How are the 2013 Orioles different from the 2012 Orioles?
If you answered that the bullpen isn't as good this year, you're right.
If you said this year's team doesn't hit as well with runners in scoring position, you're wrong.
And if you concluded that this year's team is a heavier hitting bunch, you're both right and wrong.
Let's address each one in order.
First, the bullpen. The 2012 Orioles bullpen was lights-out while the 2013 version is more of a dimmer switch.
O's relievers rank lower than they did in 2012 pretty much across the board. That applies to ERA (they are 20th in baseball with a 3.76 ERA in 2013; they were fifth in baseball with a 3.00 ERA in 2012); opponent batting average (they are 20th at .250 in 2013; they were 12th at .238 in 2012); opponent on-base percentage (they are 16th at .314 in 2013; they were sixth at .304 in 2012); opponent slugging percentage (they are 26th at .395 in 2013; they were eighth at .361 in 2012); and OPS (they are 23rd at .709 in 2013; they were seventh at .666 in 2012).
Next, there's hitting with runners in scoring position. The Orioles had a more difficult time clearing the bases last season, but the bullpen helped mask those troubles. It only takes one clutch hit to win a game when your relievers are keeping the opponent scoreless.
Despite their recent struggles, the Orioles' .273 batting average with runners in scoring position ranks fifth in baseball. They're ninth overall for runs scored in that scenario and 12th for on-base percentage. Compare that to last season when they ranked 16th for average with runners in scoring position at .256, 24th for runs and 23rd for on-base percentage.
Finally, let's talk heavy lumber. The O's are bigger hitters in 2013 than they were in 2012. However, the difference is in doubles rather than home runs.
Orioles batters are going deep at the same rate that they did in 2012. The O's lead the majors with 177 homers; last year, they finished second to only the Yankees with 214 total homers. With 30 games to go, the O's are on pace to finish with roughly the same home run total both seasons.
However, the O's have improved in terms of slugging percentage (.439 versus .417) and OPS (.755 versus .728). That's attributable to a jump in doubles. The O's are currently fifth in the majors with 245 doubles after finishing 17th overall last season with 270 doubles. Adam Jones' 39 doubles led the Orioles in 2012; Manny Machado already has 44 doubles, while Chris Davis has 37.
So the Orioles are a different team in 2013, one with a shakier bullpen but better bats. It remains to be seen how the end results will compare.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming 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.