Orioles’ resolutions involve a .300 hitter, 15-game winner.
By Steve Katz
It’s a little after New Year’s, and while resolutions are fresh in most people’s minds and still unbroken, it seemed useful to draw up a few that the Baltimore Orioles might make.
They should resolve to get a genuine power hitter, rather than rely on those currently on the roster to step into that role. And although a power hitter might be foremost on the minds of most fans, just as important would be a .300 hitter. Let’s remember the Orioles accomplished what they did in 2012 without one. Adam Jones‘ .287 average led the team.
And though it’s been said many times, many ways, Jones could resolve to stop swinging indiscriminately and take another step on his learning curve as a hitter.
He signed an $85.5 million contract early in the season and had a first half worthy of a budding star. He hit his 24th home run on July 27th and stopped going deep for a month, before his 100th career home run (No. 25 on the year) finally came on August 28. Sore hands from being hit by pitches could be pointed to for part of the explanation.
He would hit seven more before hitting the wall again with about two weeks left in the season. He went 4-for-4 with a homer, 2 RBI and a steal in a Sept. 24 win over Toronto at Camden Yards, and then hit no home runs and drove in exactly two more runs the rest of the way, including the playoffs. He brought a wet noodle instead of a bat to the plate with him in the postseason and acknowledged being “on vacation,” but he wasn’t alone.
He wasn’t the only Oriole who flailed at strike three in a rally situation, either down the stretch or in the playoffs, or who missed a cutoff man during the year, allowing an opponent’s go-ahead run to score. He was just the most noticeable one due to his experience, popularity and contract, and because of his use of Twitter.
He can also resolve that, while he has come to be looked upon as a team leader, and maybe the team leader, leadership is not sprinkling Twitter with grammatically poor, cheerleading slogans than end with #stayhungry.
The Orioles could also resolve to get the top of the lineup on base, and it worked as soon as Nick Markakis started hitting leadoff last year. On the question of whether he stays there, or Manager Buck Showalter reinstalls Brian Roberts in the leadoff spot, I have nothing more brilliant to offer than the fact that it remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt what a healthy Roberts would do for the rest of the lineup. With him on base, the other hitters get better pitches to hit, and it takes no deep brilliance to say that. It’s true os any team. Now if the team can just get Jones to hit when they’re on base.
JJ Hardy should resolve to hit for an average befitting a No. 2 hitter, if he’s still going to hit second.
They should resolve to have a starter win 15 games. It’s not 20, but the road to having a starter win 20 should be taken in baby steps. Wei-Yin Chen‘s 12 wins last year led the club, and he actually went 0-4 with two non-decisions in six starts in September plus October. He finished 12-11.
Could this 15-20-game winner by a healthy Jason Hammel, the best pitcher on the staff until he got hurt last season? Could it be Miguel Gonzalez, if he’s in the rotation for an entire season? The Orioles know how good he was for a couple of months, but over a full season, he must prove he can re-adjust when opponents adjust to him.
Spring Training holds too many answers for anyone to say on January 3 what will happen, especially since the team hasn’t made any significant trades yet this winter. Whether the do or not, and whether they win 93 games this season or not, I look forward to watching all of those issues resolve themselves.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta