It is not a great morning to speak well of the Orioles offense, I grant that.
They have scored a combined three runs the last two games. That was after scoring 30 runs in a four-game span. And that was after scoring six runs in a four-game span.
But overall, for the year, if you go by the most basic of stats – runs scored – the Orioles offense has had a good season. When you cut through all the analysis and stats, sometimes simplifying it this way cuts to the chase.
As the series at Cleveland began last night, the Orioles ranked fourth in the American League in runs per game at 5.11. They trailed only Texas (5.53), Tampa Bay (5.25) and Houston (5.16) atop the league.
So, pretty good.
When I debated the O’s offense with some of the readers last winter who had big concerns, I saw them having a chance to be a top five or six AL offense based on two factors. And again, I simplified things. I felt there were two main reasons the club’s offense would improve in 2023 – one, full years from Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson and two, I saw some young vets like Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins having better years.
Check and check.
We know what Adley and Gunnar have done. But also, we have seen Hays improve his OPS plus from 105 to 117, Mullins from 107 to 110 and Mountcastle from 108 to 115.
The Orioles have had a good offense while ranking only eighth in the AL in home runs. It’s not a power-laden team that will mash the baseball.
But one perhaps hidden area where this offense scores well is in gaining 90 feet. Limit this on defense and gaining this on offense can lead to wins and maybe the 90 feet barometer has been a big one for a team with a 28-15 one-run record.
And while the O’s don’t hit a lot of homers, they do have the fourth-fewest strikeouts in the AL, so they put the ball in play well. And they are not without extra-base pop, ranking third in the league in doubles and triples. That helps the club rank fifth with a .751 team OPS.
But back to the 90-foot gains they make on offense.
In stats that may surprise you, the Orioles are second in the league in sac flies with 47 and in sac bunts with 20. The Orioles’ stolen-base percentage of 82.7 ranks second in the AL.
So, they score well in advancing runners, we know they run the bases pretty well, they are smart in base stealing attempts, and they do score well in gaining 90 feet stealing bases and in other ways at some key moments.
The team has gotten some unexpected production for sure from Ryan O’Hearn. No one could have expected anything like this from O’Hearn. And I surely didn’t expect the Orioles to rank first in the AL in batting average with runners scoring position at .288 or in team OPS with RISP at .842.
So, an overall good year for the offense which went from scoring 4.16 runs per game last year to rank 10th in the league to 5.11 and fourth this year. Yes, scoring is up this year with the new rules and no shifts. But compared to other teams in the league they went from the bottom six to the top four in run scoring.
And now, about last night: Cleveland scored three runs off the O's bullpen and lefty Cionel Pérez in the last of the eighth last night to break a 2-2 tie and beat the Orioles 5-2.
Now 95-58, the Orioles have nine games left, but their lead over the Rays was cut to 1.5 games as their magic number holds at seven.
While the O's return to Cleveland tonight, Toronto is at Tampa Bay for three and then they host the Rays for three games next week. Six critical games between a Tampa Bay club trying to catch the Orioles and a Toronto team trying to get a wild-card playoff spot.
Toronto, Seattle and Texas are separated by a 1/2 game in the wild-card race and one of these three clubs is likely going to miss the postseason.