Baltimore Orioles are the Biggest Dog Still Standing


Oct 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) celebrates with teammate Adam Jones (10) after hitting a two-run home against the Detroit Tigers during the sixth inning in game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

With the elimination of the Washington Nationals by the San Francisco Giants 3-2 on Tuesday evening, there will be no Beltway Series this year. In fact, the Baltimore Orioles now remain as the team with the best record and the home field advantage throughout. The Dodgers were also eliminated by the Cardinals last night.

What remains are a pair of Wild Card teams in the 89-win KC Royals and the 88-win Giants, the NL Central Champion Cardinals with 90 wins, and the 96-win Baltimore Orioles. The former three are teams the O’s should be able to handle, but this is not a postseason where the favored outfits are performing particularly well. For example, the Nationals only scored nine runs on 26 hits in their four games (actually five games when you consider the 18-inning affair).

But perhaps the most unlikely final four team is the Orioles’ next opponent, the Kansas City Royals – who have had even less playoff appearances than Baltimore in recent decades.

Yesterday we did a comparison of the two teams’ offences, giving the Orioles the edge in this category. And today we will compare their pitching and defenses.

Here are some basic pitching statistical numbers, noting how each ranked in the American League …

StatisticOrioles Royals
Staff ERA3.43 – 3rd3.51 – 4th
Bullpen ERA3.10 – 3rd3.30 – 5th
Avg. against.244 – 5th.250 – 8th
Runs / Game3.66 – 3rd3.85 – 4th
HR allowed151 – 11th128 – 3rd
WHIP1.241 – 6th1.259 – 7th
SO/W ratio2.49 – 11th2.65 – 8th

The Baltimore Orioles have a slight pitching advantage in most categories other than home runs allowed. But of course, the KC pitching numbers are somewhat enhanced by playing 81 games in their ballpark, with the opposite being the case for the Orioles. The Royals are better at giving up fewer baserunners on walks. It will be critical for the Orioles to make KC hit their way onto base.

Any way you slice this, both teams have very good, consistent pitching. Both teams used an unusually few number of starters (just six) to get through almost all of their games.

Staff ace James Shields (14-8) had a 3.21 ERA, while young Yordano Ventura (14-10) was 3.20. Their worst starter was our old friend Jeremy Guthrie (13-11) with a 4.13 ERA while doing what he does best – eat up innings, with 202.2 on the season. They have a tough bullpen with three very good arms.

If the Orioles have an edge here in pitching, particularly in a short series with travel days, it is very slight.

Regarding Team Defense

A simple look at fielding percentages shows the Orioles to have a slightly better average at .986 to .983; however these numbers don’t vary in the league from top to bottom enough to tell the whole picture.

Baltimore was #3 in least errors committed at 87, while KC was #10 with 104.

Looking deeper into the numbers, the Orioles ranked third in the AL in the category of defensive efficiency (percentage of balls put into play that were turned into outs) at .706, while the Royals were sixth at .693.

But getting into advanced sabermetrics tells the better story here. Regarding the combination of total zone fielding (a variety of categories of statistics combined compared to runs saved by the defenses of all the teams) the Orioles were the very best with a score of 49, whereas KC was second-best at 30.

Since the team speed of the Royals is a feature in this series, how will the Orioles be able to handle that? The O’s were #4 in the AL in stolen bases against with 88. KC was #1 with only 69, but so what? In terms of percentages of runner caught stealing, the Orioles were #6 in catching 28%. But remember that this number includes Wieters with his early season elbow struggles, as well as Steve Clevenger and Nick Hundley. It could be that Caleb Joseph will play more because of his top-drawer skills in this category.


More from Baltimore Orioles

Overall, as with pitching, the Baltimore Orioles have a slight advantage, while acknowledging that the Royals possess the same relative team strength. And yesterday we gave the Orioles an advantage in the offensive category.

Though the Royals won the season series 4-3, those games were all played in the first third of the season when the Orioles were not at all the same team that they are today.

On paper, though both teams played well in the final months of the season and through the playoffs so far, the Baltimore Orioles should have enough of an edge to win this series.