Zach Wilt: Quantifying Steve Pearce’s value to O’s

I think it’s safe to say that most of Baltimore is in agreement: Adam Jones is the club’s Most Valuable Oriole. In fact, I believe that Jones will seriously compete for the American League’s Most Valuable Player honor.

He’s the pulse of the AL East-leading Orioles, a guy who defends his position at a Gold Glove-caliber level and he’s on pace for another 30-home run season. There aren’t many players in the game that are more valuable to their clubs than Jones is to the O’s.

Now that we’re on the same page with the MVO/MVP discussion, I have this burning question to pose to everyone in Birdland: Which player is the runner-up? Which Oriole should finish second as the team’s Most Valuable Oriole behind Jones? We all agree that O’s can’t live without A.J., but who would you put right up there with him?

To answer this question I first started by glancing at FanGraph’s WAR rankings for the Orioles. To the surprise of many, Steve Pearce ranks second (3.6) behind Jones (4.5) and ahead of J.J. Hardy (3.2), Nelson Cruz (2.7), Manny Machado (2.3) and Nick Markakis (1.8). Interestingly, Pearce has played roughly 45 less games than those guys (with the exception of Machado, of course). I knew Pearce was having a career year based on his slash line alone, but had no idea just how important he’s been to the club.

If you prorated Pearce’s WAR into a full season, he’d easily be the Orioles’ leader in that category. In fact, he’d be in the conversation with major league leaders Mike Trout (6.1), Alex Gordon (5.9) and Giancarlo Stanton (5.7). Of course, that’s not really how wins above replacement works; it’s unfair to assume that he would perform at the same level for additional third or so of the season. Still, this shows just how much Pearce has meant to the Orioles.

Earlier this week, MASN displayed a graphic during the Orioles broadcast that showed the players with the highest OPS for two-hole hitters. Pearce ranked second behind Yasiel Puig. Prior to last night’s game, Pearce had posted a .939 OPS in that spot compared to Puig’s .946. We knew Pearce was performing well in his role with the Orioles, but did we know he was performing this well?

The numbers clearly display his value to the club, but let’s not forget the journey he has taken to get to where he is today. Pearce avoided arbitration with the Orioles back in December and in April was designated for assignment, released and then later re-signed by the club. He reportedly turned down the Blue Jays’ waiver claim in order to return to the Orioles. Not only has Pearce been the Orioles’ second most valuable player this season, but he chose to remain in Baltimore.

In return, he received a regular workload while Chris Davis was on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Pearce was incredibly important to the Orioles during these games. In 16 starts in May, he slashed 309/.356/.544 with four homers and 12 RBIs. He followed that up by hitting .361/.432/.667 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 17 starts in June. Pearce’s 207 wRC+ (a statistic that quantifies a player’s total offensive value and measures it by runs) in June ranks third in the big leagues among players with at least 80 at-bats.

In a season in which the Orioles have lost two All-Stars to season-ending injuries, it’s performances like Pearce’s that are the difference between playing in the postseason or hitting the golf course. Without this Orioles’ unsung hero, the AL East would be much tighter than it is today and the postseason would be much less of a certainty than it appears to be here in late August.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zamwi. 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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