Which Oriole has the most impact on the field?

Sometimes, when you ask an obvious question, you get an obvious answer.

Recently, on MASN’s “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report,” I asked former Oriole Brady Anderson what was the main difference between the current stock of Orioles and the playoff teams he played on in the mid-’90s.

“Talent” was Anderson’s answer.

Pretty cut and dry. In 1997, the O’s rolled out an All-Star roster with players like Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Mussina, Jimmy Key and Scott Erikson.

There’s no question the 2012 Orioles have some talented young players like Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, but playoff teams, like the 1997 Orioles, have talent one through nine in the lineup. Also, teams loaded with talent don’t head to spring training with a laundry list of jobs to be won like the O’s.

So - how much talent do the Orioles have heading into 2012? And how does it compare to other teams talent?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m borderline obsessed with the Wins Above Replacement statistic. It’s one of the few stats that are all-encompassing. It shows us a player’s worth in games won or lost when he’s not on the field. It’s calculated using a number of fielding and hitting stats for position players and stats like opponent’s average, strikeouts and walks for pitchers

Looking over the Orioles’ individual WAR numbers, we can see how valuable the O’s starters are compared to other starters in the American League.

Before I throw out numbers, let’s get a reference for what they mean. According to Baseball-Reference.com, a WAR of 0-2 is the value of a bench player, 2 or higher reflects a starter, 5 or higher is an All Star, and 8 or higher is a Most Valuable Player.

J.J. Hardy is the Oriole with the highest WAR at 4.1. That means when Hardy is on the field, the O’s typically win about four more games.

Check out other Orioles WAR numbers: Matt Wieters (4.0),Robert Andino (2.0), Nick Markakis (1.9), Adam Jones (1.7), Nolan Reimold (1.5) and Mark Reynolds (0.5)

The Orioles pitchers with the highest WAR values are Jim Johnson (3.2) and Jeremy Guthrie (2.9).

Considering a WAR under 2 is typical of a bench player, you’d have to say some of the O’s values are low.

For comparison’s sake, keeping it within the division, the American League East champion Yankees’ WAR values look like this:

Top pitchers: C.C. Sabathia (6.9), David Robertson (3.9)

Position players: Curtis Granderson (5.4), Robinson Cano (4.6), Brett Gardner (4.4), Nick Swisher (3.4), Alex Rodriquez (2.7)

If you want to compare the O’s numbers to the American League champion Rangers here you go:

Top Pitchers: C.J. Wilson (5.0), Matt Harrison (4.0)

Position Players: Mike Napoli (5.5), Ian Kinsler (5.4), Adrian Beltre (5.2), Josh Hamilton (3.6), Elvis Andrus (3.5), Michael Young (2.4)

It’s not fair to make conclusions based on one statistic, but when the numbers are in front of us, you can understand Anderson’s point.

The problem in 2011 was there wasn’t much of a difference between some of the O’s in the lineup and their replacements off the bench or from AAA. Dan Duquette is hoping his offseason acquisitions can widen that gap in 2012.

The best way to do that is exactly what the O’s have done: create competition in spring training this season. Perhaps Buck Showalter should show everyone their WAR value from 2011. It would be a wake-up call for many to realize their true value isn’t that much higher than a potential replacement.