How do the 2013 Baltimore Orioles players stack up against the rest of the American League when you consider them position by position? I believe any O’s fan that is at all tuned in would expect that this analysis would yield a rather positive report, and it does – perhaps even more than would be imagined. However, there are a couple of terribly glaring holes as well.
Rather than discuss this with an around-the-horn and then across-the-outfield method, let me do so by a comparative best-to-worst scenario.
So there is no secret as to what will be the first position listed …
First Base – Of course, Chris Davis has played almost every game this year at first base for the Orioles – though he did DH just this past Wednesday and hit two homers in that role. So the first base stats for the Orioles top the AL in just about every statistical category – with a batting average of .335, HRs at 24, and RBIs at 62 (though Toronto/Encarnacion has 59).
Center Field – Adam Jones’ 15 of the 16 O’s homers from this position leads the league. The fantastic stats of Mike Trout put the Angels in the top spot with a .333 average, while the Orioles are second at .303.
Short Stop – The value of J.J. Hardy is especially seen when his numbers are stacked against the average stats for short stops. The .270 average for the Orioles is well above the league average of .249. But, the 15 homers are more than twice what any other team has gotten from the position. And of course, this does not even factor the gold glove defensive consistency.
Third Base – In an amazing change from this time last year, only the Tigers have better stats at third base, and we all understand that the main guy over there is not normal. Of course, Manny Machado has played every inning at third, and his .327 is second only to the crazy .357 in Detroit. With only five homers, that trails the league average of nine, but the doubles and everything else on offence and defense more than make up for it.
Right Field – The O’s .305 batting average from right field is tops in the league, with the Tigers second at .292 (and a league median of only .256). Also at the top is the benefit of Nick Markakis’ plate discipline with an OBP of .359.
Left Field – The combined O’s batting average of .287 at this position places them second in the AL to that of the Royals. Nate McCloth’s skills do contribute to the team being the best in runs scored at 52 and OBP at .363 (with an OPS of .792 is 2nd only to Tampa Bay). An amazing statistic is that the Birds’ 24 stolen bases is four times higher than the next teams on the list who can only boast six!
All of these first six summaries are really, really impressive! But here is where it flattens out like a fastball with no movement, and then it drops off the table like a crisp slider…
Catcher – Orioles catchers are tied for 11th in the league in batting at .221, whereas the league average is .245 … however, the Birds’ catchers have the most RBIs at 39. Matt Wieters’ .236 average and less than expected overall offensive production is beginning to draw more and more comment from fans and even some writers. His defensive strengths – where he is arguably the best in the sport – go a long way toward mitigating these disappointments, yet this does seem to me to be a legitimate growing concern relative to long-term contract negotiations.
Second Base – Oh my! The Orioles combined average of .217 is the worst by far, while the league average is .269. Ryan Flaherty has been among the very best in the field, but this is clearly a hole in the lineup. A big, big question looking forward to the second half of the season will be the viability of Brian Roberts as a solution. I feel now that about half of my sports-writing life has had this as an ongoing topic.
Designated Hitter – Oh my again! The Orioles have a combined league-worst DH batting average of .195. Compare that to Boston’s .313! The Birds are 13th in the AL in RBIs with just 32 from the DH. However, they do rank third in homers with 13. Again, rehearsing an old topic, the Orioles could really, really use a healthy Nolan Reimold.
Summary/Conclusion – The statistics largely prove what we already know. The Orioles can put together a very powerful offensive team. The couple of holes are well-known to us all, hence the hopes that solutions from R&R (no, not rest and relaxation) could make the team simply an incredible force. Of course, that also assumes the top six to seven guys above are also able to stay healthy and maintain the basic production displayed so far.
And then there is the comparative issue of Orioles starters and relievers, but that is a topic for another day.