The Orioles have had a tough season in many respects. Many, many respects. But there is one area in which they’ve been not only the best team in baseball, but the best team in baseball by far. It’s their pitchers - when they’re hitters.
The best-hitting pitching staff in the National League belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have a collective .190/.230/.257 line. That’s obviously awful by regular standards (and one of the main reasons why I think the DH should be universal), but on the alternate scale they’re on top. The Brewers are right behind them at .182/.214/.253. These teams are the cream of the crop.
Oriole pitchers are hitting .409/.409/.636 this season. Only one individual qualified batter in baseball - Jose Bautista - has a higher OPS than 1.045 put up by the O’s hurlers. Yes, it’s only 23 plate appearances, but it’s still awesome.
Given the batting average equaling the on-base percentage above, it’s not hard to guess that the O’s pitcher didn’t draw a walk. But they also only struck out 4 times, which is pretty good in general. Their 17.4 percent strikeout rate was the lowest in the majors - the White Sox were second at 22.7 percent, and the Nationals were the best NL team at 25.2 percent. In fact, the average major leaguer has struck out in 18.5 percent of his plate appearances, so they’re even above average overall there.
Not only did O’s pitchers put the ball in play a lot, it tended to fall in for a hit, too. Their batting average on balls in play was a major league-high .471 - eight hits on 17 balls put into play. They also brought some pop, with two doubles and a home run. The .227 isolated power figure? Best in baseball. Only one other team was even over .075 (the Rangers at .125) and Milwaukee leads the NL at .071.
Much of the credit for the staff’s hitting dominance goes to rookie Zach Britton, who is hitting a better-than-Ruthian .625/.625/1.125. He made the O’s the only AL team with a non-zero in the home run column for pitchers, and has single-handedly out-homered four NL staffs (Pirates, Marlins, Giants, Mets). Britton also has more home runs this year than first-baseman Daric Barton (280 plate appearances), infielders Chris Getz (415 plate appearances), Jamey Carroll (460 plate appearances) and former Orioles Melvin Mora (135 plate appearances) and Felix Pie (175 plate appearances). There are 21 other position players who have come to the plate at least 100 times without a home run.
That Britton kid’s not too shabby on the other side of the ball either - he’s been the team’s best pitcher this year, to go along with having the best batting line of anyone in baseball (minimum five plate appearances).
Some more fun O’s pitcher hitting facts:
* After Britton, we have Chris Jakubauskas (.667/.667/.667), Jeremy Guthrie (.200/.200/.400), Jake Arrieta (.250/.250/.250) and Brian Matusz (who can’t seem to catch a break at .000/.000/.000).
* The Pirates’ pitchers - last in the NL with a .086 batting average - would need to go 141 for their next 141 to beat the O’s .409.
* Pitchers from the Padres and Mets each have only one more extra-base hit than their O’s counterparts, despite 254 and 272 more plate appearances, respectively.
* Using runs created (wRC) - which does take into account playing time - the O’s are third in the majors at +5 runs, behind only the top two NL teams (who obviously have many more at-bats).
* Speaking of wRC; Josh Bell, Cesar Izturis, and Chris Davis combined - 124 plate appearances and 3.9 runs created. Zach Britton - eight plate appearances and 3.7 runs created.
* If O’s pitcher got double the number of plate appearances, and in the second half they hit only as well as the average NL pitcher, they’d still be hitting better as a unit than the guy (Vladimir Guerrero) assigned to bat for them has this year.
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.