Baltimore Orioles have a need for speed


There is a common cliche in sports that speed kills.

You hear it often in football and basketball. Every year it seems like there is a new guy that is faster than the players before him. A guy who can blow past a defender with ease based solely off his speed and quickness.

But in baseball? Not so much. In an era of baseball that’s built around bigger players with smaller ballparks, speed wasn’t necessarily a factor.

That was until the Kansas City Royals showed everyone that it can kill you in this sport too.

The Royals never stopped running. They seemed to run down every fly ball no matter how hard it was hit. They had the ability to turn an everyday single into a double. They forced defenders to hurry their throw and any mistake was an extra base. They caused havoc on the basepaths. It was almost surreal to watch.

The Baltimore Orioles fell victim to the blistering speed that allowed the Royals to literally run away with the American League Championship. The Royals seemed to have a man on second base at all times. They attacked their opponents in a way that isn’t common in this sport, but is now proven deadly.

The Orioles don’t have anything like it.

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Nick Markakis did a great job setting the table because he is a singles machine. He consistently got on base. In a sense, that is exactly what you want your leadoff guy to do. With a team that has such power, any time men are on base, the potential is there for a high scoring inning.

But when was the last time you remember Markakis trying to stretch out a double? Steal a base to get a runner in scoring position? Start an inning with a runner on second and immediately have a team on its heels. It wasn’t his bat that was his problem. His flaw was his lack of speed.

There is no intent to single out Markakis because he’s gone. It was actually a team flaw. Baltimore finished last in stolen bases and was the only team in Major League Baseball without a single player to reach double digits in steals. Speed has not been a concern for Showalter as his team has finished last in stolen bases in two of the past three years.

One could argue that the Orioles did perfectly fine a season ago when they led the Majors in home runs. Take away Cruz’s 40 home runs and the team still finishes third in baseball. Those two seasons of finishing last in steals were also the only two playoff berths since the 90s.

You don’t try to change what made a team great. However, you do find ways to make your team better.

There aren’t many players out there with jets like Billy Hamilton or Dee Gordon. Those guys are rare breeds. The free agent market isn’t exactly filled with speedsters either. However, there are plenty of guys capable of putting up modest steal numbers.

Adam Jones can run, but as his power numbers have risen, the number of stolen bases has decreased. David Lough was the team leader with eight steals a season ago in limited action. Alejandro De Aza might be the key piece. He adds more speed, and with the current makeup of the roster, will likely begin the season as the leadoff hitter.

The Orioles might find it advantageous to get some speed into their game. If the Orioles can find a piece that can scoot around the bases, it makes an already dangerous offense even more explosive. A Gold Glove infield paired with an athletic outfield prevents the opponent from scoring. It puts pressure on opposing teams. With this Orioles team, it has the potential to make a really good team be great.

In the end, is that not the point of the offseason?

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