The typical MLB team in this modern era carries 12 pitchers and 13 position players (including DH). There are five starters and seven relievers, and who will exactly occupy those places is an item of discussion for another article.
Today, let’s think through the 13 position players for the Baltimore Orioles. There will be a backup catcher – and again, that is a discussion for another day, though Steve Clevenger seems to be the probable choice.
Of the 12 other position players for the Birds, we can talk about six of them as the “six core.” All of these guys – Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, played in at least 148 games in 2013. Barring injury, something similar will happen again.
So that leaves three positions to discuss – second base, left field, designated hitter – that will be covered by the “six more.” And for the sake of discussion, let’s postulate that the Orioles will keep a total of four outfielders beyond Jones and Markakis – David Lough, Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia and Delmon Young. And presume they will also keep Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla for second base and utility infielder. These names are the “six more.”
It is conceivable that Buck Showalter could platoon the “six more” in such a way as to bat six lefties against right-handed pitching and seven righties against left-handed pitchers. The platoons would be Reimold and Lough in left field, Urrutia and Young at DH, and Flaherty and Casilla at second base. In an additional scenario, since Casilla is a switch-hitter, if Machado or Hardy need a day off, Flaherty could play third or short, and then the only right-handed bats in the lineup would be Jones and Machado or Hardy. Seven lefties in a lineup! I’m sure it has been done, but would certainly be a rare sight.
The assumptions here are that the “four more” outfielders (covering DH as well) will be the four mentioned. But there are other names in the mix: Quintin Berry, Xavier Paul, Jolio Borbon, Francisco Peguero, Steve Pearce, and maybe also Tyler Colvin.
At second base, I’m still hoping Jamile Weeks will have a great spring and play himself into a regular position. His defense is not as strong as the other choices, but his bat could be an upgrade if he finds the stroke of a couple years ago.
However, supporting an argument that this left-right proposition is merely an interesting discussion is a closer look at the numbers. Most of the “six more” hit equally well against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Reimold has the exact same career average of .252 against each. Lough is (versus L/R) .282/.277, Casilla is .255/.244, and Flaherty is .229/.220 (although he has 10x as many at bats against right-handers). Delmon Young is .303/.274 – which is why he is so attractive as a DH against lefties. Urrutia’s numbers are too scant to make a case, though one would expect him to have greater problems against lefties.
One thing for sure, with the names and situations spoken of here, what is arguably the best defense ever to play the game might have gotten marginally even better. But the greatest defense without solid hitting and really solid pitching will not actually carry a team that far.
And a final thought, these 13 names today comprise what sure looks to me like a very good lineup. Really, just get another solid starter and bring on 2014 baseball!
Tags: Baltimore Orioles