Tag Archives: orioles

Why are the 2018 Orioles so bad, so very, very, very bad?

The Orioles held on to win one tonight, 5-3 over the A’s, getting out of a bases-loaded one-out jam in the top of the 8th, so maybe for once I’m emotionally able to take a look at this loss of a season.

Baltimore was not supposed to be great this year.  But they weren’t supposed to be terrible, either.  The Orioles thought they had an outside chance at a wild card in Machado’s walk year and signed free-agent pitchers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. Before the season, Fangraphs projected them to win 75 games or so and battle with the Rays for fourth place in the AL East.

They’re now 42-104 and en route to the worst record in the team history.

How was everyone so wrong?

Here’s my take.  Nobody was wrong.  The projections were the right projections to make.  Sometimes you get unlucky and everything goes to shit at the same time.

First: the Orioles are not as bad as that record; they’ve been unlucky.  Their Pythagorean record is 50-96.  That’s not good.  But it’s not historically bad.

Second:  let’s look at the players who contributed at least 2 WAR to the 2017 Orioles.

  • Jonathan Schoop
  • Manny Machado
  • Adam Jones
  • Trey Mancini
  • Wellington Castillo
  • Tim Beckham (in just 50 games!)
  • Dylan Bundy
  • Mychal Givens
  • Kevin Gausman

Let’s throw in Cobb and Cashner too, since they delivered that much WAR to their 2017 teams.  This is a pretty long list of players from whom the Orioles were counting on some production (except Castillo, who was cut loose.)

Of these, Cobb, Schoop, Beckham, Bundy, and Givens each had the worst season of their career.  So did Mancini, though his career’s only two years long.  Cashner was back to his 2016 level of bad after a good 2017.  Gausman and Machado played about as well as you might expect.  (Machado’s hitting improved a lot, but the move to shortstop made him less defensively valuable.)  Jones hit as usual but baseball-reference rates his defense as having degraded enough to essentially eliminate his value.  And Chris Davis, of course, who was just sort of OK in 2017 but delivered a lot of value in 2015 and 2016, is turning in one of the worst seasons in major league history; his average currently sits at .174.  Or Chris Tillman, a very good pitcher as recently as 2016, who stunk in 2017 and unfathomably stunk even more this year until finally being taken out back and released.  (I saw what may end up being his last major league win.)

So you’re basically taking this entire list of players, who together might have been expected to constitute the core of an respectably mediocre ballclub, and saying that not one of them will play better than you expect, and more than half of them will play worse than you could have reasonably imagined.

I think the Orioles just got snakebit.

But what happens now?  The Orioles haven’t been bad for very long, so they don’t have recent high draft picks.  Machado, Schoop, and Gausman are gone, along with half the bullpen.  Jones might go.  I think in 2019 we are just going to watch Jonathan Villar and Cedric Mullins cavort in front of almost nobody.

I’ll watch that.  And I’ll enjoy it, because I always do.  The losses don’t mean much to me.  Every win makes me proud.

 

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First day of a long season

The always great Tom Scocca on the mental state of Oriole Nation as the 2008 campaign gets underway:

Beyond plain categories of optimism and pessimism live those of us who see a sparkling half-glass of water and know for sure that the Orioles are eventually going to take a crap in it.

More Orioles dyspepsia at Tom’s season preview at Deadspin.

My WNYC piece about sabermetrics and Alex Rodriguez (plus a little Orioles dyspepsia for my fellow orange-and-blackers) can now be heard online.

In today’s New York Times, Samuel Arbesman and Steven Strogatz argue that Joe DiMaggio’s streak wasn’t as miraculous as you think. They ran 10,000 Monte Carlo simultations of the history of major league baseball and found that, 42% of the time, someone had a hitting streak 56 games or longer. In every case, there was some player in some season who put together a hitting streak of at least 39 games.

That’s a nice experiment, but I don’t think it quite justifies the headline. The figure below shows that, in the simulation, long hitting streaks were strongly concentrated in the pre-1905 era, when higher batting averages were more common. In 1894 (the big spike in the chart below) the batting average for the entire National League was well over .300. The relevant question is not so much “is it surprising that someone had a 56-game hitting streak?” but “is it surprising that someone playing baseball under modern conditions had a 56-game hitting streak? And how likely is it ever to happen again?” The number I’d like to see is: of the 10,000 simulated seasons, in how many did a player have a 56-game hitting streak after 1941?

Despite my criticism, I’m delighted the NYTimes published this. The main point — that unlikely-seeming events are actually quite likely, as long as you give them enough chances to happen — is a crucial and subtle one, which should be repeated in a loud voice at every possible opportunity.

Arbeson has a blog which is mostly about computational biology and urban planning, not baseball. Strogatz has no blog, but his book Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order is surely very good, based on the lectures I’ve seen him deliver.

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Two good Orioles endings

Good ending 1: The Orioles hang 3 runs on Mariano Rivera for the second time this year to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th, then win on a Melvin Mora bunt in the next frame, simultaneously clinching at least a tie in the season series and cementing the Yankees’ first second-place division finish since 1997. If that wasn’t enough, we got to beat up on Mike Mussina too. Rivera’s lifetime ERA against the O’s rises to a pedestrian 3.72. The three runs, by the way, were on a bases-clearing Jay Payton triple — his second triple of the night.

Good ending 2: Stat of the Day brings us the game of June 3, 1977; Royals catcher John Wathan comes up against the O’s Tippy Martinez, bottom of the 9th, Orioles up 7-5, but the Royals have the bases loaded and nobody out. Wathan hits a fly to right. Runner on third tags and scores. Runners on first and second tag too, but the throw from Pat Kelly comes in in time for Mark Belanger to tag the runner at second — now the runner on his way to third is caught in a rundown, and he’s out too. When the smoke clears, the Orioles have won the game 7-6, and Wathan has hit into a game-ending triple play and collected an RBI in the same at-bat!

There was something about Tippy that struck confusion into the minds of baserunners — let it never be forgotten that he is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to pick off the side. (The link is a beautiful account of this crazy game from Swing and a Miss— I implore you to follow the link and spend a little time with your 1983 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.)

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