In usual Sunday (and series finale) fashion, the O’s lost to the Nationals today 5-3. David Hernandez didn’t have his best control (3 walks) and got knocked around a little bit (8 hits in 5.2 IP). He still put the team in a position to get a win by only allowing 3 runs – two of which came on a mammoth home run by Adam Dunn that landed on Eutaw Street and hit the warehouse on one bounce – but the offense was stymied by John Lannan. This game marked the end of interleague play for the club and they finished with a record of 11-7, which is slightly better than the overall AL edge (137-113). Looking back at the Beyond The Box Score power rankings from last week, 13 of the top 15 teams were from the AL (the O’s were 15th). Obviously this was a result of the league adjustment, which gives AL teams a bonus for playing in the much tougher league (so a .500 team in the AL should have more talent than a .500 team in the NL, and so would be likely to put up a better winning percentage if they were to switch leagues). This idea was thrown out there by Dempsey’s Army last week, and it’s something that I mention quite often when people talk about how bad the O’s are.
Going by the BtB power rankings, the O’s would be right there between the Mets (12th, and the O’s won 2-of-3 from them this year) and the Philles (16th, and the O’s swept them in Philly) at the top of the NL East standings. The top NL Central team – the Milwaukee Brewers – was 17th. Even though the Orioles are 34-41 and the Brewers are 40-35, it’s entirely reasonable to think that the O’s could be ahead of the Brewers were they in the NL. Despite the Brewers having the two best individual hitters on either team in Ryan Braun (.324/.414/.577, 16 HR, .436 wOBA, 132 wOBA+) and Prince Fielder (.300/.420/.601, 19 HR, .423 wOBA, 128 wOBA+), the team offenses have been performing at similar levels. The O’s are hitting .273/.336/.426 with a .340 wOBA (.343 park-adjusted) and the Brewers are hitting .252/.337/.421 with a .338 wOBA (.339 park-adjusted). The O’s walk less and strike-out less, which accounts for their higher batting average but still similar OBP and SLG. And despite all of the complaints about the O’s bad pitching and the edge the Brewers have in ERA (5.01 to 4.47), Baltimore is right there in FIP (4.76 to 4.63). Orioles starters even have the advantage in tRA 5.06 to 5.36, but give that back with the worse bullpen (4.55 to 4.05). There has been a big difference between the two defenses, with JJ Hardy (+7.1), Rickie Weeks (+4.4), and Mike Cameron (+4.4) leading the Brewers to a +18.1 UZR while Aubrey Huff (-4.3), Adam Jones (-4.8 (!)), and Nick Markakis (-8.7 (!!)) dragging the O’s down to a -15.7 UZR. Milwaukee might have a little bit of a reputation as a poor defensive team, with Baltimore’s defense having supposed to have been a plus this year, but that hasn’t been the way it’s worked out so far. In any case, though it’s certainly a stretch to say that the Orioles would be the prohibitive favorites if they were in the NL Central right now, I think it’s likely that they’d be in contention. You have to play with the cards you’re dealt though, and right now the O’s are holding a usually fairly strong full house against four straight flushes (one in each suite, if you so prefer – the other four AL East teams are #1-4 in the BtB power rankings, by the way). It’s a tough thing to accept, but usually the best thing to do is to keep yourself in the game for the next hand. [I was hoping to come up with a better metaphor there, but I'm not a big card-playing guy.]