May 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) hits a home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Don't Walk the Line: How the Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies are fighting Moneyball

In 2002 the Oakland A’s won 103 games with a team getting paid just over $40 million. Contrary to what the film rendition of this season would have you believe, they did not win with cast-offs and OBP-machines. Barry Zito won the Cy Young Award, Miguel Tejada won the MVP and their pitching staff had the best ERA in the American League. They did focus on on-base percentage, and in the 12 years since then nearly every team in MLB has followed suit until this year.


Nelson Cruz swinging away. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson Cruz swinging away. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Three teams stick out as surprise early contenders in 2014 and they have all been using the same offensive strategy. The Orioles, Brewers and Rockies have all been succeeding by abandoning the walk and swinging away. Those three teams have 3 of the four lowest walk rates in all of baseball  5.8 percent for the Orioles, 6.5 percent for the Rockies and 6.7 percent for the Brewers according to Fangraphs. Beyond the low walk rates for these teams, the none of these teams have a player averaging 4.00 pitches per at bat.

Because they rely so little on the walk, all of these teams will be streaky and be driven by BABIP. Right now the Rockies lead the league with a .332 BABIP which is one of the reasons they are leading the league in scoring. The Orioles and Brewers are scuffling offensively right now  the Orioles are 23rd in scoring and the Brewers are 19th — but with their play style, that can flip very quickly.

I know what you might be thinking, “Well if the Brewers and Orioles are in the bottom half of baseball in offense, how can that be helping them?” The answer to that is different for each team.

Milwaukee is winning games with a strong pitching staff. They have a good starting rotation, a closer with a sub-one ERA and a collection of relievers carrying their own weight. This may not be largely affected by the offensive strategy, but there is one way, and it is something that I think is rarely talked about.

Pitchers, especially in the American League, only have to compete every couple of minutes. If you could tell the pitcher exactly when he had to go out and compete, it would be easier for him to get his heart rate up. When the Brewers swing early and often, their innings are more likely to be a consistent length of time. I don’t think it has a huge affect but it probably helps some.

For the Orioles, they have returned to winning close games. They are 10-4 in one run games. This is a major contributor to their negative run-differential despite a 22-19 record. Their bullpen has been average, but their offense has excelled in high pressure situations. In high leverage situations — a classification used in win probability added when a hit or run can drastically increase a team’s win probability — the Orioles are hitting .305 with a BABIP of .365 in 300 plate appearances.

This means the Orioles will probably not be able to maintain over the course of the season. That being said, nobody thought they would get into the playoffs in 2012 with a plus seven run differential.

All three of these teams in contention through the first fourth of the season but you never know how long it will last, but at least the fans are seeing some action. After all, no one ever said “Chicks dig the base on balls.”

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Colorado Rockies Milwaukee Brewers

  • OaklandAsSocksGirl

    Your insinuation that the film made it seem like the A’s won 103 games in 2002 and had a 20 game win streak with a bunch of notable players is ridiculous. First of all how well do you remember 2002? Do you remember that season? I do. The A’s were crap at the beginning and NOT a lot of people knew who Miguel Tejada was and Barry Zito? He was only 24 in 2002.

    Zito had only started 49 major league games prior to the 2002 season. I am NEVER one to say nice things about Zito so take that into consideration as part of what I am saying here. Sure Zito was 24-12 in those starts but how many people outside the A’s circle of fans really had heard of him until the streak? He was a kid who was getting there but a star? No. He was the same age as Sonny Gray is now and Gray is just starting to really get people’s attention but I would not yet call him a star(not to mention he’d be lesser known if the A’s had not lost Parker and Griffin bc that was a big story).

    The other name you mentioned the A’s Miggy not Cabrera but Tejada who had not hit 30 home runs in a season until 2000 and he hit 31 in 2001. A’s current 1B/OF/DH Brandon Moss did that last season and how many people know Brandon Moss??? – they might MAYBE know of him right NOW (which I still doubt) because he is doing well again this season but I’d say not that many could tell u who he was. Even hard core baseball fans did not know who Brandon Moss was even at the end of last season.Tejada had never batter over .270 until 2002 when he batted just over .300. Those stats, the ones prior to 2002 are barely above average, he was not the star you make him out to be in the first paragraph of your article. Yes he’d finished in the top 20 of the MVP voting prior to 2002 but he was 16th (both times) – I don’t even have a clue who was 16th in the voting for MVP at the end of the 2013 season. Do you?? Do you really think he had hit stardom yet until the A’s started getting noticed because of their streak?

    And yes, the A’s did have the best ERA in the league – but you know who was one of the biggest parts of that?? Cory Lidle who, may he rest in peace, had the lowest ERA out of all the A’s starters during the 20 game win streak.

    OF COURSE TEJADA and ZITO became stars AFTER the 2002 season but NOT before. Besides who else was on that team? I’d like to see you to anyone name some of the guys. And I am not taking Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder as answers or even David Justice who was almost on his way out of baseball by 02. Those six guys were not alone in winning 20 games straight. It takes an entire team to do that – an entire team an A’s fan can probably name, I know I could, but DO NOT go minimizing what happened in Oakland that year.

    They ACTUALLY WERE a bunch of underpaid, no name players as the movie shows. I was there at about 60 games that season and watched most of the rest. So while the rest of your article was well written and sure, makes sense. DO NOT get it into your head that the movie dramatizes what the A’s accomplished, how small their budget was and what things were really like in Oakland – because yes, AFTER the win streak the best on the A’s won some awards that is true but up until then they were nobodies – and anyone who says differently is wrong because I not only was there, I just doubled checked the facts before I decided to comment. And like I said, the article was good but the sentence “contrary to what the movie would have you believe” – THAT is just NOT true.