Zach Wilt: Taking numbers with a grain of salt

Playing the “on pace for” game is dangerous for any sports fan. A team that reels off a bunch of wins early could be on pace for one of the best seasons ever. Remember the Dodgers last season? They had a 44-7 stretch that went from June to August and put them on a pace to win more games than any team in history. They finished 2017 12 wins shy of 116. Sure, it was a good season, but it wasn’t what we were all expecting.

We see this type of stuff all the time when hitters get hot at the plate. In this home run-heavy era, we’ll look at the trends and wonder how many guys will hit more than 50 homers, but the list always ends up smaller than we expected. Over the last 10 years, only four guys have hit 50 or more home runs in a single season. How many have been on pace for more in the middle of the season? Plenty. Right now, J.D. Martinez and José Ramírez are on pace to hit 50 or more this season.

Through over a third of the major league season, Manny Machado is on pace to finish the season with career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He’s hit 18 home runs and driven in 49 through 61 games, which puts him on pace for 48 dingers and 133 RBI. That’s what we like to call a career year.

Orioles starting pitchers have recorded 29 quality starts in 61 games this season. They currently rank ninth in baseball in that category after finishing 27th in 2017. They are on pace to finish the season with 74 and had just 61 a year ago.

The “on pace for” game can go the other way too. Like say, when your favorite team has a record of 19-42. It’s June 8, the Orioles have played 61 games of 162 and they are on pace for just 50 wins. See what I mean? 50 wins would put the Orioles among one of the worst teams in modern major league history.

Chance Sisco currently has 45 strikeouts through 120 plate appearances this season. That’s a 37.5 percent strikeout percentage in 40 games games. Sisco is on pace for the Orioles highest strikeout percentage in 2018, even higher than Chris Davis, who sits at 36.1 percent.

Speaking of Davis, he’s on pace for the worst season of his career. Earlier this week, Dan Symborski tweeted that Davis is on pace for the worst fWAR in major league history by nearly a full win. Davis led the league in homers in 2013 with 53 and again in 2015 with 47. He’s on pace to hit just 11 this season.

At the end of the season, what do these numbers that we’re obsessing over on June 8 actually mean? Not a whole lot. They’re just trends that give us a snapshot of where teams stands today. The baseball season is a marathon after all. The Orioles will (hopefully) win more than 50 games. Machado might have a career year, but likely won’t finish as drastically high as he’s on pace for right now. And hopefully Davis and Sisco will make some adjustments at the plate.

There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. For the Orioles, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Based on their trend over the first two and half months of the season, I feel like the only place they can go is up.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.

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