I think it’s a common sentiment amongst Orioles fans to consider the offense as very poor at turning baserunners into runs on the scoreboard. On multiple, unrelated occasions in recent weeks, I’ve heard people refer to leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run as “pulling an Orioles.”
When I asked people on Twitter what they thought “pulling an Orioles” meant, every O’s fan with an actual response said stranding runners. Does the reality match up with these perceptions though? (Some of the answers: “loading the bases with 0 outs and getting 0 runs at the end of the inning,” “stranding runners” and “stranding FOUR guys on base, It’s THAT bad.” At least the team has made a name for themselves in one area.)
Going into yesterday’s game, the O’s were hitting .257/.333/.407 with runners in scoring position and .258/.325/.410 with men on base in general. That’s not very good. But how are they hitting overall? That would be .256/.318/.404 - even worse. So, led by Matt Wieters (.375/.453/.609 with RISP), the Orioles have actually hit better as a team when in a position to score some runs than they have for the season. This is actually not unusual - the league as a whole hits a bit better with runners in scoring position. So things are more or less OK here. Does that mean the O’s are fine at turning baserunners into runs? Nope.
In the chart on the right is an estimate for each team, taking the number of runs scored over “baserunners” (hits plus walks plus HPBs), with home runs getting taken out of both runs and hits (so we’re not counting the runner as driving himself in since he never got on base, but two singles and then a three-run homer would be a 2/2 - both guys that got on were brought around):
Sometimes the numbers do indeed back up intuition - the Orioles are one of the worst teams in baseball in cashing in baserunners. One reason for this is the number of runners that get erased via the double play. The O’s have hit into 94 twin killings, which is tied for third most in the majors. Otherwise, it’s a bit strange. The O’s are pretty much an average team when it comes to bringing in a runner on third with less than two outs. The Birds don’t run much, so they’ve gotten very few runners erased via the caught stealing (just 14).
Part of what’s going on, I think, is that the O’s are actually fairly reliant on the longball to score runs. In fact, no team in baseball has scored a higher proportion of their runs (~43%) via the home run. So while the Birds are fine at completely clearing the bases, when it comes to stringing a bunch of hits together to put runs on the board, it looks like they’re not so good. This is, of course, exemplified by that June game versus the Nationals, where the Orioles got 18 hits (all singles and doubles) but managed just four runs. Seeing that kind of thing is dispiriting as a fan, probably dispiriting for the players and surely not the kind of production Baltimore needs to become a competitive club.
This issue is one of the main reasons why despite being in the top half of the majors in hitting, the Orioles are in the bottom half of the majors in scoring runs. And runs are the thing that counts toward the wins and losses.
Daniel Moroz blogs about the Orioles for Camden Crazies and joins MASNsports.com as part of our season-long initiative to welcome guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.