Tagged: Nate McLouth

Birds of a Feather

Orioles Magic. The steady hand of Buck Showalter. The veteran presence of former HDIB? blog post subject Nate McLouth.

All possible reasons for the resurgent 2012 season the Baltimore Orioles have enjoyed. A 93-69 record, good for 2nd place in the AL East, and a Wild Card berth, which, after a stunning victory over the Texas Rangers in the so-called play in game, gave them the pleasure of facing the New York Yankees in the ALDS, all fly in the face of the black and white numbers of the O’s season.

A +10 run differential, and a 82-80 Pythagorean Win-Loss Expectancy, all point to Baltimore having no business in the postseason; judging by those numbers, they don’t have the look of a playoff contender.

While on the subject of looks–

Did someone say ‘LOOKS’?

…damnit sit down, Nick Markakis, we’re not talking about you.

So how about those looks. Using ol’ Nick as our model, it looks that this year, the O’s have reverted back to their old cartoon bird logo, which was first seen back in 1965. From ’65 until 1988, the goofy bird adorned the noggins of many an Oriole, even Lenn Sakata, whose 1983 Topps baseball card adorned the spokes of my Mongoose bike, and made it sound pretty rad.

Sorry, Lenn, you deserved better, but 7 year old radinsky36 didn’t know any better. If I could take it all back, I’d have used Charlie Kerfeld’s card.

However, in 1988, until 2011, the Orioles had the ornithologically correct bird for their mascot, which was also the logo used from their inaugural season of 1954, until 1965.

Markakis, get away from the mirror, and show the good readers of HDIB? the old hat.

I’m all about birds, and I’m not talking Orioles *wink*

OK, that’s enough out of you #21. Go have a seat, and try not to strain anything along the way.

Prior to the outstanding season of 2012, the last winning season Baltimore enjoyed was in 1997, coincidentally the last year they saw the playoffs. 15 years of ineptitude, 15 years wearing the ornithologically correct logo…

Could the 2012 magic be due in part to the reverting back to the cartoon Oriole logo?

Let’s go to the numbers, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

First, the ornitholgically correct years – 1954-65, then 1988-2011. Table me!

Year G W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs
2011 162 69 93 0 0.426 5th of 5
2010 162 66 96 0 0.407 5th of 5
2009 162 64 98 0 0.395 5th of 5
2008 161 68 93 0 0.422 5th of 5
2007 162 69 93 0 0.426 4th of 5
2006 162 70 92 0 0.432 4th of 5
2005 162 74 88 0 0.457 4th of 5
2004 162 78 84 0 0.481 3rd of 5
2003 163 71 91 1 0.438 4th of 5
2002 162 67 95 0 0.414 4th of 5
2001 162 63 98 1 0.391 4th of 5
2000 162 74 88 0 0.457 4th of 5
1999 162 78 84 0 0.481 4th of 5
1998 162 79 83 0 0.488 4th of 5
1997 162 98 64 0 0.605 1st of 5 Lost ALCS (4-2)
1996 163 88 74 1 0.543 2nd of 5 Lost ALCS (4-1)
1995 144 71 73 0 0.493 3rd of 5
1994 112 63 49 0 0.563 2nd of 5
1993 162 85 77 0 0.525 3rd of 7
1992 162 89 73 0 0.549 3rd of 7
1991 162 67 95 0 0.414 6th of 7
1990 161 76 85 0 0.472 5th of 7
1989 162 87 75 0 0.537 2nd of 7
1965 162 94 68 0 0.580 3rd of 10
1964 163 97 65 1 0.599 3rd of 10
1963 162 86 76 0 0.531 4th of 10
1962 162 77 85 0 0.475 7th of 10
1961 163 95 67 1 0.586 3rd of 10
1960 154 89 65 0 0.578 2nd of 8
1959 155 74 80 1 0.481 6th of 8
1958 154 74 79 1 0.484 6th of 8
1957 154 76 76 2 0.500 5th of 8
1956 154 69 85 0 0.448 6th of 8
1955 156 57 97 2 0.370 7th of 8
1954 154 54 100 0 0.351 7th of 8

To cut to the chase: 35 years, with 11 winning seasons, *2* playoff appearances, *1* first place finish. On average, the ornithologically correct era was a losing one, with 75 wins being an average season.

Now, on to the cartoon bird years — table, please!

Year G W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs
2012 162 93 69 0 0.574 2nd of 5 Tied in LDS (1-1)
1988 161 54 107 0 0.335 7th of 7
1987 162 67 95 0 0.414 6th of 7
1986 162 73 89 0 0.451 7th of 7
1985 161 83 78 0 0.516 4th of 7
1984 162 85 77 0 0.525 5th of 7
1983 162 98 64 0 0.605 1st of 7 Won WS (4-1)
1982 163 94 68 1 0.580 2nd of 7
1981 105 59 46 0 0.562 2nd of 7
1980 162 100 62 0 0.617 2nd of 7
1979 159 102 57 0 0.642 1st of 7 Lost WS (4-3)
1978 161 90 71 0 0.559 4th of 7
1977 161 97 64 0 0.602 2nd of 7
1976 162 88 74 0 0.543 2nd of 6
1975 159 90 69 0 0.566 2nd of 6
1974 162 91 71 0 0.562 1st of 6 Lost ALCS (3-1)
1973 162 97 65 0 0.599 1st of 6 Lost ALCS (3-2)
1972 154 80 74 0 0.519 3rd of 6
1971 158 101 57 0 0.639 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-3)
1970 162 108 54 0 0.667 1st of 6 Won WS (4-1)
1969 162 109 53 0 0.673 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-1)
1968 162 91 71 0 0.562 2nd of 10
1967 161 76 85 0 0.472 6th of 10
1966 160 97 63 0 0.606 1st of 10 Won WS (4-0)

Oh my. What a difference a logo makes.

