The Baltimore Orioles set out over the past offseason to bolster their production particularly in three lineup slots: left field, designated hitter, and second base. So now that we are one-eighth of the way through the season, how is this working out?
Before the season began, I said that I would from time to time post an article that addressed this topic, so this is the first in what will be a series of evaluations.
Attempting to fix a batting order is a bit like playing “whack a mole.” Just about the time you fix and smack down a problem, another one pops up. Getting nine spots in the order all producing at a high level at the same time is nearly impossible.
Here on the day after Nelson Cruz hit two more homers to total six on the season, clearly he has had the greatest positive effect upon Orioles offensive production. So far he has raised the DH batting average by about 100 points! In an interesting quote from Karl Ravech of ESPN from very early in the season, “I think most importantly, from an AL East standpoint, the Nelson Cruz addition stretches their lineup out. If you look at the division in recent years, teams that are patient and provide challenges to a pitcher in the six, seven, eight and nine hole are the ones that win. And the Orioles lineup now does that even better than in years past.”
So far the second base situation is an offensive improvement to some degree, though it has been a bit troubling on the defensive side. Of course, the second base issue is inextricably tied to the third base connection with Manny Machado. So this will have to play out better over time, and surely it will.
Left field is another story. Though Cruz has brought some enhancement there, the early season struggles of David Lough have actually contributed to poorer numbers than even last year. Again, that should change.
Regarding the other six core positions, the one with the greatest improvement has been catcher. Not only is Matt Wieters off to a great start for the young season, his backup Steve Clevenger has hit well also. Both batting average and OBP are about 90 points higher at this time than these averages were for all of 2013.
However, all of the rest of the five positions are lagging as compared to last year, some of them significantly. Right field is only down a bit, but the hopes were to see Nick Markakis cause these numbers to rebound to previous levels. The short stop numbers are down significantly, as are center field and third base. The latter situation would presumably be corrected with the return of Manny Machado before long, and one would think that Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy will pick it up. Likewise the same with Chris Davis; though his power numbers and average are down, he has been getting on base at a higher percentage, and all of that testifies to the way pitchers are not giving him much to hit.
So here is a chart of the numbers of Orioles in each position through the first 20 games. You can readily see and compare batting average and on base percentage. To project RBIs and HRs, multiply the current number by eight …
12.5% of 2014
100% of 2013