Sometimes baseball statistics make you scratch your head.
There are times when you are absolutely, positively sure about something and then the statistics reveal another thing entirely.
I can’t tell you how many times during the course of the 2016 season when fans asked me whether the Orioles were the worst in baseball with runners in scoring position. It sure seemed like it.
Actually, they hit .260 with a runner at second or third (or both) this season, which is not great, but it’s OK. In fact, .260 was the exact RISP average for American League teams this year. The Orioles’ .260 mark with runners in scoring position was ninth of 15 teams in the American League and 13th of 30 major league teams.
The Orioles’ on-base-plus-slugging percentage with RISP also was adequate at .754, which was 10th of 15 teams in the AL, but one point higher than league average.
Get this: The Orioles actually left fewer runners in scoring position (3.00) per game than any other club in the majors.
So what gives?
A little deeper look into the numbers shows the Orioles didn’t register as many at-bats as other teams with runners in scoring position. I mean, a lot less than some.
Consider this: The Orioles had the second fewest runs scored and the fewest RBIs in the American League with runners in scoring position. And that’s because they had a league-worst 1,129 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Oakland A’s were 14th in the league in at-bats with runners in scoring position, amassing 33 more than the Orioles, and the A’s scored 18 more runs in those instances.
The Boston Red Sox, which scored a major-league best 639 runs this year with runners in scoring position – that’s 189 more than the Orioles in those situations – amassed 311 more RISP at-bats. That’s almost two more chances per game than the Orioles.
There are a few reasons for the Orioles’ lack of at-bats in that category.
The obvious one is that when you homer, you clear the bases. And the Orioles led the league in homers, 30 more than the next team in the AL.
Also, they were 10th in walks drawn, struck out the fifth most times and stole a league-worst 19 bases – Oakland was next-to-last with 50 swipes. You have to go back to 1960 to find a team (the Kansas City A’s) that stole less (16) and they played eight fewer games than these Orioles. These Orioles also only had 17 sacrifice hits, tied for 12th in the AL, so they weren’t bunting guys into scoring position either.
One more interesting stat: The Orioles were 10th in the league in doubles and dead stinking last in triples with six (Seattle was second-to-last with 17). Again, that speaks, at least somewhat, to the club’s lack of speed. Only Seattle and New York had fewer combined doubles and triples than the Orioles in the AL.
So, the Orioles didn’t individually get themselves into scoring position, they didn’t bunt or steal their way into that position, either.
Once they got there, they were OK, in comparison to the rest of the league. But the stats say the Orioles’ offensive troubles had more to do with getting runners to second and third, than getting them home once there.