The Orioles’ Double Play Problem

It’s hard enough to score runs when you don’t get on base much or hit for a lot of power. It’s even more difficult when already infrequent runners are erased from the bases by double plays. The Orioles have grounded into the second most twin killings in the majors (37), behind only – ironically* – the Twins (38). That’s especially bad, since the O’s haven’t done a good job of getting runners on base overall, with a .305 OBP that’s second lowest in all of baseball.

* Twin killings! You get it? Hilarious! … sorry.

Using singles plus walks plus HBP times 2/3 (since you can only get a double play if there are 0 or 1 outs, but not 2) as a proxy for double play opportunities, the O’s having grounded into double plays more frequently than any team in baseball – 20% of the time. The top 5 features of some of the worse run-scoring teams around:

Orioles – 20.0%
White Sox – 18.0%
Royals – 17.8%
Giants – 17.4%
Astros – 16.4%

The major league rate is just 12.4%. Last year it was 12.1%, but no team finished higher than 15.7% (the Astros).

One of the reasons for the high double play rate is likely the lack of team speed. The Birds’ speed score via FanGraphs is a major league lowest 2.8, compared to an teams average of 4.7 and an ML high of 6.1. It doesn’t correspond to speed exactly – including stolen bases, success rate, triples, and runs scored – but don’t think it’s unfair to say that the O’s aren’t the most fleet of foot squad (not that I think that’s a big deal in and of itself).

The Orioles are also hitting a lot of groundballs; 47% of balls in play, compared to a teams average of 44.7%. When you hit the ball on the ground a lot, you’re going to hit into your fair share of double plays – that’s just how it goes.

Some of it is likely bad luck as well, though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to see happen.

No individual Orioles is on the top 10 amongst players in GIDP though – it’s been a team effort:

Wigginton – 6
Wieters – 5
Reimold – 5
Markakis – 4
Atkins – 4
Jones – 4
Izturis – 2
Scott – 2
Montanez – 2
Tejada – 1
Lugo – 1
Tatum – 1

The single GIDP for Miggy is impressive, given that he’s often amongst the league leaders in the category.

To see how much these double plays have hurt it would be best to look at the particular game situations when they occured. That’s complicated though, so I’ll just use the general run value of 0.35 runs per double play. That means the O’s have cost themselves about 13 runs for far, and 4-5 runs more than the average team has. Pro-rated out for a full season, that would be a total of about 65 runs overall – a huge 6+ wins – and 20 to 25 runs more than the average team. That would on an unfathomable 188 double plays though; a mark that has never been reached (the record is 174 by the 1990 Red Sox).

Realistically, the O’s will probably end up with more double plays than the average team but not by a whole lot. And when that evens out – along with the hitting – the team should score some more runs.