Buck Showalter has come under a lot of heat after electing to keep star reliever Zach Britton unused in the Wild Card game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Britton had a historic season going 47 for 47 in save opportunities and posting a 0.54 ERA. He gave up only four earned runs all season.
So yes, Showalter was dumb to not use Britton in a tie game with the heart of the Blue Jays’ lineup up. But in reality, Showalter deserves a ton of credit for even getting them into that game.
First, let’s look at the Orioles starting rotation. They finished 24th in baseball with an ERA of 4.72. Every other team in the playoffs, excluding the Rangers, is in the top ten. They were 25th in walks and 21st in strike outs. Their best starter, based on fWAR, was Kevin Gausman. He had a 3.61 ERA with a 4.10 FIP. Clearly, their starting pitching was less than stellar.
Now, let’s look at the offense. They ranked 15th in AVG and 21st in OBP. They also only stole 19 bases this season. That’s the lowest in the game, 16 less than the next team. So how did they win? Their entire offense was based on the long ball. They had 253 home runs this season. The St. Louis Cardinals were next with 225. While that is impressive, it’s tough to be a contender with such a one-dimensional offense.
And the last thing that deserves mention, is that they played horrible defense. According to FanGraphs’ DEF stat, they were the 26th worst defensive team in baseball.
This looks like a team that should have finished under .500. It’s honestly impressive that they even made the playoffs. Buck Showalter deserves credit for that. He had less than stellar starters. His defense was horrendous, apart from Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy. That’s what Orioles fans need to remember. He made a mistake, but he still got a team to the Wild Card game that didn’t really belong.
Stats courtesy of fangraphs.com