Coming into the season I projected the Orioles to win 76 games and tie for 4th place in the AL East. I had the offense hitting an above average .272/.342/.429 with 160 HR and a .338 wOBA; the defense being above average (especially in the outfield); and the pitching improving to a 4.73 ERA (4.95 for the rotation, 4.31 for the pen). The Wins Above Replacement projections were for 25 WAR from the position players and 10 WAR from the pitchers for a total of 35 (plus 43.5 for the replacement level to 78.5 total wins, and then knock a couple off for playing in the AL East). I also added: “no September collapse would be nice.” Well, things didn’t turn out quite that way.
The Orioles won just 64 games, and only avoided 100 losses by ending the season on a four-game winning streak. They scored 741 runs and allowed 876, which would indicate a Pythagorean record of 69-73. Even taking the components (wOBA, UZR, FIP, tERA, Baserunning, etc.) their record would still be 69-73. So I was too optimistic by 7 wins.
The O’s batted .268/.332/.415 with 160 HR and a .335 wOBA (from StatCorner, so it doesn’t include stolen bases). The batting average was pretty close to my projection, being 4 points low. The 10 point difference in OBP is in part due to the slightly lower batting average and in part due to Nick Markakis’ walk-rate being almost cut in half. Seriously; add 4 points from BA and 43 walks from Nick (he had 56 BB and 99 last year), and you get a .342 OBP. The 14 points I was off on SLG is partly the BA and largely the team ending up with around 50 fewer doubles than I expected – even with Brian Roberts great season. The home runs was exactly correct, which is pretty funny considering I got everything else wrong. The wOBA was close, but instead of being a little above average the O’s offense was actually a touch below average (average AL team hit .262/.333/.418). As an extra added bonus, the Birds baserunning was also about 2 wins worse than average.
I projected the O’s defense to be about 13 runs above average, led by an outfield of Felix Pie (+10 Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games), Adam Jones (+7.5 UZR/100), and Nick Markakis (+5 UZR/150). In reality, Pie was great but Jones (-6.3 UZR) and Markakis (-7.9 UZR) were big disappointments. Overall, the defense had a -26.8 UZR. The defense – which was 23rd in baseball – was a full 4 wins worse than I had expected.
On the pitching side, the O’s finished with a 5.16 ERA (worst in baseball) and a 5.03 FIP (worst in baseball). The starters were at 5.37 ERA and 5.33 FIP, while the bullpen was actually not the worst in baseball with a 4.83 ERA (28th) and a 4.55 FIP (25th). Amusingly, in the pre-season I said: “Last year it was 5.15 so that’s a big improvement. It’s not really “better” though, as it’s really hard to pitch that poorly (5.14 FIP too) two years in a row.” Oh well.
The Orioles did OK with their run scoring but had pretty awful run prevention – mostly due to poor pitching. On the bright side, they’ve got Tillman, Matusz, Bergesen, Wieters, Reimold, Roberts, Markakis, Jones, Pie, and many more good young players. 2009 was largely about learning and development, so while the record was disappointing, brighter days are (hopefully) ahead. Only 5 more months (or so) till pitchers and catchers report!