A few items worth nothing and a few opinions about them to start the second week of the offseason.
Item: The Orioles offense was the best in the American League in August and the worst in September.
This was a pretty stunning change. In August the team ranked first in batting average (.306), slugging (.534), OPS (.882), homers (57) and runs per game (6.0). In September they ranked 15th and last in the AL in average (.224), OBP (.273), slugging (.358) and runs per game (3.1). The Orioles hit 27 homers in the month, next to last in the league.
My take: When fewer homers came, so did fewer runs. The two are directly linked for the Orioles, but some players may have worn down as well. Manny Machado was third and Jonathan Schoop was fifth in the league in at-bats. Sure, they are young and can handle a heavy load of games. But Machado hit .210 with a .590 OPS in September and Schoop hit .239 with a .611 OPS. Maybe more rest is even needed for the youngsters moving foward.
Item: The Orioles began the season going 22-10 and their starting rotation ERA at that point was 4.06. Had they finished at 4.06 for the year, the Orioles starters would have ranked fourth in the AL. But from that 32-game mark, the Orioles went 53-77 with a rotation ERA of 6.13. Their final mark of 5.70 was the worst ever by an O’s team. The previous worst was 5.51 in 2008.
My take: We all know the Orioles need better pitching and we all anxiously await finding out how they intend to do that. If the club is re-loading and not rebuilding, that has to start with a much improved rotation for 2018.
Item: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop recorded his first career 100-RBI season and became the fastest Oriole to reach 100 RBIs (Aug. 31) since Chris Davis in 2013 (Aug. 1). Schoop established an Orioles’ record for RBIs by a second baseman (primary position), passing Roberto Alomar, who had 94 in 1996. Schoop ranked sixth in the AL and tied for 12th in the majors with 105 RBIs.
My take: Just when some were convinced that Schoop was a certain level talent and may have found his ceiling, he took it to a much higher level in 2017. His homer total went from 25 to 32, the RBIs from 82 to 105 and the OPS from .752 to .841. A player who always said he is driven to get better, chased fewer pitches and did just that.
The message from young players like Schoop and Trey Mancini is clear. Chase fewer pitches and use the whole field and you can put up some big numbers. Can some O’s veterans do the same in 2018?
Item: Dylan Bundy went 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA for the Orioles and he was 6-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 14 starts against the AL East. Bundy recorded 19 quality starts to lead the Orioles and Kevin Gausman was second with 15. Wade Miley had eight to finish third on the staff. Yep, they had just three pitchers with eight or more.
My take: While you can have a minimum 4.50 ERA and get credit for a quality start, most often your game ERA is better and cranking out quality starts are important. The O’s had 61 and tied the Angels for last in the AL. Boston led the league with 88 and Cleveland had 84. Boston was fourth in rotation ERA and Cleveland was first.