As the Orioles reset with a day off before another week on the road in Boston and Detroit, the open date provides an opportunity to check in on some of the team's most pressing concerns — Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Tim Beckham, plus the bullpen and offensive approach — and see how things are going.
Is Davis making good contact when he does? Is Beckham replicating last August or September? Has Machado's luck turned?
These and more follow in the first edition of five Orioles stats that stand out of 2018.
81.8 – Davis broke out with a pair of hits Wednesday for his first multihit game of the season. But more alarming than his strikeouts and the concerns about his approach will be the quality of contact when he does connect. There are 186 batters with at least 25 batted ball events so far this season. Only four have a lower average exit velocity than Davis' 81.8 mph, according to Statcast. That's well lower, on average, than his 2017 rate of 89.9 mph. His collection of batted balls features weak pop-ups in the first few games of the season and a home run off CC Sabathia is his only extra-base hit. Davis has plenty to sort out, but three well-hit balls and a pair of hits Wednesday was the exception, not the rule, this year.
32.1 – The difference between Beckham's August and September in an Orioles uniform was defined by two things — his strikeout rate and his ground-ball rate. In August, he drove pretty much everything while striking out far less often — 18.9 percent, as opposed to a career rate near 30 percent. Those two things regressed from Sept. 1 on, and neither indicator looks too good now. He's struck out in 32.1 percent of his at-bats this year — much more in line with his 32.7 percent strikeout rate last September and October, and with what he's done his whole career. Beckham is still making hard contact when he connects, but through two weeks, the Orioles were hoping to see more of the August version of him than the September one. It's clear they haven't. (Source: FanGraphs)
142 – Entering Thursday’s games, the Orioles led the majors in strikeouts by a wide margin with 142 in 13 games. The next closest team, the San Diego Padres, has 127. The first month of the Orioles' schedule includes no fewer than five Cy Young Award winners starting for opponents, and three of them have already faced the Orioles. Several others have been or will be contenders. But there's a clear way to pitch the Orioles that's becoming more widely adopted across the game, and if the Orioles don't find a way to more consistently adapt to that, the strikeout total will only rise. Striking out in 27.2 percent of at-bats is far too often. (Sources: MLB.com, FanGraphs)
29 – The Orioles bullpen has had an unusual workload this year, with three extra-inning games and some short starts, but the team’s relievers also entered Thursday leading the American League with 29 walks. Because they've pitched so much, that only amounts to a rate of 4.75 walks per nine innings, but it's a lot of self-inflicted damage. That's contributed to a 1.42 WHIP, which creates too many adverse situations for a group that's still trying to find its footing without closer Zach Britton. (Sources: MLB.com, FanGraphs)
.368 – Machado's season is already going far better than last season, and any number on any of his statistical pages could be used to illustrate that. The simplest one is his .368 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which means that all those bad-luck moments when he'd sting a ball right at a fielder are gone this year. Machado is doing all the things that are hallmarks of his good seasons — crushing mistakes, using good barrel control to delay his swing on breaking balls and yank them down the left-field line, etc. And all of that shows up in a BABIP that, at this early juncture in the season, is already 100 points higher than his .265 mark last year. (Source: FanGraphs)