Completing their eighth series win in a row versus the New York Yankees Wednesday night, the Orioles dug deep, yet again, and had a two home run eighth inning to spark a comeback victory. Watching Baltimore all season long, it would appear as if at times during games that Baltimore players were doing nothing but swinging for the fences. It probably looked like that because they simply do just that. The reason? Well, as Caleb Joseph put it: “Chicks dig the long ball.”
Over the past five years, the Orioles have clearly made a commitment to improving the team’s long ball. The table below displays this commitment by showing the teams steady increase in how many home runs they have hit on average per game, along with their team totals and where they ranked in the MLB over the past five seasons:
1.28 (152) this year (1st in MLB)
1.31 (212) in 2013 (1st in MLB)
1.29 (214) in 2012 (3rd in MLB)
1.18 (191) in 2011 (4th in MLB)
0.82 (133) in 2010 (21st in MLB)
What kinds of changes have caused this reversal? The O’s have attempted to stack their home run bats over the past five seasons through the draft, free agency and trades. From 2011, when the O’s acquired J.J Hardy and Mark Reynolds, to this past offseason, when they picked up Nelson Cruz, the O’s have been committed to completely rebranding themselves as an elite power hitting team.
As of right now, the Orioles lead the majors in the long ball category with 152 home runs and are also first when it comes to at-bats per home run (AB/HR) with a 27.2, which is 10 less at-bats than the league average. The O’s do have a somewhat alarming 15 percent Infield Fly-Ball percentage, which is second highest in the AL, but one in every ten of their pop-ups this season have also made their way over the fence.
All of these impressive home run numbers have been accomplished this year despite Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy having down years when it comes to their usual home run totals and with a 20-plus home run hitter in Matt Wieters sitting on the DL. Currently, their team has seven players with 10-plus home runs and are on pace to increase that number to at least nine or more by seasons end.
When it comes to Baltimore’s at-bat approach, the phrase “Go big or Go home” is one that the O’s have clearly taken to heart all season long. Baltimore currently has a 6.5 walk percentage, which is good for the second lowest in the AL. They also own an AL-worst 3.15 strikeout/walk ratio. Their “small-ball” is not winning them many games either. The team’s 31 total stolen bases ranks dead last in the majors. To simply put it: If the Orioles aren’t hitting home runs, they are dying while trying.
The Orioles may be living and dying by the home run all season long, but so far, the results have been favorable for Baltimore fans. When going deep at least one time a game, they are 58-25. When hitting more than one home run a game, the O’s are 35-10. This season, Baltimore is also 30-19 against AL East foes, the best in-division record in the AL.
Pounding out home runs in order to win games is not conventional by any means and relying on that to win games come playoff time is going to be tough to accomplish. In the meantime, the Baltimore Orioles are going to keep doing what they are doing because it is working. Chicks may “dig the long ball,” but they certainly dig winners even more. It just so happens the O’s will stay content in accomplishing both.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering the Baltimore Orioles