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Orioles' return home shows team's reliance on home runs

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis watches his home run in the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards on April 28, 2016 in Baltimore.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis watches his home run in the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards on April 28, 2016 in Baltimore. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

After hanging a 10-spot on the red-hot Chicago White Sox on the heels of a six-game road trip that saw 15 total runs scored by the Orioles, it's easy to peg this as a home and road thing developed by this team.

It kind of is, but it's more a home run thing.

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This Orioles offense has long lived and died by the home run, and they are again so far this season.

On Thursday, it was Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado who hit their seventh, sixth, and seventh home runs of the season respectively to drive in seven of the team's 10 runs.

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It moved the Orioles to 10-5 this season when they've homered, well above the 3-3 mark when they don't. And when they hit multiple home runs, they're 6-2.

For the season, the Orioles' 31 home runs have driven in 51 of the teams' 95 runs, accounting for 53.6 percent of their total offense.

According to Baseball Prospectus' Guillen Number, named for former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's reliance of the teams he managed on home runs, that gives them the second-highest percentage of runs off home runs in the majors, just behind the New York Mets (54.5 percent)

The closest I could come to finding a league-average was on Baseball Reference's league splits page, which indicates on balls not in play there have been 1,075 RBIs this season. Then, go to the pitching splits and find there have been 23 bases loaded walks this season, eight batters hit with the bases loaded, and you can knock 31 of those runs off as not via home runs. There have been 2,775 total runs scored, so that means roughly 37.6 percent of the league's runs this year have come via the long ball.

Last season, the Orioles ranked highest in the league in runs off home runs, with 47.7 percent of their 719 runs coming on the long ball. In 2014, they led again with 47.8 percent. The Orioles haven't ranked lower than second in baseball in BP's Guillen Number since 2010.

The Orioles being 15 percentage points higher than this year's estimated league average only shows how reliant they've been on home runs this season, though it also shows some of the bad luck they've had on that front. Seventeen of those 31 have been solo home runs with no one on base, so the damage could have been even worse had there been runners on.

Using home-road splits ignores that home runs have carried them on the road, too, even if they do indicate the Orioles are hitting better at home.

Thursday's was the ninth home game of the season, and the Orioles are batting a league-leading .299 at Camden Yards, with an .839 OPS at their home park. In a dozen road games, they're hitting .247 with a .738 OPS. That makes them just below the league average on the road, not necessarily bad.

Last year's team was bad on the road, batting .232 with a .688 OPS, good for 28th in the league. They were ninth in home hitting last season.

This year, the home runs are coming at about the same rate — 1.44 per game in Baltimore, and 1.5 on the road.

All it seems to mean is something everyone already knows: These Orioles are going to be pretty prodigious when it comes to hitting home runs, and likely will hit well at home too. But it will be their ability to maintain that kind of offense over 162 games that dictates just how well they do.

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