Not much about the 2018 Orioles is reflected in any of the playoff teams, those eliminated or those remaining. Yet the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are now one win away from returning to the World Series, found themselves in ignominy in one of the most crucial categories in the game.
Both the Orioles and the Dodgers finished the season with identical major league-worst .199 batting averages with runners in scoring position and two outs, an area the Orioles have had success for most of the past decade and topped out in 2017 with a .275 average that was third best in baseball.
The Dodgers hit enough home runs and had the pitching to overcome it in a big way this season. The Orioles will look at it as one of the many factors they can improve upon as they look to turn around from this year's 115-loss season.
A rival scout this month observed how even though many of the Orioles’ players were the same as recent winning seasons, the general approach with runners on base seemed to evaporate in 2018. Hitters who were reliable in such situations went completely in the other direction, and there wasn't much reward when the Orioles did get runners in scoring position late in innings. The Orioles’ 622 runs were the fewest in the American League, and their situational hitting was a big reason why.
The culprits are largely the players themselves, though some of that comes down to the organizational approach to hitting in which the Orioles try and do as much damage as possible on big swings. The only regular before the trade deadline who hit above .250 with runners in scoring position and two outs was Manny Machado (.323). With a runner in scoring position in any situation, Adam Jones (.270) led all regulars who spent the year with the team, though Jace Peterson hit .280 in 50 such at-bats.
Chris Davis' .200 average with runners in scoring position was far better than his .168 overall batting average, though he struck out to end the inning 25 times on 61 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and two outs.
But of all the individuals in this area who the Orioles will look to provide more, none stand out more than left fielder Trey Mancini. As a rookie in 2017, Mancini hit .340 with runners in scoring position and .373 in those situations with two outs, the latter of which ranked seventh best among big leaguers with at least 50 such at-bats.
This year, he went over a month in the middle of the season without a hit with a runner in scoring position and ended the year batting .150 (18-for-120), dragged down by a .138 average in those situations with two outs.
The Dodgers broke through some of those struggles to win Game 5 and send the series back to Milwaukee in former Orioles lefty Wade Miley's hands with a lot or pressure on him to keep the series alive for the Brewers.
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The Orioles will have to wait a bit longer, but have just as big of a deficiency on that front to overcome once next season begins.