Breaking News...Orioles Discover New Offensive Philosophy: Score Runs
Peter Gammons column today on ESPN.com highlights, among other things, the way the Baltimore Orioles' offensive philosophy has changed for the better, and has actually worked out well. Or at least Gammons seems to think it has. He says...
Now led by Melvin Mora, who (Orioles' VP Mike) Flanagan calls "the poster boy for what we're trying to do (.338 OBP last year, .465 this season)," the Orioles are on a pace to score 170 more runs than last year, and they've done it without adding any significant offensive talent in the offseason. "The whole team has bought into it," said Flanagan, "and those who didn't (i.e. Gary Matthews Jr.) are out of here."
Umm, maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Melvin Mora the poster boy for what every major league team is trying to do? If you polled 30 GMs and asked all of them whether or not they'd like a player who can play five different defensive positions and hit .360 with patience and power, I doubt that any of them would have to think about it over lunch. Probably only Allard Baird would respond with, "No, we'll take the weak hitting middle infielder who gets hurt all the time."
The Orioles saying that Melvin Mora is the perfect example of what your team is trying to do is like a homeless guy saying that winning the lottery is the perfect example of what he's trying to do. Like I mentioned the other day, if you've got a 31-year old with a career .262 EqA (read: mediocre) and he goes on a tear and hits like the second coming of Babe Ruth for a couple of months, you count your blessings and maybe you reward him with praise and/or a bonus, but you can't expect anyone to take you seriously when you parade him around and toot your own horn as though you knew he was gonna do that.
The irony, of course, is that they really haven't added any significant offensive talent since last season, and the statistical record shows that. But I'll get to that later. The other irony, if Gammons is touting the importance of on-base percentage, is that by all indications, Gary Matthews Jr. does get it: his career minor and major leageu records show him walking about once every seven at-bats. It's not Barry Bonds, but it's better than the league average, which is around every 10 or 11 at-bats. It was hits that Matthews Jr. had trouble getting (career .238 hitter in the majors).
Gammons also said:
Last year the Orioles' on-base percentage was .309, second worst in the league. This year, it's .344, fifth best in the AL. "We were looking to add 100 runs when we made our runs at Clifford Floyd, Pudge Rodriguez and players like that," said Flanagan. "We may have found those runs, in a large part because of a philosophy. Hopefully this is just the beginning, up and down the organization, as we try to bring back the Orioles."
This is true, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Look at how the Orioles did last year and this year, with and without Melvin Mora's contributions:
R H HR BB AB/BB BA OBP SLG OPS
2002 Orioles 667 1353 165 452 12.15 .246 .309 .403 .712
2002 O's no MM 581 1223 146 382 12.92 .248 .302 .403 .705
2003 Orioles* 844 1572 169 517 10.88 .279 .340 .429 .769
2003 O's no MM* 737 1398 145 433 11.89 .272 .328 .414 .742
Difference** +156 +175 -1 +51 -1.03 +.024 +.026 +.011 +.037
NOTES: The * means the projected numbers over 162 games for 2003. The ** means the difference for everyone on the Orioles who isn't Melvin Mora, both for 2003 and 2002.
Gammons was right about the numbers he quoted, but if you remove the flukey contribution of Melvin Mora from the equation, the rest of the Orioles have not improved nearly as much as Peter would hae you believe. Sure, the rest of the team has gained 26 points in OBP, but 24 of those are due to batting average, not walks, an indication that the Orioles are a lot luckier this year, not a lot more patient.
The rest of the Orioles are on a pace to score about 150 more runs than they did last year, which is a big jump, but there was really nowhere to go but up from that dismal team. They're taking about one more walk every three games as a team, which is a start but hardly the byproduct of an organizational philosophy. Just another statistical anomaly. Their increased run scoring is due more to a statistical return to the mean than it is to any true increase in talent or patience on the parts of Tony Batista, Marty Cordova, Jay Gibbons, Jerry Hairston, BJ Surhoff, or anyone else. They're just getting more hits, which means that they're pretty susceptible to a backslide later this year or next year. Just ask the Angels.
Hopefully this is just the beginning. Maybe next season the O's can bring in Eli Marerro and Doug Strange and Mark McLemore and Pete Rose Jr. and they'll all hit like Babe Ruth too. But I wouldn't bet on it.