At halfway point, what story do Orioles' statistics tell?

Orioles make 46 personnel moves since Opening Day

July 03, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

The Orioles will reach the mathematical halfway point in the 2010 season on Sunday, which is as good a time as any to see if anything still adds up for this hugely disappointing team.

I can tell you this much: You won't need a calculator to figure that out.

The win-loss record — even after a mild uptick last weekend — pretty much says it all, but there are plenty of other statistics to help explain why the O's will enter the second half as a solid favorite to have the first overall pick in next year's draft.

For instance, the Orioles entered the weekend ranked 28th in the majors and 13th out of the 14 American League teams in runs scored, which is mildly surprising only because there was an AL team — the Seattle Mariners — that has actually been doing worse. Who could have imagined that when the O's were scoring two runs or fewer in 18 of their first 38 games?

Before you throw this all on the offense, however, you can paint the pitching staff by the same kind of comparative numbers. Almost exactly the same.

The O's, after Friday night's loss to the Red Sox, ranked 28th in the majors and dead last in the American League with a 5.03 team ERA, so it isn't particularly hard to figure out why things have gone so terribly awry.

But for me, the number that really ties this dismal season together doesn't show up in any box score or stat sheet, and I don't think you'll find any reference to it in the record book, which makes it hard to put in any historical perspective. The stat that jumps out at me is the 46 player moves that Andy MacPhail has made since Opening Day that directly affect the 25-man major league roster.

The transaction list is basically an administrative document, but it says a lot about a team. It tells you who has been hurt, who has been underperforming and who has been asked to come to the rescue. Needless to say, the higher the number of in-season major league personnel moves, the more instability, underachievement and just plain bad luck a team has had to endure.

It's an imperfect stat, in that it incorporates the good (Jake Arrieta's promotion), the bad ( Brian Roberts DL assignment) and the inevitable ( Koji Uehara's two latest injuries), but how much more do you need to know than the fact that the Orioles have averaged more than one major league roster move every two days since the season opener.

If you want to get more specific, the turnover has been so continuous that when Josh Bell was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to start Friday night's game at third base, he became the 17th player to make a game appearance for both the Orioles and the Tides this season.

That's not necessarily a bad thing going forward, as long as the Orioles recognize that the eventual 2010 record is about as important now to the future of the organization as Garrett Atkins' slugging percentage.

The reason I'm recounting all of this unhappy statistical information is partly to make a point that I've made before. The frightening first half has basically turned 2010 back into 2009, so it's time to start shopping the stopgap veterans in earnest and start auditioning a second wave of young prospects.

Bell should not be sent back to Norfolk on Monday when Felix Pie comes off the disabled list. He should be playing third base at least semi-regularly when left-hander Zach Britton bursts onto the major league scene in the next month or two. The Orioles need all the information they can get on their threshold prospects, because there may come a time between now and next season when they get an opportunity to package a couple of their good young players to get the big bat they so badly need at the heart of their lineup.

The way the upcoming free agent market is shaping up, that may be the only way to take a real step toward being competitive next season.

If that's the way it plays out, then all the statistical misery the Orioles have endured over the past three months will not have been for nothing.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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