After the Orioles' great start to the season, this recent spate of losing has been quite a downer. But it wasn't totally unexpected. When the O's were winning, I noted that the offense wasn't doing well but the run prevention - largely through a low BABIP and HR/FB% against - had picked them up. Neither was likely to continue for the entire season, but it's the good fortune that ran out first.
While the pitching staff has actually started to give up more than one run per game, the bats are still sputtering. The O's have the third worst wOBA in baseball at .284. They're rarely walking (6.4% rate is also third worst) which, combined with their .254 BABIP, is keeping their OBP down to .280 - dead last in the majors.
Bringing Vlad Guerrero aboard with Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds was probably a wash, plate discipline-wise, but only the Cubs are swinging the bat more often than the O's so far this year (and just barely). The silver lining there is that at least - according to FanGraphs - they're swinging at strikes a lot but letting more balls go by. There's still a lot of swinging and missing going on - they have they third highest whiff rate in baseball, and that's not all Mark Reynolds (he's not making a lot of contact generally speaking, but he's never posted as a season with as high of a contact rate as he has now). Only four Orioles have been better than average in that area - JJ Hardy, Brian Robers, Nick Markakis, and (drumroll... ) Felix Pie. I wouldn't put a ton of faith in their measurements, but FanGraphs has the O's seeing the second highest proportion of pitches in the strike-zone in the majors. Pitchers are even going after Vlad, the feared "legitimate clean-up hitter", more than they have in a full season going back as far as they have the Zone% stat (2002 - and that's relative to league average). Not that they have to; Vlad is swinging at well over 50% of pitches out of the strike-zone. The number of qualified batters who are swinging at strikes at a lower rate this year? I stopped counting after 30. No wonder he hasn't walked yet (the only player in baseball with at least 50 PA and no free passes).
Beyond Vlad, you've got Brian Roberts with only one walk and a .265 BABIP. Mark Reynolds has cut way down on his K's (below 30%), but he has only one home run. Nick Markakis has a .213 BABIP, which hurts when you're putting everything into play (strike-out rate of only 11.1%). Derrek Lee has a .263 BABIP, and only one home run (though I wouldn't have expected more than 2-3 from him at this point anyway). Matt Wieters has a .219 BABIP - probably partially caused by his low 12% line-drive rate. Luke Scott has a .238 BABIP. Adam Jones has a .212 BABIP and is still never walking.
If you adjust everyone's BABIPs to their career rates, here's how they'd be hitting compared to how they actually are:
Average there is a straight average of those OPSes, but the O's overall are at a .640 OPS. So that's a fair gap - equivalent to maybe 15-20 runs (which would move their pythag to .500 or a little above). So things will get better, but there are still a lot of problems here. I thought with Terry Crowley gone maybe O's batters would show a little more patience, but it wasn't happened yet.
Stats: BABIP, K% & BB%, OPS, wOBA, HR/FB%, Plate Discipline