Baltimore Orioles: Spring Training Disappointments


Mar 17, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Bud Norris (25) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of days ago I wrote an article on the top five Baltimore Orioles players so far in spring training. It would make sense to next write on the top five disappointments in Florida. But just as intoxicating as good statistics can be in the spring, so also can negative numbers be indicative of practically next to nothing. A player might be hitting line drives right at defenders over and over. Or a veteran may be looking to particularly address an area of weakness or attempt a new technique in a safe environment.

At the same time, a growing lack of results can begin to ring a few bells of concern. It would certainly look like the following four players are in trouble in terms of having any possibility of a good season of production …

Player 11127731.226
Player 2924321.125
Player 31658611.103
Player 41148421.083

Player 1 is Adam Jones. Is this something to worry about? Not really. Jones is certainly a big-time player when it counts; he gets the job done. Of spring numbers he said, “If anyone really looks at spring training numbers, look at Greg Maddux‘s spring training over his career. I think when the lights turn on and it matters most, that’s when it counts. I don’t think spring numbers really matter to me.”

Player 2 is Alejandro De Aza. Certainly after coming over from the White Sox last year, he put up some wonderful numbers that were extremely helpful for the Orioles at the end of the season. De Aza hit for an average of .293 over 20 games, getting 24 base hits including 11 of them for extra bases. But his spring start has been a bit slow, and he went home to the Dominican Republic for three days this week for a 99th birthday gathering for his grandfather.

Player 3 is Nelson Cruz. The numbers are not from spring training in any season. It is simply a sample of what he produced from July 11, 2014 through July 31, 2014.  People often forget some of the extended slumps he went through in the middle of what is considered his premier season. It demonstrates the nature of putting stock in a limited set of statistics.

Player 4 is Nick Markakis and his numbers from August 19-30 of 2014. Those look really, really bad. Imagine any player having those stats in spring training – what would be said of them? There would be great concern. But again, this is a stretch of games in what was considered a very successful season.

Of course, the more a player has had consistent success in a long career, the more a poor set of numbers in spring training will not be held against him. When speaking of club expectations, Buck Showalter said, “It changes each year and some of the things last year give you a mulligan here and there.”  

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Adam Jones has a big mulligan. Delmon Young has not hit very well so far, though he did crush a monster homer on Saturday; but he has a pretty big mulligan as well.

But some of those who have not had careers quite so long are going to be needing to get some better results rather soon.

For example, David Lough is probably the most vulnerable of the outfielders who were generally expected to make the team. Right now he is 4-for-24 with two walks and five strikeouts. He has also had a sore hamstring. Lough does not want a repeat of the spring and first half of 2014.

If Chris Parmelee would like to take that last outfield position, he needs to hit better than 4-for-22. However, he does have six walks and an OBP of .357!

Ryan Flaherty is batting a mere 5-for-26 with a homer. His defensive ability and flexibility is still a great asset, but he has more competition than in the past.  

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Of the pitchers, we have already spoken a good bit about the problem of Ubaldo Jimenez. Honestly, Bud Norris has been hit even harder. Norris right now has an 11.74 ERA and batting average against of 3.84, and he even has three losses on his record. Maybe he is just a poor spring training pitcher? Not really. Norris had very good statistics both last year for the Orioles and in 2013 for the Astros.

It is impossible to ever really have even a 25-man roster where almost everyone is performing at the same time near their historic highs. When a team does put that together with a strong majority of players, you can end up with a pitching staff like the Orioles had for the final two-thirds of last year, or what the Red Sox backed into in 2013.