Jun 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nelson Cruz (23) doubles in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Athletics 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Is Nelson Cruz becoming a hole in the Baltimore Orioles lineup?

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After the beginning of the season that Nelson Cruz put up for the Baltimore Orioles, it may seem preposterous to ask the question if he is becoming a hole in the batting order for the O’s. But there has been a definitive drop-off in production in recent weeks.

Cruz has gone 12 games without a home run, while batting for an average of .136; and he has not even had one RBI in his past 39 at-bats.

100 games into the season, Cruz is hitting .276, which is seven points above his career average of .269.

The following chart breaks down the first 100 games of the Orioles’ season into 25-game segments. And it is easy to see how Nelson Cruz has dropped off in the past 25 games. Before that, his stats were rather consistent.

Games AB Hits Avg RBI 2B HR SO
1-25 92 26 .283 25 5 7 23
26-50 98 31 .316 21 7 10 24
51-75 91 26 .286 14 2 6 21
76-100 99 22 .222 14 4 5 19
1-100 380 105 .276 74 18 28 87

 

Honestly, before researching this and putting the chart together, I would have expected to see that Cruz has struck out more in the most recent quarter than in any before it. Yet it is in fact the least. However, the recent strikeouts stand out more because so many of them are chasing low and away breaking balls. Adam Jones has always been a sucker for this pitch, but Cruz’ tendency to chase them here of late makes Jonesy look like a highly-disciplined hitter. Even when Cruz is making some contact, he is pulling the outside pitch into easy ground-outs or lamely popping it to the right side.

As well, compared to the beginning of the season, Cruz’ swing has become longer. He has been lacking the quick, short stroke that drove the ball at a high velocity.

Looking over his career stats, Cruz will certainly surpass his highest home run number of 33, and he’ll likely get beyond 90 RBIs. He will not, however, get near his high in doubles at 45.

Having said all of that, it is interesting to see that this is only the second season of his career that he is playing almost every day. He has only missed one of the Orioles’ games this year. In 2012 he played in 159 games. Prior to that his best was only 128 games in 2009.  

So what can be expected of Nelson Cruz over the final 60 games of this season? Will it be the guy who carried the Orioles through the first half of the season? Or will it be the free-swinging player we have seen over the past two weeks?

Chances are it will be something in the middle and closer to his career average. Cruz is aware of the need to repeat the shorter, quick swing. So this season should end with Cruz hitting about 36-38 home runs with about 110 RBIs.

The Orioles need him to pull out of the current slump. It is a hole in the lineup now, and with Chris Davis hitting around .200, the sad truth is that they can become a double hole at the very center of the order. That could spell disaster for the Birds’ hopes for the season.

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Tags: Nelson Cruz

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