Slumping Vlad Guerrero (Photo by Rick Vattimo)

Baseball 101 - You Have to Hit Strikes

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It is time to talk about the Orioles number 3 and 4 hitters. We were all a bit skeptical, which is to be expected when your team signs two aging superstars. But we’re Oriole fans and any off-season big name signing is reason for hope. We don’t spend money and we don’t sign ‘names’, so laying out big dollars for names that used to scare people is all we have to look forward to each winter.

Then the flashbacks to Albert Bell and Sammy Sosa creep into your mind. Could we have another bust or two on our hands? Could they flop and cause the front office to keep the check book closed for 2 or 3 winters? It can’t happen you say, the Orioles are due for a break. The Orioles are due for a couple of veteran, explosive bats in the heart of the line up that can throw up All Star numbers. Two professional, big league hitters that will make every young bat around them better, right? We deserve that, right?

Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero.

There is something wrong with Derrek Lee and its not he wrist that bothered him in 2010 and he had surgery on over the winter. He’s hitting .211 with 1 homerun, 2 RBI and 17 K’s in 76 at bats. I’ve never seen a hitter of Lee’s caliber miss so many strikes right down the middle of the plate. Mistake pitches. Here-you-go-try-and-hit-it pitches. It’s amazing! Derrek Lee is still a good hitter but you’d never know it watching him over the last 4 weeks. Only two season removed from a huge year (.306, 35, 111) he looks rusty, his timing completely off. Hopefully his hands are bloody from extra BP everyday to try and get the timing back. Otherwise Derrek’s trade value in July will be minimal andO’s GM Andy MacPhail’s gamble will turn out to be a huge loser.

And then there’s Vladimir Guerrero. I’ve been a huge Vlad fan since his days in Montreal. He always has a smile on his face and he’s been a monster at the plate. Fourteen full seasons and only one where he hit below .300 – 2009 when he ‘slumped’ to .295. He can’t play right field any more, which means we don’t get to see one of the best arms ever in the outfield. And his knees are shot, but even though he’s not fast he always busts it out of the box. But he can hit. He’s known as the ‘best bad ball hitter’ in the majors – maybe ever. But watching him every night is downright painful! Why would any pitcher ever throw Vladdy a strike? Throw him that slider off the plate every time, he loves to chase it. Maybe he’ll line one into right every now and then for a base hit, but if that’s all you give up to the clean up hitter, you’ll take it. That’s how a number 4 hits .265 with 9 RBI in 20 games – not what we were hoping for.

Vlad has been simply terrible so far. Flailing at every pitch within 12 inches of the plate. It’s painful to watch.

Derrek Lee can’t seem to hit a 90 mile per hour fastball right down the middle when he’s looking for it. Painful.

The best we could have hoped for from these two were numbers that were close to what they’ve put up over the last 5 or 10 years. At a minimum, a decent showing – life in the bats – in the first half of the season would’ve allowed MacPhail to trade them to contenders for a couple more prospects at the trade deadline. The worst case scenario is they stink up the place, have no trade value, and the Orioles end up writing off big one year contracts and dumping them for practically nothing in July.

The worse case is almost here. Unless they start swinging at strikes (and hitting them, Derek) and producing like real number 3 and 4 hitters we’ll add two more busts to the list of the worst Oriole off season pick-ups.

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Tags: Derrek Lee Vladimir Guerrero

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