The trend continues: O's rank low in walks, high in runs, high in wins

Here is a tale of two Orioles hitters. Both are doing well in 2024 and both did well in 2023. But their batter profiles have changed a lot in what is still kind of a small sample for this year. But we're about to reach the 25 percent point into this season, so it’s not that small.

But so far Adley Rutschman is walking a lot less and striking out more, yet still hitting well. Ryan O’Hearn is walking more, fanning less and still hitting well.

Rutschman’s OPS was .809 last year, and he took 59.0 percent of pitches he saw. This year he is taking less at 51.6 percent, but heading into Friday’s series opener with Arizona, his OPS was at .814.

But his walk rate has dropped from an above-average 13.4 percent last year to a below-average 5.1 now. His strikeout rate is up from 14.7 to 17.7. Making less contact, walking less but still a very productive hitter for the Orioles.

Now take Ryan O’Hearn, who had an .801 OPS last year. That figure was .915 at first pitch Friday (and is .930 now).

O’Hearn has dramatically changed his profile, raising his 4.1 walk rate in 2023 to this year's 11.2. His K rate has dropped from 22.3 to 10.1. He’s made big changes here thus far, and he is seeing fewer pitches but doing damage when he does swing.

The Orioles as a team are clearly more aggressive and more productive thus far this year. Some of this is confounding fans who love a good walk rate. But this team does not have that right now.

And the O’s walk rate was not great last year, when they scored 4.98 runs per game (seventh in the majors) but rated 20th with an 8.4 walk rate.

This year they rank 29th with a 6.7 walk rate but are second in scoring, at 5.19 runs per game heading into last night's game.

Maybe it comes down to this: Do you want walks or do you want runs and wins? Yes, drawing walks and seeing a lot of pitches and getting starters out of games by working counts is a good thing. But you can get them out of games also by bashing balls over fences. And no team has done that as well as Baltimore in 2024.

An early trend this year was how hard the Orioles are hitting the ball. They were producing a lot of homers early on this year with well struck shots, and I wrote about that at the 24-game mark here

But they keep mashing baseballs. Where last season the O’s ranked 23rd in average team exit velocity, now they rate second-best at 90.2 mph. Last year they ranked 18th in barrel percentage and now they are second at 9.9 percent.

By definition, to be barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner “barreled classification.” For every mile per hour over 98, the range of launch angles expands.

The Orioles may not be getting deep into a lot of counts and drawing ball four, but they continue to square up balls at rates as well as just about any major league club. 

When you hit the ball hard and on a line, you barrel it, and your chances for something good to happen go up. And the O's are putting up a solid number of runs for the year, even with being shut out a few times and having some lower-scoring games the last two weeks.

To further confuse and confound, well, maybe all of us, the highest-scoring teams in the majors in the 2024 season are not those that walk the most.

As of Friday here are the highest-scoring teams and where they rank in team walk rates:

* 5.49 runs per game – LA Dodgers, with a 10.9 BB rate (2nd in MLB).

* 5.19 runs per game – Orioles, with a 6.7 BB rate (29th).

* 5.10 runs per game – Texas, with a 8.5 BB rate (16th).

* 5.06 runs per game – Atlanta, with an 8.2 BB rate (20th).

* 5.00 runs per game – Arizona, with a 9.5 BB rate (7th).

So three of the five top scoring teams don’t rank in the top 15 in walk rate. But they are scoring a lot of runs.

Another pitching-led win: Ironically, at a time when I am discussing the hard contact the O's make, they failed to hit a single homer last night. It's just the 11th time this season that has happened, and they are now 5-6 in those games.

The O's beat Arizona 4-2 Friday behind another well pitched game. Lefty Cole Irvin allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings and is now 4-1 with a 2.86 ERA. He has an ERA of 0.70 his past four starts, winning each of them.

Over the last 10 games, Baltimore pitchers have a 1.66 ERA and the team is 8-2. Over the past 17 games, the team ERA is 2.26 and they are 12-5.

Cowser and Kjerstad in today's Orioles lineup
Kicking around ideas for Kimbrel and the Orioles' ...
 

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