The AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles have a formula for winning games, and they’re sticking to it.

This is thanks in no small part to Mark Trumbo, who just won’t stop dropping Trumbombs.

Trumbo entered Monday’s contest against the Kansas City Royals with 18 home runs, tied with Todd Frazier for the MLB lead. The blast that he cranked leading off the bottom of the seventh inning leapfrogged him ahead of Frazier and, oh yeah, tied a game the Orioles went on to win 4-1.

All rise for loud noises and the sight of a ball landing many feet from home plate:

That dinger was one of Trumbo‘s two hits, upping his average to .295 and his OPS to .953. It also put him just three shy of matching the 22 homers he hit in 142 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners last year. And if he stays on this pace, calculates he’ll finish with 55 homers. That would top his previous career best by 21.

In good, old-fashioned plain English: The 30-year-old slugger seems to have turned a corner.

“A lot of guys 28 to 32 start figuring out some things,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recently. “You have to be careful about writing them off and saying, ‘This is who they are going to be.’ Guys like Mark, they keep learning, they keeping taking in new things.”

At first, it might not seem like Trumbo has actually learned anything. With a strikeout rate of 26.8 percent that’s par for the course, he’s still struggling to subdue his biggest flaw. Likewise, he’s still not drawing many walks. To wit, his power still looks like his only redeeming quality on offense. 

But when a hitter is maximizing power the way Trumbo is maximizing his, that’s OK.

It may not look like it based on his walk and strikeout rates, but one thing Trumbo is doing in 2016 is making better choices with his swings. Entering Monday, he was chasing pitches outside the zone at a career-low 32.4 percent clip. Likewise, his swing rate on pitches inside the zone was 71.8 percent, just a hair down from last year’s career high of 72.2.

When Trumbo has made contact, it’s been the kind of contact he wants: in the air and loud. He entered Monday with a ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of 0.86, a career low by plenty. And according to Statcast data at Baseball Savant, the top of the exit velocity leaderboard looked like this:

Last month, Kevin Ruprecht of SB Nation offered a comprehensive breakdown of exactly what Trumbo is doing differently in 2016. Arguably most important is how he’s being more selective with low pitches, perhaps due to his latest experimentation with his timing mechanism.

If that’s the case, be warned this isn’t guaranteed to last forever. Trumbo has gotten results out of a timing adjustment before, only to have those results vanish over the long haul. And in general, he’s been a fast starter and a slow finisher throughout his career.

If Trumbo can keep this up, however, he’ll be doing his part to maintain the Orioles’ preferred offensive weapon. 

The point that the Orioles like hitting home runs won’t be breaking news to anyone who’s noticed them club over 200 homers in each of the last four seasons. Even still, it’s newsworthy that they’re going especially silly with dingers in 2016. With 83 through 56 games, they’re on pace for about 240. In franchise history, only the 1996 Orioles have done better than that.

Home runs aren’t the only recent strength the Orioles are taking to an extreme in 2016. They had excellent bullpens in 2012, 2014 and 2015, but even “excellent” doesn’t do their current bullpen justice. Its 2.73 ERA is the best the Orioles have enjoyed in the last five seasons. This year, it ranks second in MLB behind only the Royals.

To boot, Baltimore’s two big strengths have been playing in concert with one another. After Matt Wieters and Manny Machado also went deep Monday, the Orioles now have an MLB-high 31 home runs in innings seven through nine. Those have set opponents up, and the bullpen has knocked ’em down.

For now, this dynamic is allowing the Orioles to hide their lousy starting pitching. In the long run, though, even the man in charge seems hesitant to trust its sustainability.

“It’s not easy,” Showalter said of scoring off opposing bullpens, via Brittany Ghiroli and Jeffrey Flanagan of “Over the course of the season, if you’re not getting runs, off of those guys you are not going to like the results. So, we’ve been fortunate. It’s not something you like to depend on, getting runs off those guys.”

However, if guys like Wieters, Adam Jones and Pedro Alvarez add even more power to the pile, the Orioles may not need to rely as much on home runs of the heroic variety. That, plus continued domination from their bullpen, would allow the Orioles to keep hiding their lackluster starting pitching.

It was obvious at the outset of 2016 that the Orioles were designed on paper to win games with lots of dingers and an outstanding bullpen. The worry was how well their design would actually come together on the field, as there were questions abound.

With Trumbo obliterating baseballs better than ever, one of those questions has gotten a resounding answer. Others have gotten satisfying answers. And together, it all adds up to a team that doesn’t seem interested in straying far from the top of the AL East.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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