Sports Outside the Beltway

Wright is the wrong excuse

I like Ken Rosenthal. In the past decade or so he’s transformed from a standard issue baseball columnist to one who is informed by statistics. And he knows how to use statistics, they’re not just an adornment to his column.In assessing the possibilities of different managers getting fired this year (either during the season or after) he writes this about the state of the Orioles

…but the team probably is doomed anyway after losing starting pitchers Kris Benson, Jaret Wright and Adam Loewen to injuries. A managerial change is more likely after the season.

This is not up to his regular standards. The loss of those pitchers have little to do with the Orioles’ problems this year. For one thing, last year the Orioles had a 5.35 ERA; this year the team ERA (so far) is nearly a whole run lower at 4.43. (The team’s batting average allowed is nearly 30 points lower too; and the strikeout to walks ratio is improved too.

And that’s without Benson, Wright and Loewen.

When Benson was injured the Orioles quickly countered by signing his former Mets’ teammate, Steve Trachsel. Last year Benson pitched to an ERA ; this year Trachsel’s been a pleasant surprise with an ERA of 3.94. (While he has a respectable WHIPS of 1.34; his strikeout rate and strikeout to walk ratios are poor and indications that his luck may run out soon.) Last year Benson pitched to an ERA of 4.82. His WHIPS was 1.40 and his strikeout and walk ratios were not great, but better than Trachsels’s this year. Though it may be fleeting, for now Trachsel is a step up over Benson.

On its own, I can’t see what the Orioles expected from Jaret Wright. Wright has not been both effective and healthy in the same year since 1997, except for 2004. True that’s the year when Leo Mazzone was his pitching coach. But doesn’t it strain credibility to assume he could work this miracle twice? Counting on Jaret Wright is a failure of the organization. Not specifically of the manager.

So even without Benson, Wright and Loewen the Orioles pitching is fine. The team’s ERA is right in middle of the pack.

The problem is the hitting. The Orioles as a team have a .718 OPS. Currently on Kansas City and Chicago in the AL are worse. They are one of only six teams with a slugging percentage below .400.

I suspected that at the end of the year when the team was lamenting a 75-87
record that some official would point to the unavailability of Wright. Ken Rosenthal did it a few months early. While the injury to Wright is a sign of an organizational failure, it is not what ails the O’s. What ails the O’s is a power failure.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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