Each Wednesday, blogger Matt Vensel will highlight five statistics that really mean something for the Orioles.
seven -- the number of Orioles hitters who struck out 100 or more times in 2012, the most in baseball history.
The Orioles swung for the fences in 2012 and it often paid off as they ranked second in the majors with 214 home runs. They also struck out a lot, finishing with 1,315, sixth most in baseball. They made history while doing so. According to Sports Illustrated, the Orioles were the first team in baseball history to have seven batters strike out 100 or more times in one season. Chris Davis led the team with 169, but he and Mark Reynolds were the only two players with more than 126 strikeouts. All those home runs helped the Orioles finish 15th in runs last season, but it would be nice if they ranked higher than 23rd in on-base percentage in 2013.
three -- third basemen since 1920 with a higher slugging percentage in their age-20 season than Manny Machado.
The August promotion of top position prospect Manny Machado was one of the most significant moves the Orioles made all season. The 20-year-old hit seven home runs and had 26 runs batted in with a .262 average. Machado, a shortstop by trade, also played well defensively at third base. According to ESPN Stats and Info, only three third basemen since 1920 had a higher slugging percentage than Machado (.445) during their age-20 season, and Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Mathews are two of them. Machado's 1.5 wins above replacement in just 51 games ranked fourth on the ballclub (Adam Jones led the team at 3.4 WAR).
7.49 -- strikeouts per nine innings for the O's bullpen in 2012.
The Orioles' bullpen was one of the best in baseball last season, and it was the only one in the majors to rank in the top five in both ERA (3.00) and innings pitched (545.1). I wrote at length about the bullpen yesterday, but one stat stands out from it is that Orioles relievers ranked 28th in baseball with a K/9 rate of 7.49. That means opponents got more bats on balls than your average bullpen. Thankfully, the Orioles allowed a .285 batting average on balls put in play, which was ninth-best in baseball. Still, a similar lack of strikeouts from the bullpen in 2013 should be a concern, as fewer balls might bounce the Orioles’ way.
4.15 -- ERA of the Orioles’ pitchers the last two seasons when catcher Matt Wieters is behind the plate.
Catcher Matt Wieters, who turns 27 in May, set career highs with 23 homers and 83 RBIs during the 2012 season. He has had an even bigger impact behind the plate. When Wieters handled catching duties the past two seasons, the Orioles had an ERA of 4.15. They had a 5.33 ERA when someone else caught them, according to ESPN Stats and Info. His savvy while calling pitches has a lot to do with that, but Wieters has also been very good defensively -- evidenced by his back-to-back Gold Gloves. His 31 defensive runs saved since 2009 are the second-most among catchers behind Yadier Molina of St. Louis.
74 -- Orioles wins projected by Baseball Prospectus for 2013.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the 2012 Orioles were the sixth team in the wild-card era to experience a 20-plus-game improvement and also crack 90 wins. While their turnaround wasn't unprecedented, it was still pretty remarkable. Still, Baseball Prospectus predicts that the Orioles will tumble back down into the AL East cellar this season. Their projections say the Orioles will win 74 games, and with a .457 winning percentage, they would be the only team in the division to finish below .500. That is probably not a projection that will go over well in Baltimore, but the good news is the Orioles are begging outsiders to doubt them again in 2013.
Bloggers note: Have a nifty stat you want to share? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Twitter at @mattvensel. If I end up using it, I’ll be sure to give you a nice plug on the blog.