The Orioles are 5-1 since Buck Showalter took over as manager, leading to the obvious question "should Buck be fired for losing to the White Sox once?" Or, perhaps, what sort of magic is he weaving with this team?
The offense is scoring over than a full run per game more than they* did previously, based almost entirely on putting the ball in play (even more) and having it find grass quite often.
* Yes, there are different batters in there. Tejada is gone, with Bell taking his place, and Roberts is back. And the sample sizes are obviously tiny. This entire exercise is more for entertainment value than anything.
Looking at FanGraphs' plate discipline stats:
They're doing about as bad of a job at chasing pitches out of the strike-zone but are going after strikes more often (while seeing less of them - thus the overall swing rate didn't change much). The contact rate is way up - similarly for pitches in and out of the zone - but they did face the soft-tossing Mark Buerhle yesterday, who induced all of one swing-and-miss in the game. I get that some guys might be wanting to impress Buck with how well they can hit the ball, but they're going to need to show some more patience and plate discipline to keep scoring runs as their BABIP regresses. For a team with the lowest walk rate in all of baseball, I was hoping that Showalter would have some sort of effect in that area. Instead, they've sacrificed 4 times in 6 games (67%) after only doing it 19 times in 105 games previously (18%).
On the pitching front:
Six games and six quality starts from the rotation, and overall the pitching has been better. They're not walking anyone (despite not really putting the ball in the zone any more frequently) and keeping the ball in the park via some nice groundball rates (and a bit of luck).
Only 20 strike-outs in their 41.2 IP, but they've been stingy with free passes and have gotten a lot of groundballs for a flyball heavy staff - plus they're averaging almost 7 innings a start. I'd be ever so happy if that continued, though some more whiffs would be very welcome.
Despite the recent spate of wins, it wouldn't be at all unexpected if the O's played just .400 baseball down the stretch (better than their .333 up until now), scoring about 3.9 runs per game while allowing 4.8 (compared to 3.7 and 5.4 coming into today). That would leave them at 57-105 on the season - the exact same record that the Pittsburgh Pirates are projected to finish at. The draft order for 2011 would then revert to using the teams' 2009 records, so the Pirates would go #1 (just in case you were curious). Perhaps Buck's magic will keep throwing surprises onto the scoreboard though - if the Birds win tonight to take the series with the Pale Hose, it'll be the first time they've won 6 out of 7 game all season.