As we get set to move into the final week leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting, a lot has been written and spoken about the makeup of the 2012 Orioles. Needless to say, they’re vastly different than the team that we last saw play on September 28, 2011. Many fans are disgruntled by what has been perceived as a very poor offseason by new GM Dan Duquette. My point has consistently been to wait for the smoke to clear before we pass judgement. I’ll continue to say that, especially seeing that the team hasn’t played a game yet. But more importantly than who’s on the team, what are they capable of in 2012?
The 2011 Orioles didn’t necessarily have trouble scoring runs per se. The real issue was pitching, but that’s another column in itself. Where the Orioles struggled was situational hitting. They’d have runners in scoring position with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero or Luke Scott at the plate, and the opposing team would employ a defensive shift to their advantage (or th pitcher would get a strikeout) So while the O’s would be scoring runs over the course of the game, it seemed that they’d struggle to tack on a few runs and end up losing in the end.
What they were lacking were hitters who could work the count and/or simply get on base. Dan Duquette has spoken of improving the strikeout-to-walk ratio, and of being more of a force on the base paths. In 2011, the O’s had a team on-base percentage (OBP) of .316. What that means is that out of 100 at-bats, 31-32 guys were reaching base via either a hit (single, double, triple, or HR) or walk.
We don’t know how things are going to shake out in spring training, however if I had to make an educated guess at the lineup at this point, it would be as follows (in no particular batting order):
Keep in mind that this is not scientific. First off I’m using the above-mentioned lineup as a sample. However using each of these players’ 2011 OBP number, the team OBP came out to .320 for 2012. That doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot different, does it? Again, keep in mind that the lineup I used is not anything that was based on facts, just an educated guess. However perhaps more importantly, this is where coaching comes into play. Buck Showalter will have to know where and how to position each of these guys in the batting order so that he can maximize their potential and that of the team.
Mark Reynolds might be the best power hitter on the team. The issue is that much in the style of Vladimir Guerrero, he strikes out a lot. And when I saw a lot, I mean…A LOT. However there’s no question that he has big power in his bat. So if he’s in the cleanup hole, that power might be enough to get teams to pitch to Jones and Markakis. Furthermore, you want some decent hit-for-average guys in the bottom of the order. Remember the beginning of last season when J.J. Hardy was getting on base in the nine-hole and being plated by Brian Roberts? That’s exactly the kind of moxie that needs to be achieved if “this” is going to work.
Incidentally since I so conviently brought up Roberts’ name, I ran the same OBP stat using Roberts’ OBP instead of Robert Andino’s. (Roberts only played in 39 games in 2011 so I used his career OBP number of .353.) With him in the lineup the team OBP stat goes up to .322. I’ve long said that part of the key to the Orioles’ offense is Brian Roberts. We’ll find out in short order what his availability will be, however the fact is that he might well make the difference between another 60-70 win season, or perhaps a little more.
Admittedly, I thought that the year-over-year improvement would be a little more than it ended up being after I ran the numbers. However I’ll still offer the same disclaimer in that you never know what a guy might do year-over-year. With so much emphasis being put on getting on base this year, perhaps guys will work the count more and draw walks. As with the above-mentioned question about Brian Roberts, all of these questions will be answered in due course.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala