Baltimore Orioles: The Clutch Hitters on this Team


Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) hits a double during the seventh inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Baltimore Orioles won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Before jumping into a brief discussion upon who are the best clutch hitters on the Baltimore Orioles, let me quickly advertise tomorrow’s long article which will be a position by position look at the offensive production over the past two seasons, with a projection of hopes for 2015. These numbers really do show the contributions of Nelson Cruz in particular, as well as the role played by Nick Markakis. They will be missed. It also shows the huge hole left by Chris Davis’ season from hell. One could construct a rather negative story about 2015 based upon these statistics.

But let me first give you a short warm-up article today that shares some positive statistics, even in the absence of the two big guns who have signed free agent contracts elsewhere.

An area of offensive production in which the Baltimore Orioles excelled in 2014, especially as compared to opponents, was in the category of clutch hitting situations. And today, I would like to examine three of these categories: Runners in scoring position (RISP), runners in scoring position with two outs (RISP2), and hitting in full count situations (3-2 Sits).

In the big picture, the Orioles excelled in these categories in 2014 compared to opponents. Relative to other American League teams with these statistics, the Orioles were better in RISP .268 to .217, in RISP2 .244 to .186, and in 3-2 Sits .222 to .214.

These may not seem like the most common or quoted of statistics, but when a team can perform well in difficult clutch situations, it can stretch the overall averages toward greater and more efficient production.

For all their assets, Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis cannot be seen as clutch hitters.

And of particular encouragement is that the returning starters of the Orioles performed better in these situations than did Cruz or Markakis – at least in the big picture of things.

In the basic category of runners in scoring position, Nelson Cruz hit for an average of .259 and Markakis at a rate of .238.  Consider that even Ryan Flaherty – no offensive juggernaut – was 17-for-58 for an average of .293 with RISP.  Here are other numbers amongst the top players: Matt Wieters – .357, Manny Machado – .340, Adam Jones – .320, Steve Pearce – .319, J.J. Hardy – .315, and Delmon Young – .269.

The more difficult clutch situation concerns what a hitter is able to do with two outs and runners in scoring position. Again, Cruz and Markakis were far from the top performers at .261 and .208 respectively. The best of the Orioles regulars in this situation was J.J. Hardy at .341 – as we can all remember some really clutch hits, even though his home run production was diminished compared to other years. Other Birds with strong RISP2 averages were Jones – .319, Machado – .296, and Wieters – .278.

The ability to hit successfully in the clutch situation of a full count is also a critical asset. On base percentage numbers in this category are amazingly high, as so many walks will naturally follow. But consider that Nelson Cruz only hit for an average of .154 with a full count. His OBP of .427 looks good, until you compare it to a .447 for the entire team. And Chris Davis batted .117 when with a full count. A surprisingly high number in this category was turned in by Jonathan Schoop, who batted .321. The best number was Delmon Young at .350 with Machado at .346.  Markakis hit a mere .232 in these situations.

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So all in all, though there are some other big offensive numbers being lost along with Cruz and Markakis, the very best hitters on the Orioles in clutch situations will be returning with the team in 2015. And without doubt, again as with so many categories of analyses, the O’s are going to go where Wieters, Machado and (especially) Davis take them.