Through the first week plus of spring training games I’ve noticed somewhat of a trend that gives me pause. The Orioles have only one home run on the spring, and it was a solo shot on Saturday by first baseman Chris Davis. Furthermore, in their last three games (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday), the Birds have only put up one run in each. As I’ve contended all spring, exhibition games aren’t necessarily about wins and losses, although you’d like to win games if you can. However even given that it’s not about winning and losing at this point, I think that Buck Showalter would prefer to put up more than one run in a ballgame.
In the first two games that I’ve seen on MASN (as well as Saturday’s game that I saw on tape delay Sunday morning courtesy of MLB Network), I’ve noticed Oriole hitters such as Davis, Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Adam Jones flailing at pitches. In a way it brought back memories of 2010’s 2-16 start when the Orioles were swinging early and often at anything they saw. I heard many different outlets say last week that hitters are always behind pitchers at this point of spring training, and they’re constantly trying to catch up in terms of timing. I suppose that’s why they play these 30 games (give or take) before the season starts.
However what do we make of the power struggles? It is worth mentioning that Buck Showalter might have expected more than one homer in the games by now. As always, there might be a little more than meets the eye. First off keep in mind that in true “Moneyball form” the Orioles are going to try to load up traffic on the base paths this season. In short they’re going to try to draw walks and hit-for-average, sprinkled in with a bit of power (RBI-singles as opposed to homers). So that might well be what they’re working on in these early spring games. But at some point they’re going to have to start hitting the ball out of the ballpark if they’re going to have a chance in any of the upcoming 162 regular season games. So…should we be worried?
Perhaps, but let’s also keep in mind that not everyone’s playing on a regular basis yet. MASN’s Gary Thorne interviewed Buck Showalter in yesterday’s edition of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report; Thorne noted that Showalter seems to throw what might be construed as the Opening Day lineup out there when the team plays “at home” in Sarasota. Showalter said that in his view the quicker that lineup (minus Nick Markakis and potentially Brian Roberts) gets comfortable playing with each other the better. However what they did not mention was the lineup that Showalter trots out in road games, which is vastly different. The road games seems to be where Showalter’s getting a look at younger players such as Matt Antonelli, Steve Tolleson, and Ryan Adams.
I suppose my point is that Jones, Reynolds, Davis, et al aren’t really playing everyday. Not only does that cut down on the number of at-bats they have in which to potentially hit-for-power, but it’s more difficult to get into a groove at the plate. Furthermore, the younger guys are often going up against the other side’s starting team given that they’re “at home” and their manager wants to showcase their players for their fans. It’s also worth mentioning that last spring the wind seemed to be blowing out a lot more often at Ed Smith Stadium as opposed to this year. So is it possible that last year’s numbers were actually inflated?
This is not to say that there shouldn’t be some minor concerns about the lack of power thus far. One would have thought that Adam Jones or Mark Reynolds might have gotten a hold of one by now. This is a mere opinion, however I think that the key date is next Monday, March 19th. That’s the lone off day that’s granted to the Orioles in spring training (each team gets one). I think that we’ll see the roster trimmed down a bit coming out of that day, and I think that we might see the beginnings of a rotation starting to form in Buck Showalter’s mind. Furthermore, I suspect that after that date we’ll start to see the regular players more and more in games, home and away. I referenced 2010 and the 2-16 start above; it’s entirely possible that the regulars didn’t get enough at-bats that year which caused them to start the season at a disadvantage. This is not to say that things might not start coming together before that March 19th date, however in my opinion that’s a date to mark on the calendar as key. And if you want my opinion about the lack of home runs, I think that’ll take care of itself in due course as well
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