Monday, July 9, 2012

First Half Reflections

I'll start with a personal note - for those loyal readers out there (do I have loyal readers?) my move is pretty much completed and I now have internet & cable hooked up so expect more frequent posts from here on out.  We should be back to the 2 posts a week standard we were on through May or so.

First Half Reflections

Ok, so this post is going to be less statistical and more of an overview of my opinions about the Orioles' first half.  We'll talk about the pitching first, the hitting second and wrap it up with a description of the team as a whole.  I might throw in some statistics as we go, but I want this to be more of a stream of consciousness type piece.

The Pitching

I'm going to refer to this section as the regression to the mean group.  We'll start with the starting pitching who, as a group started out pretty strong, but stumbled lately.  Or so it seemed... month by month breakdown of ERA/FIP/xFIP for the starters looks like this:

March/April - 3.63/4.42/4.39
May - 5.16/4.40/4.08
June - 5.45/4.42/4.19
July - 4.79/4.39/4.16

As you can see the Starters' FIP has fluctuated between 4.39 and 4.42 this season, which is oddly consistent.  Some months they've been lucky, but others they've been pretty unlucky.  Overall, this is above league average (surprise) which currently sits at 4.08.  It would be great for the team if the starters could come down to league average, and this is definitely reachable given the tumultuous nature of our rotation through the first 5 months of the season.

The relievers on the other hand have been less consistent, but better as a whole.  Here's a month by month breakdown for the relievers by ERA/FIP/xFIP:

March/April - 1.83/3.46/3.91
May - 2.64/3.97/3.85
June - 3.24/3.56/4.02
July - 4.43/5.97/5.13

There are two things to note here that I think are important for O's fans to understand going forward.  The first is that they have outperformed their peripherals (FIP) every month, suggesting that they aren't as good as they've been.  Also, they have trended upwards in ERA towards their FIPs (season average is 3.87).  I would expect them to be closer to that number than the 2 ERAs we have seen them put up.

A league average FIP would be 3.84, meaning the O's bullpen would fall in the middle of the pack as opposed to the top 2 or 3 teams as they have been all season.  This is not the end of the world, and if the starters can pick up their game a bit in the second half, the O's can still contend with the AL East powerhouses, though not necessarily for a playoff spot.

The Hitting

Let's start with some numbers here, as this is perhaps the most surprising development of the first half.  The Orioles currently boast a .305 wOBA, which would rank 21st in MLB to this point.  Only the Rays, A's and Mariners rank lower among AL teams to this point.  This likely stems from the Orioles ranking 26th in MLB in batting average, hitting only .240 on the season.  To be fair though, they rank 27th in BABIP at .278, besting only the Rays, A's and Mariners.

Ironically, the offense was the least of my worries going into the season, as the team ranked 12th in MLB last season for wOBA.  It seemed they made some upgrades over the winter & we expected young guys like Wieters and Jones to continue improving.

This isn't necessarily a fair judgment though as the team has been without some major players for much of the season, and frankly has started AAA guys at 3/9 of the lineup spots.  I honestly think that Markakis coming back will significantly improve the lineup, not necessarily because he's that significant of an upgrade, but because of the ramifications it will have on the rest of the lineup.  Similarly the offense will likely tick up as guys like JJ Hardy bounce back (.233 BABIP would be a career low).  I think the offense will likely be league average for the second half, assuming no significant Markakis-like injuries.

The Team as a Whole

There's kind of been a running theme throughout this piece, maybe you've noticed my opinion on the team to this point.  The Orioles are not as good as they have been so far this season, but they're not as bad as they've seemed the past few weeks.  Coming into this season, if I told you "this team will go .500 this season", you'd have been ecstatic.  Now though, that seems like a failure.  This team smells like a .500 team to me.  The offense is below average but has been unlucky.  The relievers look to be right around average if not slightly better.  The starters have a very real chance to get back to league average I think, especially given the lack of consistency to this point.

Before the season I had the Orioles' over/under for wins at 75 games.  It looks to me like they'll beat that, but not make the playoffs.  You know what?  I'm just fine with that.

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