There’s good reason that April baseball is met with skepticism going forward. Hot starts happen, and many times they are not sustained. The Orioles’ season thus far has been emblematic of that sensibility.
The Orioles are no strangers to overperformance. In 2012, they smashed through the competition in one-run games and set a record with a 29-9 record in those contests, which would later be eclipsed by the Rangers. Their record proved to be a massive outlier the next season. But, this was the first time that the unpredictability of the Orioles was put
On May 9th, the 22-10 Orioles had the best record in baseball. The Orioles won despite their star player, Manny Machado, struggling to begin the season and only having their lockdown reliever, Zach Britton, for 9 innings of that stretch. The absence of the usual suspects gave the team some hope going forward that things would continue to go their way.
They didn’t go their way. The Orioles are 13-28 since May 9th. Their extended period of poor play has sent them tumbling in the AL East standings, falling from first in the division to sitting at the basement with the Blue Jays. Where can we pin down their failings?
First off, their stars aren’t hitting at all. Machado currently boasts a 91 wRC+ and .312 wOBA, which would be the lowest of his career. In addition to that, his TAv of .259 would be the lowest since his rookie year. Chris Davis is struggling to avoid strikeouts with an uptick of more than five percentage points in his K rate. That’s resulted in him settling in as a near league average hitter with a 103 wRC+. Their other slugger, Mark Trumbo, is dealing with quality of contact issues. Both of his ground ball and infield fly ball rates have shot up at the expense of his fly ball rate. That’s not what you want to do when you’re trying to hit home runs. Finally, Adam Jones’ decline that began last season has continued on. He may end this year with a second consecutive season of a sub-100 wRC+.
Second, the starting pitching has been abysmal. Only one starter, Wade Miley, currently has a DRA below five and his is only a half a run below it.
Very simply, it’s nearly impossible to win games when you surrender so many innings to such poor pitching. The Orioles’ strength in the pen cannot eat five or six innings every night and maintain their quality. In fact, no bullpen can.
All in all, It’s not all gloom and doom for the Orioles. They do still sit only five games behind the Yankees and two games outside that final Wild Card spot.
On top of that, Machado is still the defender he’s always been. Even with the poor performance at the plate, Machado is still the top Oriole when we look at WAR metrics. Brad Brach and Mychal Givens are still top level relievers each with DRAs below or near 3. Trey Mancini has emerged as a bat that needs to be in the lineup and the Orioles are finding every way to satisfy that. And, Jonathan Schoop is having a career year that many Oriole fans have been waiting for.
Maybe things will turn around for the Orioles in the coming months — they’ll perform better than their .317 winning percentage since May 9th. But, they have some massive hurdles to clear if they want to turn their precipitous fall of a season into a rollercoaster.
Anthony Rescan is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score and is a Stats Intern at Baseball Prospectus. You can follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyRescan.