The Baltimore Orioles are really bad. Historically bad. You likely know this, but let’s make it plainly clear:
They trail by more games in the American League East (59.5) than they can possibly win this year, with 10 games left.
They have lost more games so far (108) than the division champion Red Sox have won (104).
They traded away one-time franchise cornerstones Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, and are currently feuding with one of their most beloved players.
They have the sixth-worst average attendance in Major League Baseball.
With any luck, they could become one of the losingest teams in modern baseball history.
It surely is not Earl Weaver’s “Oriole Way” of old. Here are seven statistics to put this sorry season in context.
Through 152 games, Baltimore’s winning percentage sits at .289. Multiply it out over the remaining 10 games, and the Orioles are on track to lose seven more, which would tie the mark set by the 1935 Boston Braves as the fourth-losingest team ever. If Baltimore somehow finds a way to drop all 10 games — which isn’t out of the question, since it faces the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros to end the season — it’d claim sole possession of third-most losses in MLB history.
|2018 Orioles (projected)||115|
Wins above average
This is fancy way of measuring how one player, both offensively and defensively, measures up to the Major League average at his position. For the Orioles, the numbers aren’t pretty.
The Orioles' everyday lineup has a WAA of -23.3, according to Baseball-Reference.com. That means if Manager Buck Showalter had just started an average fielder and hitter at each position, Baltimore would have won 23 more games.
Only five players all season had positive WAA ratings, meaning they were better than the league’s average player. But Machado and Scoop were traded and outfielder Craig Gentry, a defensive specialist, was released at the beginning of September. The simple way to put it: the Orioles are devoid of good players.
Earned run average
Weaver’s “Oriole Way” had three legs: pitching, defense and the three-run home run. Well, pitching let Baltimore down big time in 2018. The Orioles' team ERA is 5.16, nearly a run higher than the American League average, 4.25.
But what may be even more painful is the unrealized talent Baltimore pitchers had, and only discovered after leaving Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Orioles traded starter Kevin Gausman and back-end relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton near the trade deadline to restock with younger talent. Upon leaving, all three pitchers saw marked improvement on the mound.
That’s a punch in the gut for a franchise that has tried and failed to develop homegrown arm talent for two decades. Remember Sidney Ponson? John Maine? Erik Bedard? Daniel Cabrera?
Remember the free agent signings of Kris Benson and Ubaldo Jimenez?
Finally, it seems, the Orioles did develop some solid pitchers. They’re just not in Baltimore any longer.
After “pitching,” next in the Oriole Way comes “defense.” It hasn’t been pretty. Baltimore entered the year with perhaps Major League Baseball’s premier double play duo with Machado at shortstop and Schoop at second base.
But the front office didn’t re-sign veteran J.J. Hardy, one of the game’s most consistent infielders, and replaced him with Tim Beckham plus a platoon of prospects: Renato Nunez, Danny Valencia, Jace Peterson and Breyvic Valera. That quintet combined for 35 of the Orioles' 101 errors, sixth worst in the big leagues. Beckham alone is responsible for 19 errors.
Specifically, grounding into them, which the Orioles have done 126 times, third worst in the majors.
Strikeouts and home runs
Strikeouts by themselves don’t mean much, especially as baseball comes more of a sport of absolutes. More batters are striking out, and more are hitting home runs.
What is telling, though, is comparing a team’s strikeouts to its walks, and by that measure, Baltimore is finishing up one clunker of a year. Orioles hitters have struck out 916 more times than they’ve walked. Compare that to Houston, coincidentally the reigning World Series champion, which has the best strikeout/walk differential: 593.
Strikeouts are important because they are the ultimate unproductive out. That’s crucial for a team like Baltimore, whose offense is built on hitting home runs and doing it with people on base. A ballclub that’s only mustered 179 long balls, 16th in the majors, can’t afford to strike out so often.
Put all that together, and you get a baseball team headed for the record books.