Sunday, May 25, 2008

Orioles lineup continues to struggle

Since scoring 12 runs against the Yankees on Tuesday, May 20, the Orioles lineup has turned in the following performances: zero runs against Darrell Rasner, one run against Ian Kennedy, zero runs against Matt Garza, and four runs against Edwin Jackson (who walked five batters) and reliever Gary Glover. Now, Rasner, Kennedy, Garza, and Jackson are all decent young pitchers, but scoring five runs in four games just isn't going to cut it, especially with the way the Tampa Bay Rays are playing in April and May and the struggles the Orioles usually have when playing the Yankees.

So far this season, the Orioles as a team are 26th in the MLB in runs scored with only 196 total runs. The Orioles lineup is hitting a combined .244 and has a .315 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .697 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). In a few past seasons, the Orioles were 8th in runs scored in 2004 with 842, 15th in 2005 with 729, 17th in 2006 with 768, and 16th in 2007 with 756. The O's lineup also had middle-of-the-pack numbers last year, with a .272 batting average, a .333 OBP, and a .746 OPS, but with the way the starters (except Trachsel) and the bullpen are pitching, the Orioles would certainly be a few games better with hitting like that.

The loss of Miguel Tejada has hurt the offense, but in no way is that the main reason for the team's significant offensive struggles. Of the eight players on the team with over 100 at bats, Brian Roberts and Luke Scott share the team's highest batting average of just .257. Nick Markakis his hitting just .253.

Roberts and Markakis, who are considered to be the team's best offensive weapons, have been struggling a bit as of late. They both have low batting averages for their talent levels, but because of walks (25 and 32 respectively), Roberts has a .347 OBP and Markakis a .374 OBP.

Just to see them across the board, here are Roberts's numbers so far:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2008 47 175 25 45 12 3 3 17 13 4 25 35 .257 .347 .411 .758 72

And here are his offensive numbers from the last two seasons:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2006 138 563 85 161 34 3 10 55 36 7 55 66 .286 .347 .410 .757 231
2007 156 621 103 180 42 5 12 57 50 7 89 99 .290 .377 .432 .809 268

Two big differences jump out between Roberts's 2008 numbers and the numbers from 2006 and 2007. First, Roberts, with less than a third of the season completed, is on pace to strike out more than 100 times. He came close in 2007 with 99 strikeouts, and he will surely eclipse that mark this year. For many players, striking out that much is common, but Roberts is mostly a contact hitter and someone who sprays the ball to all fields. Second, Roberts is stealing fewer bases. As an example, he only has three stolen bases so far in May. He's already been caught four times, which is a significant amount considering he was only caught seven times each in '06 and '07. A subpar lineup and average baserunning (for his standards) may explain why Roberts is scoring so few runs even though he's on base at a pretty good rate.

Markakis has also been struggling, but he's still just 24 years old and will surely be the Orioles' everyday right fielder for years to come.

Here are his numbers so far:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2008 47 170 26 43 5 0 8 22 6 2 32 47 .253 .374 .424 .798 72

And from his first two seasons:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2006 147 491 72 143 25 2 16 62 2 0 43 72 .291 .351 .448 .799 220
2007 161 637 97 191 43 3 23 112 18 6 61 112 .300 .362 .485 .847 309

Without a doubt, Markakis had his best offensive season in 2007. He batted .300, hit 23 home runs, drove in over 100 runs, and stole 18 bases. But besides his batting average, Markakis still seems to be putting up pretty good numbers. He still reaches base a lot and will probably steal over 20 bases for the first time. The biggest frustration for Markakis has to be the high number of strikeouts, as he's 6th in the AL with 47. He's on pace to accumulate over 150 strikeouts, which is hard to believe for a player with his strong eye at the plate and his ability to hit the ball to all fields. One of the most confusing things is that Markakis seems to routinely strike out on fastballs, particularly inside ones under his hands. Lately, he seems uncomfortable hitting with two strikes, and he just hasn't been able to deal with how opposing pitchers have been going after him.

His batting average, though, probably won't be this low for much longer, and Markakis will continue to reach base because of his ability to draw walks.

It's hard to place a large amount of the blame on Roberts and Markakis when the lineup is filled with, for the most part, average hitters. Since his return, Freddie Bynum has provided some spark in the lineup by hitting .289 in 12 games. Adam Jones also seems to be gaining confidence at the plate; his average continues to rise, and he's now hitting .256.

Unfortunately, those are about the only positives for the O's lineup. Here are some of the other players who are struggling:

Aubrey Huff -- .246 BA .313 OBP 6 HR 24 RBI
Melvin Mora -- .244 BA .303 OBP 5 HR 23 RBI
Kevin Millar -- .243 BA .327 OBP 6 HR 22 RBI
Jay Payton -- .220 BA .253 OBP 4 HR 13 RBI
R. Hernandez --.209 BA .245 OBP 3 HR 18 RBI

The numbers for the first three wouldn't be that bad if Mora wasn't hitting 2nd, Huff 4th, and Millar 5th. Numbers like that from the top/middle of the lineup won't cut it. Payton, who has been splitting time with Scott in left field, has been pretty bad at the plate. But no one in the lineup has been as bad as Hernandez -- just look at his on-base percentage. Hernandez has been so bad that he makes Guillermo Quiroz (.220/.304/.317) look like he should be the everyday catcher. Hernandez's struggles have made many Orioles fans wish that the organization would move highly-touted catching prospect Matt Wieters through the farm system quicker, but hopefully the O's front office plays it smart and understands not to rush him, no matter how well he's playing for the time being.

Maybe Hernandez will pick up his performance soon, but the same can be said for most of the names in the Orioles everyday lineup. None of the five names listed above is scheduled to play any role in the future of the Orioles, so fans may just have to weather the storm this year and maybe next year as more prospects develop.

But maybe if the entire team learned how to run the bases properly, things wouldn't seem so bad sometimes. This might be a good place to start.

1 comment:

  1. so glad you put in the last part....

    in fact, I was kind of waiting for it.

    ReplyDelete