Since reconvening after the All-Star break, the Orioles have put together one of the game's most consistent offenses in a clear departure from the inconsistency at the plate that marred their disappointing first half.
No matter what that resurgence is ascribed to, the truth is an offense with some of the game's top power hitters that's also enjoyed breakout years from rookie Trey Mancini and All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop has always been capable of better.
These last three weeks, they've provided much better.
"I've noticed that our offense has picked it up," said outfielder Seth Smith, who has been among the Orioles’ best hitters since the break. "A lot of it is summer, and just getting more at-bats. It's hard to put it together. It's hard. Every lineup is going to have a guy or two doing well at any point in the season, but it's going to be a lot harder to get them all to do well at the same time. We've kind of just run into those spurts. I don't know if there's any explanation for it, but you get five, six, seven guys in the lineup doing well at the same time, that's when you look back and say, 'Oh, this offense is doing really well.' "
The Orioles are at that stage of realization now.
They ended the first half at ranked 11th in the American League with 392 runs (4.45 per game), with their team OPS of .734 also 11th. By weighted runs created plus, (wRC+), which takes offensive contributions by each event's expected run contribution then adjusting it for ballpark and other factors, they were 13th out of the league's 15 teams with a rating of 92, which is eight percent below average.
But since resuming play for the second half on July 14 against the Chicago Cubs, the Orioles are leading the American League with 130 runs in 23 games, with their per-game average of 5.65 over a full run better than the first half. They're second in OPS behind the Houston Astros, whose .865 mark bests the Orioles' .838. And by wRC+, their 120 mark is second in the AL behind the Astros.
Manager Buck Showatler sees plenty of reasons why that might be the case.
"I think Jon [Jonathan Schoop] has kind of settled in there [batting third]," Showatler said. "I think Manny [Machado] has kind of got back to what he's capable of. Adam [Jones] has been pretty good. We got Chris [Davis] back. We've been able to stretch out the lineup a little bit more. I think that's some of it. Also, some guys just over the course of the season reverting to what their track record is. They're going to be there sooner or later anyway."
"I just think we're going through a little bit of a hot stretch and we've got a little different look in the lineup," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "Buck has made a little different change in the lineup with Jonesy leading off, Manny in the two-hole, Schoop was hitting eighth earlier in the year and swinging the bat well and he's moved to three and kept his consistency. I think it just creates some more opportunities, and guys have put some good at-bats together.
“You can contribute and say we've gotten some more walks per game and things like that, but again, it's all about the consistency of the at-bats and the quality of at-bats. ... You catch fire based on the guy ahead of you passing it on to the next guy. ... But I think it's just a matter of guys have finally found some holes and we've created a little more consistency through the lineup the way the lineup has been put together by Buck."
All those individual performances Showalter mentioned have been a factor. Schoop is batting .333/.379/.624 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs since the break, making him the league's most productive player since he appeared in his first All-Star Game. Machado is batting .352/.398/.505 since the break to bring his average up to .257, while Jones has posted an .846 OPS in the leadoff spot and new shortstop Tim Beckham has posted an absurd 1.617 OPS since arriving Tuesday.
That Smith (.314/.467/.600 in 14 games) and the catching combination of Welington Castillo (.388/.404/.612 in 13 games) and Caleb Joseph (.308/.357/.590) have been so productive since the break has given the Orioles a depth they lacked at times this year, with everything tied together by having Schoop and Mancini in run-producing spots where others have struggled this year.
"You always have somebody in the lineup that seems to have a year that's not predicted," Coolbaugh said. "Right now, Trey Mancini was a huge part of the beginning of the season just keeping us afloat with some of the hits he was getting. Him and Jonathan Schoop at the bottom of the order were taking care of what was not happening at the top of the order at the beginning.
“I think now that those guys have moved up to the middle, the top of the order has some more consistency throughout and there's a better flow to our lineup."
Mancini said he's seen the statistical improvement played out in the quality of at-bats throughout the lineup.
"We're putting good at-bats together, one through nine," he said. "Not chasing as many bad pitches, I've noticed, has been a big thing for us. And we've really gotten a lot of hits to the opposite field, taking our hits whenever they give them to us. I think that's been huge for us and made it a success since the All-Star break."