters are a combined 4.81 ERA, per ESPN. Only five teams have been worse.
Relievers, on the other hand, boast a 3.22 ERA, which is the fourth-best in baseball. It is safe to state the Orioles’ relievers have been the team’s saving grace this season.
That being said, is there something this 2012 team has that stats gurus cannot record? Perhaps what this team lacks in statistics, it makes up with resolve?
For example, look at the Orioles' road record this season. At 30-24, they are road warriors. Yet this same team is a mediocre 25-26 at Camden Yards.
Why is this?
Is this because the Orioles do not have starting pitchers to match a ballpark which tends to be homer-friendly?
Is this a coincidence?
Take the Orioles' starters and place them in Comerica Park or Safeco Field. Does this team’s 2012 record improve even more?
This is not the current reality for the Orioles, I know. But this may very well give an insight into what type of pitchers Dan Duquette and Co. may look to develop on the farm and acquire in the offseason.
If Duquette goes after ground-ball pitchers or “wormkillers” over the winter, Orioles fans may very well have their answer.
The bottom line is that this season’s Orioles are a curious case.
While stats point to a team that should be worse than 55-50, the same is undoubtedly undergoing a culture change. Leading the charge are two terrific leaders in Duquette and Buck Showalter, who have a good crop of young players that have high ceilings.
And now, more than any other time in recent past, the national media is beginning to take notice of this up-and-coming Orioles team—a team that refuses to go away.
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