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May 15, 2012

Fantasy Beat

Orange Crush(ers)

by Jason Collette

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Your computer is not broken. The Baltimore Orioles do indeed lead all of baseball in home runs this season with 56. They were quietly the fourth-best team last year with 191 home runs, trailing only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers.  Last season, the Orioles hit 1.18 home runs per game, but in 2012, that pace has spiked to 1.6 per contest… with essentially the same personnel as last year, no less. Nick Johnson—who anointed Joel Peralta his favorite pitcher this weekend when he took him deep twice—is the lone addition to the lineup.

When we see this kind of spike from a team with nearly identical personnel, we have to carefully scrutinize whether the pace they are on is sustainable or just a bunch of players getting hot at the same time. The table below shows the current Baltimore Orioles and their HR/FB ratios in 2011 and 2012 compared to their career rates:

HITTER

2011 HR/FB%

2012 HR/FB%

CAREER HR/FB%

Nolan Reimold

15%

31%

15%

Wilson Betemit

10%

23%

14%

Adam Jones

17%

23%

14%

Chris Davis

7%

22%

17%

Matt Wieters

14%

19%

11%

Nick Markakis

8%

19%

10%

J.J. Hardy

16%

15%

12%

Robert Andino

4%

9%

6%

Mark Reynolds

23%

8%

21%

Across the board, Baltimore’s players are outperforming both their career norms and 2011 seasons, with just two exceptions: Reynolds and Hardy. Reynolds has struggled mightily and is now on the DL, while Hardy is actually just continuing what he did last season and is offsetting what the one year in Target Field did to his career numbers.

While HR/FB rates concentrate on the power portion of a players game, we can use wOBAcon (weighted on base average on contact) to show what is happening when hitters are putting balls into play. The exact formula for wOBAcon is:

((0.89*1B)+(1.26*2B)+(1.59*3B)+(2.04*HR))/BIP

Let’s take a look at how the Orange Birds are fairing in this regard compared to 2011:

HITTER

2011 wOBAcon

2012 wOBAcon

DIFFERENCE

Nolan Reimold

.373

.494

.121

Wilson Betemit

.465

.410

-.055

Adam Jones

.395

.427

.032

Chris Davis

.419

.455

.036

Matt Wieters

.362

.424

.062

Nick Markakis

.337

.370

.033

J.J. Hardy

.387

.333

-.054

Robert Andino

.323

.397

.074

Mark Reynolds

.458

.373

-.085

Despite the similar home run rates for Hardy in 2011 and 2012, the difference in his wOBAcon is the second-largest behind only the injured Reynolds. Reimold, before his injuries, was showing dramatic improvement, and Jones, Davis, Weiters, Markakis, and even Andino are on the uptick as well.

The Orioles proved they could hit the long-ball last season and are doing it again so far in 2012. That said, the home-run-to-fly-ball rates in this lineup scream unsustainability. With nearly every hitter exceeding career norms, it simply can’t be expected to continue at this rate. Still, while Baltimore’s power performance will worsen, the Orioles should still boast plenty of productive hitters capable of mashing doubles and driving in runs.

If the foundation of your fantasy team’s success in the home run categories is built upon the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Nick Markakis, you should consider investing in other options and marketing these hitters’ skills while they are exceeding expectations.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

OonBoon

Maybe they got a pep talk from Brady Anderson

May 15, 2012 07:42 AM
rating: 0
 
bhalpern

About that, what's up with this? http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/18877561/different-glove-different-results-for-orioles-brian-matusz

May 15, 2012 09:01 AM
rating: 0
 
HonusCobb

While their rates are above their career norms, isn't it believable that with so many players in or reaching their prime, that they may be developing a better power stroke? Going into this season these players are:

Reimold - 28
Betemit - 30
Jones - 26
Davis - 26
Wieters - 26
Markakis - 28
Hardy - 28
Andino - 28
Reynolds - 28

I would exclude Betemit who's 30, and Reynolds who has always had major power.

But even if the rest aren't improving their power, some of them surely are. Davis may not be improving his power but maybe he's becoming a better hitter? Which would then lead to more home runs.

While I don't think they will continue this pace, I think it would be reasonable to say that they should improve their last season's homerun totals.

May 15, 2012 08:36 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

That could go either way (a list of 26-28 yr old HR seasons in recent years). Power prime years are typically 28-31 but the rates at which these guys are doing this so far makes me very skeptical.

May 15, 2012 09:47 AM
 
Nicholas Hill

A graph of the average HR/FB% by age would be a helpful addition...it'd give some context to the raw numbers and the rates of increase for those who are under informed, such as myself.

May 15, 2012 10:08 AM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun

Not trying to sell Nick, but he had surgery over the offseason which could have sapped his power last season. I certainly do not think he is going to go Hamiltinion on us, but him hitting 20 homers is not unfathomable to me.

May 15, 2012 10:22 AM
rating: 0
 
CSPitt17130

IIRC, the surgery was for an injury that he sustained on the last day of the season. So that's not it.

May 15, 2012 19:51 PM
rating: 0
 
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