Out of all the numbers surrounding this Orioles team, the only ones that mean anything are the “8” in the win column and the “26” in the loss column. Everything else is noise. But some of the underlying stats behind their unpleasant start go a long way toward explaining the worst record in baseball.
Here are five stats that stand out that attempt to shed light on exactly why the Orioles are struggling as badly as they are, and whether there's any hope for a turnaround on these fronts.
49.7 – When the subject of teams pitching the Orioles backward and not giving them fastballs to hit this season was broached with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh barely a week into the season, he believed it was more a symptom of facing the Houston Astros and New York Yankees than something the Orioles would face all year long. Well, 34 games into the season, they've seen the lowest percentage of fastballs of any team in baseball, 49.7. And until they show they can handle off-speed pitches, they'll keep getting them. Orioles hitters are batting .200 on nonfastballs, 25th-best in baseball. The league average is .219. They're 26th in slugging percentage against nonfastballs at .324, well below the league average of .358. They're without one of their best breaking-ball hitters, Jonathan Schoop, but this is a team-wide problem that isn't going to get better. The Orioles had just four hits on off-speed pitches in the entire Oakland series. [Source: FanGraphs and BaseballSavant.com]
0 – Orioles star Manny Machado has been intentionally walked seven times this season, including three times in three games in Oakland. Each time, the Orioles had a runner in scoring position, and Machado meant they had two runners on. The Orioles haven't scored in any of those situations, and are 2-5 in such games. All five losses are by one or two runs. Walking Machado is a fine strategy at this point, without much lineup protection for him from Schoop early and more recently, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. It just goes to show how big a part of the Orioles offense Machado has been, and the problems the rest of the lineup has had around him. [Source: FanGraphs]
20 – Only one team — the San Diego Padres with 21 — has allowed more unearned runs than the 20 the Orioles have this season. And they've been plenty costly when they've been charged. The only one of the 12 games the Orioles have allowed an unearned run that they've won was the 8-7, come-from-behind win against the New York Yankees on April 8 that featured Mike Wright Jr. allowing three unearned runs in the first inning and required a comeback and 12 innings to win. Five games — the 3-2 April 4 loss to Houston, the 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on April 10, a 3-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on April 15, Friday's 6-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics and Sunday's 2-1 loss to Oakland — had the unearned runs account for the margin of defeat. The Orioles' average margin of defeat is 3.38 runs per game; there have been just as many close losses as blowout ones. But flip those five games, and a 13-21 record is probably a little more hopeful than the current 8-26 mark. That's what 26 errors in 34 games will do. [Source: Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com]
7.7 – On Sunday, Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb put some of the onus for the team's defensive problems on himself and the pitching staff, saying he hasn't been striking out enough batters and thus has been putting the defense in too difficult a position. As a group, Orioles starters have struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings, good for 22nd-best in baseball. Cobb (4.18 per nine) and Chris Tillman (4.62 per nine) have two of the lowest strikeouts per nine in the game out of the 141 starters with at least 20 innings this season. Kevin Gausman has struck out 7.42 per nine as he's pitched to contact more, while Andrew Cashner is at 8.61 per nine and Dylan Bundy leads the way at 10.62 per nine. Cobb is trending in the right direction though, with a season-high five strikeouts Sunday, so perhaps this won't be a problem for much longer. [Source: FanGraphs]
43 – No team has required more relief appearances of more than three outs than the Orioles' 43, an indication of the stress the team has put on its relief corps this season. But they're doing that to keep their relievers' appearances down, and it has worked. Only Richard Bleier is among the league leaders, and they've made just 96 relief appearances as a group despite having to cover 126 innings so far. The Orioles rank 12th in baseball with a 4.43 relief ERA. However it's quantified, the Orioles relievers are being put in situations that don't make for irregular roles and erratic work for everyone. Only longer starts and winning can change that. [Source: Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com]