|Road Trip Vital to O’s Future||| Print ||
Written by Joshua Kay (Contact & Archive) on May 30, 2012
The Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to an unexpected start in 2012.
At a record of 29-20 entering Tuesday, good for fourth in baseball, the Orioles can attribute most of that to their 15-7 road record. The true measuring stick of a good ballclub is success on the road. In fact, they are 9-2 in their last 11 road games: New York, Boston, Kansas City and Washington.
Digging deeper, we see a formula that the Cleveland Indians rode last year to a similar hot start. The O's have gotten timely hitting from their solid lineup. Their rotation however, is completely over-performing, as well as their bullpen.
A big contributor has been right-hander Pedro Strop. His 66 percent GB rate is wonderful, but a further scan of the underlying metrics warns of a weakness lying in the weeds. His 4.5 BB/9 is less than desirable, especially with a 7.7 K/9; making only a 1.8 K/BB ratio, which is, in a word, Buchholzian. His .170 BABIP is completely unsustainable and as his 1.09 ERA regresses toward his 3.01 expected ERA, the Orioles will begin to lose some more ballgames.
Johnson is another pitcher who will begin to fall victim to regression toward the mean. His 100 percent strand rate will obviously come down with Strop's 91% strand rate, as will Johnson's .180 BABIP.
However, he, unlike Strop, has a lot more skills. Johnson's 6.1 K/9 is less than stellar, but a miniscule 1.7 BB/9 actually is consistent with his history. This gives him an outstanding K/BB ratio despite not having the typically wonderful strikeout stuff that one would hope for out of your team's closer.
And in other news, Kevin Gregg still is horrible.
The rotation is somewhat similar to the bullpen: some improved skills, but regression signs are abound. Let's start with Japanese import Wei-Yin Chen. Look no further folks for your first regression candidate. Chen's 3.35 ERA is completely unsupported by his underlying skills. His K/BB of 2.2 and 35/20/45 G/L/F line, puts his xERA at 4.45. Check of the BABIP reveals nothing unusual, but a strand rate of 78 percent is slightly eye grabbing.
Next: Tommy Hunter still stinks
Now for some good news: Jake Arrieta has been much better than anyone realizes; Arrieta's growth has been so incredible that it is almost suspicious. As in, can he really keep this up? Arrieta's control problems have not only diminished (4.5 BB/9 each of last two seasons), they have disintegrated. Now sporting a 2.1 BB/9, Arrieta has fixed his first major bugaboo. He has also seen his K/9 spike to a very impressive level: 8.3. Add that up, and you get an expected ERA of 3.35 (nearly a full point lower than his actual ERA).
Here are three causes for concern that I will say to keep those in fantasy leagues from rushing to grab him in every format: one, his HR/9 issues are still there at 1.3, as is the HR/FB (14%) and second is his 23% LD rate. That line drive rate should go down, but that number is something that can take more than a year to stabilize.
So Arrieta -- and Jason Hammel, who is a sabermetric darling in his own right -- are two hidden, above average starters in this rotation with Brian Matusz having potential to join that group. Now, with all that said, the Orioles hitting is legitimately talented, even more-so when they get back Nolan Reimold and the below-freezing batting average of Mark Reynolds.
Like I mentioned before, this team has talent, but they are over-performing. That road record of 15-7 still stares me straight in the eye though. If this team can get through the three-series road trip of Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston with an above-.500 record for the trip with magic officially on their side at that point, you can throw sabermetrics all out the window and put them at the bottom of the division with a dry erase marker, not a sharpie.
Follow Josh on Twitter at @Rays_Nut1292.