Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

The Orioles vs. The AL

Posted by Mike on March 3, 2006

I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the Orioles stacked up to the rest of the American League in 2005 in some key categories. Maybe it will help us see exactly how they fell short and what needs to be addressed in 2006. I’ll offer some commentary, but feel free to help me out in the comments section.

OFFENSE

  • R/G: Bal- 4.5/AL- 4.76

Boy, that’s ugly. Only four teams in the AL scored less runs per game than the Orioles (and none from the AL East): Minnesota, Kansas City, Detroit, and Seattle. Minnesota has a top-line pitching staff, Seattle plays in a notorious pitchers park, we barely edged Detroit (4.46 R/G), and Kansas City… well, there’s something wrong if you take solace in that.

So, exactly what components of run production did the Orioles fall short in?

  • BA: Bal- .269/AL- .268

The O’s were able to keep up with the league’s pace in batting average. Unfortunately, batting average has little correlation with scoring runs. In broad terms, BA’s value is essentially limited to its impact on OBP.

  • OBP: Bal- .327/ AL- .333

I have to admit, this isn’t as bad as I expected. Still, the Orioles had the lowest OBP of any team in the AL East and trailed New York (.355) and Boston (.357) by thirty points. In fact, those two teams led the entire AL in OBP (and R/G… if you catch my drift).

  • SLG: Bal- .434/ AL- .424

There we go. Let’s just hope those ten points weren’t propped up by B-12.

  • P/PA (Pitches per plate appearance): Bal- 3.65/ AL- 3.74

Only Tampa Bay saw fewer pitches per plate appearance than the Orioles in the AL. The average AL team had 38.3 PA’s per game, the Orioles- 37.9. With some pretty easy math, it becomes apparent that opposing pitchers were able to throw about 5 less pitches per game against the Orioles than the average AL team; and 844 fewer pitches on the season.

Often times, people can see the value of taking pitches for the intrinsic value of a base on balls. Here, we see an example of a team that hurt itself by not taking pitches and allowing opposing starters to pitch deeper into games.

  • GB/FB: Bal- 1.17/AL- 1.26

This certainly helps explain the O’s above-average SLG %. After all, it’s pretty difficult to round the bases when you’re hitting wormburners like Hideki Matsui circa 2003.

 

Defense/ Pitching

 

  • DER (Defense Efficiency Rating): Bal- .693/AL- .696

Right around league-average. (DER is the rate at which a defense converts balls in play into outs. Its reciprocal is the pitching staff’s BA/BIP)

  • RA/9: Bal- 5.05/AL- 4.74; ERA: Bal- 4.57/AL- 4.35; DIPS 3.0: Bal- 4.75/AL- 4.73

What’s interesting here is that although the Orioles trailed well behind the rest of the AL is traditional measures like RA/9 and ERA, they were roughly league average according to the superior measure of performance- DIPS 3.0.

Why is that?

  • LD%: Bal- 20%/AL- 19.6%; HR/FB: Bal- 13%/AL- 12%

As I’ve explained before, both of these measures are highly influenced by luck. In neither category were the O’s well above the league average (ie unlucky), but the combined effects of the two certainly help explain the difference between traditional measures of the pitching staff’s performance and the more accurate DIPS 3.0.

  • K/9: Bal- 6.4/AL- 6.1; BB/9: Bal- 3.6/ AL- 3.0

No surprises here. The Orioles tied the White Sox for third in the AL in K rate. Unfortunately, they also finished just behind Tampa Bay for highest BB rate. Daniel Cabrera was a key contributor in both categories, and helps demonstrate both the potential and the volatility of the Oriole’s pitching staff.

  • GB/FB: Bal- 1.37/AL- 1.25

This is certainly promising. Again Daniel Cabrera (1.78) was a key contributor; as were Todd Williams (3.59), Steve Kline (1.96), and Sidney Ponson (1.93). You can probably tell from the latter two examples that inducing ground balls is not enough on its own to effectively retire major league hitters.

 

Conclusion

 

There’s certainly a lot here to mull over, but there are two things that jump out to me.

Offensively, the Orioles have to make pitchers work harder this year. 5 pitches per game may not seem like a lot, but that is essentially one and a half extra plate appearances per game that opposing pitchers are getting through with only their typical exertion.

On the other side of the ball, it’s no secret that Orioles pitchers have got to cut down on the walks. Still, what surprised me was how average the team was by DIPS 3.0 standards, even when other measures say otherwise. I’d expect an overall improvement in the rotation just from the expulsion of Sidney Ponson (which should outweigh the loss of B.J. Ryan– in more ways than one). But, now we can now expect those improvements over a baseline that is roughly league-average, as opposed to merely expecting improvements from a below-average staff.