The cartoon bird tale of the tape:

24 years, 8 first place finishes, 20 winning seasons, an 88 win season on average, 9 playoff appearances, 6 World Series appearances, winning 3 of them, including one in the first year of the cartoon logo.

The evidence is fairly damning – cartoon bird makes the Orioles world go ’round, and is the bringer, on average, of 13 more wins than boring, normal looking Oriole logo.

When first unveiled, Baltimore won it all with the cartoon Oriole in tow. Could history repeat itself, with a fourth championship brought to Charm City, courtesy of the re-unveiling of the old logo?

If it does, it will be (cartoon) Orioles Magic.

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A HDIB? WTF? Moment: Nate McLouth

As we come to down to the homestretch of the 2012 MLB season, we find many teams not only still alive in the hunt for a playoff berth, but also a division title. One of the more befuddling teams this season has been the Baltimore Orioles, who currently share 1st place in the AL East with the New York Yankees, after spending much of the season atop the division alone, and at one point, enjoying a 10 game lead on the second place O’s.

On a team full of headscratchers, one player rises above the rest, and sits atop the mountain of improbables, as King of the WTF’s.

Ladles and gentlespoons, I give you Nate McLouth – nay – FORMER ALL STAR Nate McLouth.
A midseason minor league signing after not hitting enough to make the most of his second tour of duty with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nate has done his share to bring home a handful of improbable victories, in a season full of improbables for the Orioles, and in a scant number of at bats. From baseball purgatory (or at least AAA affiliate Norfolk), to hero, McLouth has done about as much as you can ask a guy in 98 at bats.
So how did he get to late inning heroics from a 2010 season distinguished by a WPA of -1.31, especially given a league wide acknowledgement that his bat speed has been in decline ever since his All Star season of 2008?

As usual, I will look at the numbers, some standard, some advanced, but all delightful, and not to be afraid of. I know what many of you are thinking already…


…but hang with me on this. If not, skip ahead a couple of paragraphs, or bide your time with the many faces of McLouth.

So what can we say about McLouth’s Charm City success? Is it a revival of past Pirate prowess, or the apex of a disappointing post-Atlanta career? Looking at what Nate’s done with the O’s, during his breakthrough 2008 All Star campaign, and his career, overall, let’s see if we can answer this WTF moment, with the help of our buddies at Fangraphs:

Season Team BB% K% OPS ISO BABIP LD% wOBA wRC+ WPA WAR
2012 Orioles 9.80% 17.00% 0.711 0.139 0.291 22.80% 0.317 102 0.68 0.6
2008 Pirates 9.50% 13.60% 0.854 0.221 0.287 18.50% 0.369 124 3.59 3.9
All Total 10.00% 17.30% 0.753 0.172 0.275 18.50% 0.334 103 2.89 8.6

Nothing really jumps out as something indicating the turn for the better for McLouth’s hitting. He’s walking and striking out as much as he has over his career, with unremarkable power numbers. His BABIP has increased a hair thus far in his Baltimore stint, but is still slightly below average. His line drive percentage (LD%) has gone up a tick, but can be readily paired with BABIP, so doesn’t pose much of an explanation of Nate’s success on its own. Again, we must consider small sample size – right around 100 AB’s for his 2012 Baltimore appearances. His stolen base rates are also at career average, so his legs aren’t helping his cause any more than they did in his heyday.

Befuddling, indeed.

Looking at his batted ball, pitch type, and plate discipline, we can see that, in general, his approach to pitchers, and what he swings at, and the success he has with those swings in making contact, compared to the pitcher’s approach to him, in what they are throwing him, have not seen any significant changes. The only minor variation I see is that he is seeing more cutters, as the pitch becomes more and more the bread and butter of all hurlers; this bodes well for a guy whose bat speed has declined significantly over the last few years. Throw a slider/cutter to a guy with slider/cutter speed bat speed, chances are, he’s going to hit it. However, the spectre of small sample size haunts us yet again.

So what do we have? We have a guy who is making the most of an opportunity, and playing the game within the limits of his fading, albeit still productive, abilities. Hard work, catching lightning in a bottle one last time due to small sample size, a head clearing trip to AAA, and making the most of the cutters he sees, all add up to a worthwhile and shrewd signing by Baltimore; let’s be honest, a bench/spot starter type player who gives you a 0.6 fWAR is nothing to complain about.

For us, we have a true WTF? story, and one so WTFish, even Nate can’t believe it:

Naters gonna Nate