Unquestionably, the most obvious component of the Orioles' impressive 7-1 run since Buck Showalter took over as manager is the drastic improvement of the starting pitchers, whose streak of seven consecutive quality starts was broken in Tuesday night's 14-8 win over the Cleveland Indians.
However, after an explosive performance such as Tuesday's, you can't ignore the turnaround the offense has made in the past eight games. And a big part of that recent success has been the Orioles' ability to hit with runners in scoring position — a situation in which they've struggled mightily all season.
The numbers are there to back it up, and the difference since Showalter took over isn't moderate — it's night and day.Here's a breakdown of the Orioles' team performance with runners in scoring position for each of the first eight games of Showalter's tenure:
Aug. 3: Orioles 6, Angels 3 — 5-for-11
Aug. 4: Orioles 9, Angels 7 — 6-for-12
Aug. 5: Orioles 5, Angels 4 — 4-for-10
Aug. 6: Orioles 2, White Sox 1 — 2-for-9
Aug. 7: White Sox 4, Orioles 2 — 1-for-3
Aug. 8: Orioles 4, White Sox 3 — 3-for-11
Aug. 9: Orioles 3, White Sox 2 — 1-for-4
Aug. 10: Orioles 14, Indians 8 — 7-for-10
So, over the past eight games, the Orioles have gone 29-for-70 with runners in scoring position, an average of .414. That number is pretty staggering on its own, but it's downright jaw-dropping when you compare it with the team's average with runners in scoring position over the entire season — .232, last in the major leagues.
Now, you might be inclined to argue — and rightfully so — that eight games is a small sample size and that the Orioles can't be expected to continue their recent production, but you also have to acknowledge that the team's hitting more than 180 points above its season average with RISP over an entire homestand (plus one road victory) is an impressive feat.
To take a closer look, let's look at some individual numbers. Back on July 7, I broke down the individual averages with runners in scoring position for the mainstays in the Orioles' lineup. You might recall that, overall, they were — to put it diplomatically — underwhelming.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of what those same hitters (minus those who are no longer on the active roster or haven't played a significant amount) have done since the beginning of the Showalter era. (Note: Some players, such as Felix Pie and Brian Roberts, aren't represented because they weren't included in the July 7 post as they were still injured then.)
Player _____ RISP through July 7 _____ RISP Aug. 3-10
Nick Markakis, RF _____ .338 _____ .250 (1-for-4)
Adam Jones, CF _____ .253 _____ .333 (2-for-6)
Cesar Izturis, SS _____ .245 _____ .500 (4-for-8)
Ty Wigginton, 1B ______ .235 _____ .500 (4-for-8)
Matt Wieters, C _____ .227 _____ .500 (4-for-8)
Luke Scott, DH _____ .133 _____ .571 (4-for-7)
Again, I acknowledge that the above players' RISP statistics for the past eight games represent a small sample size, but even so, the numbers speak for themselves.
Of the six players above, five of them have outperformed their RISP average through July 7 while playing for Showalter. Four of them have more than doubled that average in the past eight games. And the red-hot Scott, much maligned earlier in the year for his inability to get clutch hits, has batted a whopping 438 points over his earlier RISP average since the managerial change.
It's unrealistic to expect that Orioles hitters will be able to maintain their lofty averages with runners in scoring position, but if they can manage to stay anywhere close to them, I think it's clear you're going to see a good deal more victories for the rest of the season.