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10 Responses to “The Orioles vs. The AL”

  1. kilbs said

    This is some great research. I have to say, though, that I find it very disheartening considering BRob’s inevitable return to earth and the aging of Tejada and Mora. (Plus, Raffy was good while on steroids, and I certainly don’t expect whatever conglomeration of guys at first to put up Raffy’s May to July numbers.)

    OTOH, if Mazzone can harness the control of Cabrera and Bedard, we could be watching something real special…

  2. Eddie said

    Cabrera and Bedard can become the heart and soul of this team if Mazzone’s lessons take hold. I have every confidence that Mazzone’s emphasis on control can easily help Bedard since that’s already a central part of his game ever since he was a minor leaguer. Cabrera is more of a wildcard there. In spite of this, I’m not sure if Cabrera even needs to attain the same level of control to become a top flight pitcher. According to Bill James, Cabrera ranked among the top in number of 100 mph FBs and 95+ mph pitches in 2005. If he learns to throw the low-outside corner FB strike with consistency, most batters he faces will be forced to take their stride a little quicker to cover that pitch leaving them vulnerable to a whole world of pitches. In my opinion, if he can do this, he could make mistakes inside and few batters have the wrist strength to take advantage when they’re offstride. You have to be Gary Sheffield or Paul Molitor to be able to hit that ball out of the park.

    One of the things I’m hearing Mazzone mention is telling Cabrera to get rid of his two-seamer, the FB that trades off some velocity for more movement, and relying more on his straighter four-seam fastball. To me this is a message that control is critical. This sounds like great advice. Many pitchers have found success throwing mainly four-seam fastballs, only to break out the two-seamer for “special” situations.

  3. kilbs said

    I think one of the most amazing statitistics to come out of 2005 were Cabrera’s splits:

    vL: 285/400/481/880 (337 ABs)
    vR: 174/256/221/478 (276 ABs)

    Interestingly enough, in 2004 the OPSa variant was practically nil:

    vL: 249/345/399/744 (293 ABs)
    vR: 270/369/367/736 (267 ABs)

    I don’t really know what to make of it. When I saw that enormous lefty/righty split in OBP, I started to wonder if it wasn’t an approach or a mental thing. I guess it could easily the rotation and location of his FB, though. I would love to see the 2005 OPSa vR and at least the 2004 OPSa vL.

  4. Mike said

    Eddie- I hear what you’re saying about the low and away FB. I listened to his start yesterday (Saturday) and afterwards, Eli Whiteside said cabrera didn’t throw one change-up. That concerns me a bit, even though he dominated. Randy Johnson is the only starter I can think of that dominated with only two pitches.

    Kilbs- Great info on Cabrera’s platoon splits. I’ll see if I can’t go scrounging for any info on what sections of the strike zone Cabrera hits most effectively (or at least most often). Coupled with your platoon info, that should help us see what the problem is.

  5. Eddie said

    Hearing that he didn’t throw a changeup should be a concern. Everyone knows he’s a fireballer at this point. For him to really make that velocity count is if he can throw the change for strikes. Has anyone seen his changeup delivery? Can he repeat his arm action for it and make it look like the fastball arm action? I am guessing that this is one of the main reasons why he might not have as much confidence in that pitch. If the pitch’s delivery is identical to the other pitches, he should have a large margin for error since the velocity difference is almost 20 mph, more than plenty to get batters’ on their front foot. ML hitters can easily read such differences in delivery, and, he might be broadcasting his changeup before he even releases. Perhaps there’s another reason than just control why Mazzone suggested that Cabrera cut down his velocity to ~95 mph? Perhaps with a slower arm action of a 95 mph fastball, it resembles the changeup delivery even more? Thoughts?

  6. Mike said

    That makes sense. Certainly, it fits with Mazzone’s “throw more, exert less” philosophy.

    The thing that baffles me is that each of the last two winters I have read reports saying that Cabrera’s off-seson priority was developing hi9s change. I don’t really understand why he wouldn’t keep working on it in ST. Now that he has left for the WBC, I doubt he will be anxious to try it out on the international stage.

  7. Completely agree with Mike.

    My blog

  8. Vajpayee said

    Dude you can’t let another Indian post on here. There can only be one.

  9. Mike said

    my bad Sidh, I’ll explain the rules to him

  10. hagersbush said

    Being in the A.L.East will make it very
    tough for the orioles to climb in the
    standings,but I agree they will be
    worth watching to see the progress of
    the pitchers under Mazzone.

    The way it was in Atlanta if you didn,t
    try to follow Mazzone,s methods you did
    not pitch.Will that fly in Baltimore
    who knows?I know for a fact that Cox &
    Mazzone were as one.

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