• Sep

    Does the Roberts effect exist?

    No one player is the difference between winning and losing on a daily basis. It takes pitchers to throw the ball, catchers to catch it, fielders to field it and batters to hit those pitchers. At any point in the game there are at least eight other players who can affect the outcome while any individual player is on the field.

    Jim Johnson has taken a lot of heat and for good reason. He’s tied for the team lead with eight losses, has nine blown saves, and the Orioles have lost 15 teams in games in which he’s appeared. That’s not too good for a closer. With even an average season as a closer, the Orioles would most likely be in the control of a wild card berth at this point in the season.

    Johnson of course is the easy target because closer’s have the most high profile role on the team, but he’s not the one that some fans have pointed to when it comes to the Orioles mediocre ways since early July.

    Some fans have called it the “Roberts Effect” and the theory goes something like this. Since manager Buck Showalter installed Brian Roberts as the everyday second baseman on July 2nd, the Orioles have not played very well. Prior to that the Orioles were 47-36 (.566), in second place and two and half games back of Boston. Since Roberts return the team has gone 32-34 (.485).

    Since being installed as the everyday second baseman Roberts has hit .229/.300/.356/.656 and on the year he has a 0.4 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.  He replaced Ryan Flaherty who has hit .218/.284/.367/.651 on the year, but who has put up a 0.8 WAR do to his superior defense at second base. Strangely though, despite the close offensive production between the two, the Orioles are 37-28 (.569) when Flaherty starts and 32-31 (.508) when Roberts starts.  Even if you account for Flaherty’s edge in WAR, over a full season Flaherty would only be worth about one more win than Roberts on the season, so why the difference in wins and losses when they start?

    I don’t believe there is enough of a difference between the two overall that the Orioles should play worse when one or the other starts. I still stand by the fact that Flaherty has a much better upside and with his power has more of a chance to effect a game offensively more than the singles hitting Roberts, but Roberts is a better bat handler who hits better with men in scoring position (.939 OPS vs .606) and in high leverage situations (.929 vs .420).

    I could build a case for either to start and honestly, both have been only a little better than replacement level so the Orioles need better production from second base anyways. Saying that, I don’t see enough difference between the two production wise that accounts for the record disparity when they start.

    In other words, unless you believe in some voodoo that Roberts mere presence in the lineup negatively effects his teammates, the Roberts effect is just some fans grasping for straws when it comes to the Orioles mediocre play since early July.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.