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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Texas Rangers - Two Birds

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My favorite part is the thumbs up
My favorite part is the thumbs up

If baseball standings were viewed and sorted by run differential instead of wins and losses, the Baltimore Orioles would be last in the A.L. East. Under such a scenario, the Orioles would be tied with the Royals for the third worst team in the American League. Only seven teams in all of baseball would find themselves in a worse position in the standings than the Orioles. The Orioles have scored 509 runs (third fewest in the American League) and the Orioles have allowed 552 runs (fifth most in the American League). That gives the Orioles a run differential of minus 43. The expected record of such a differential by Pythagorean W-L would be 56-65. A record of 56-65 would be good enough for last place in the A.L. West by two games.

If you look at the chart after the jump, the Orioles might be one of the worst teams the Rangers have faced in months statistically. At least the Twins can hit a little. At least the Royals have had fantastic bullpen numbers all season. The Orioles are 33 runs below replacement level overall as a team totaled up from the categories of batting, base running, their three starters throwing in this series, bullpen, and defense measured by UZR. The Orioles, by many measures, are simply not very good.

And yet, the Orioles are 66-55 and baseball standings are viewed and sorted by wins and losses. Because of this, the Orioles have the fourth best record in the American League. If the Orioles were in the American League Central, and the season ended yesterday, they would be Central champions. The Orioles would top a Chicago White Sox team with a Pythag record of 67-53 but a reality record of 65-55.

Either this thing turns into a pumpkin like we've all been expecting, or we're running into one of the more unusual seasons from an individual team that I can remember. Perhaps the only other team that I can remember in recent history having this much success without having very much success would be the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks who won the N.L. West, and 90 games, despite being outscored by 20 runs over the course of the season. Even the 2004 Texas Rangers never had it this good.

But it can be fun. The Angels of Anaheim are 4.5 games back of the Orioles for a spot in the postseason. Sort it by run differential, and the Orioles would trail the Angels by 6.5 games. The Angels rank in the top five by RAR in batting, base running, and defense. In any given series, the Angels would own a statistical edge in starting pitching over the Orioles. The only upper-hand the Orioles would have is in the bullpens. I like to think Darren O'Day and Pedro Strop are making all the difference.

Were the season to have ended yesterday, the Orioles would be gearing up to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card play-in game. Those Rays--only ahead by a game on the Orioles in the standings--have a Pythag record of 68-53 and that would give them a 12 game advantage over the Orioles were baseball ruled by logic and order. But it is not; not always at least. The Orioles continue to get beat every night in every measurable way and yet somehow come out with a win more often than not in this 2012 season.

Monday, August 20 7:05: RHP Miguel Gonzalez vs. RHP Ryan Dempster

Tuesday, August 21 7:05: RHP Chris Tillman vs. RHP Scott Feldman

Wednesday, August 22 7:05: RHP Tommy Hunter vs. LHP Derek Holland

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the Rangers East Baltimore Orioles:

  • Ryan Dempster: 6-6, 7.34 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, .260 BABIP, 77.1% LOB, 3.81 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 2.2 WAR - Last three starts: 16 runs allowed in 17.1 innings
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 5-2, 6.90 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, .253 BABIP, 86.2% LOB, 4.95 FIP, 4.84 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Last three starts: 3 runs allowed in 21.0 innings

Advantage: Ryan Dempster not needing a Texas passport over Miguel Gonzalez has done a good job in his last few starts at not allowing runs but boy has he been lucky.

  • Scott Feldman: 6-8, 6.25 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, .302 BABIP, 63.2% LOB, 3.94 FIP, 4.22 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 9 runs allowed in 19.1 innings
  • Chris Tillman: 5-2, 7.11 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, .281 BABIP, 60.8% LOB, 4.00 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 10 runs allowed in 17.2 innings

Advantage: It's a battle of the unholy strand rates. I'll take Scott Feldman over Chris Tillman simply because Feldman has pitched better for longer this season but these two have had similar seasons. Also, Tillmania works nearly as well as Feldmania.

  • Derek Holland: 7-6, 7.29 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, .254 BABIP, 65.6% LOB, 4.89 FIP, 4.22 xFIP, 1.0 WAR - Last three starts: 11 runs allowed in 18.1 innings
  • Tommy Hunter: 4-7, 4.96 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, .291 BABIP, 72.0% LOB, 5.88 FIP, 4.45 xFIP, -0.4 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 16.2 innings

Advantage: I mourn that Derek Holland will probably never attain a dominant K rate. Our kingdom for an 8.5 K/9. That said, Derek Holland over Tommy Hunter because Tommy Hunter is pretty terrible. (Sorry, Adam.)


Baltimore Orioles (66-55, 3rd Place AL East)

Rangers Record vs. Baltimore: 3-1 (All at Camden Yards)

Baltimore's Recent Results: 2-1 road series win against the Detroit Tigers

Baltimore's Road Record: 33-26

Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 117/118 - Runs: 115/115

SB Nation Orioles Blog: Camden Chat

Match-up: (as of 08/19) Rangers Orioles Advantage
Batting (RAR) 41.8 (5th) -38.6 (25th) Rangers
Base Running (RAR) 2.2 (12th) -4.6 (26th) Rangers
Starters (RAR) 44.0 3.9 Rangers
Bullpen (RAR) 40.6 (5th) 38.4 (7th) Rangers
Defense (UZR) 16.4 (8th) -31.8 (28th) Rangers
Overall (UZR + RAR) 145.0 -32.7 How are they Orioles winning?

Questions to Answer:

  • If the Orioles somehow make the postseason, can we assume that Buck Showalter has gained wizard powers?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (I'm willing to ride the Michael Young wave for a series.)
  • Over/Under: 3.5 home runs hit by Josh Hamilton in this series?
  • Who has more XBHs in this series: Mike Olt or Manny Machado?
  • What's your favorite Darren O'Day memory? (There are so many. So very many. The playoff beard. The 'meow' interview. The Erick Aybar swing-and-miss to the penis. The Gabbard Jersey. The O'Day song/chant. I miss Darren O'Day.)