Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Orioles 2008 mid-season (sort of) report: Hitting and some defense part 2

I have already gone over the three best Oriole hitters from the first half -- Roberts, Markakis, and Huff -- so here's a brief summary of the rest of the offensive (and defensive) performances of the first half. Performances in this rundown are broken down from best to worst.

Adam Jones: .281 AVG / .324 OBP / .408 SLG / 5 HR / 41 RBI / 38 Rs / 8 SB / 3 CS

Jones, who turns 23 in August, seems to be progressing at a rapid pace this season. He hit .272 in April and just .226 in May, but in June he batted .323 and is currently hitting .341 in July. He's only hit five homers so far, but he does have 17 doubles and five triples. His .732 OPS is also good enough for fifth on the team right now. If Jones's OBP continues to rise, his value this season and beyond will grow, especially as he gains more power at the plate. Now batting second in the lineup, Jones adds some speed behind Roberts, and he has shown the occasional ability to bunt for some hits. The two-hole may not be where Jones ends up batting next season or in the future, but he's more reliable, at least right now, than another option like Mora. Plus, Markakis's power and ability to drive in runs is wasted there.

In the first half of his first full season in the majors, Jones also seems to be one of the best center fielders in the AL. He has committed two errors, but he has two assists and a .932 zone rating, which is good enough for second in the AL. (Zone rating is the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc.) He has a tendency to miss the cutoff man by trying to show off his arm instead in situations that don't call for such a thing, but with more experience, his fundamentals should steadily improve.

Luke Scott: .254 AVG / .334 OBP / .474 SLG / 14 HR / 34 RBI / 38 Rs / 2 SB / 1 CS

Scott, who also has 16 doubles and one triple, has had a good first half of the season in left field for the O's. His .809 OPS ranks fifth among AL left fielders, as does his total of 14 home runs. Considering the Orioles are paying him $430,000, it's a pretty good trade-off when Miguel Tejada is now making $14.8 million with the Astros. And, oh yeah, Scott has more home runs than Tejada (14 to 10) and has an OPS that is 70 points higher. Even if Scott regresses some, he's already been a welcome addition to the team.

Scott is almost always replaced by Jay Payton late in games when the Orioles are ahead. Payton has more range than Scott, so the move makes sense, but when the O's blow the lead, fans are left to watch Payton struggle at the plate instead of having Scott at the dish. Scott has two assists, and he hasn't committed any errors; he may be replaced by Payton in the eighth and ninth innings, but it's not like he's playing left field like Jay Gibbons. Now that would be something to worry about.

Kevin Millar: .239 AVG / .339 OBP / .391 SLG / 12 HR / 47 RBI / 46 Rs / 0 SB / 1 CS

All-in-all, Millar had a decent first half. His .730 OPS is tied for eighth among AL first basemen, and it's 43 points higher than Paul Konerko's. His 12 home runs are sixth-best among AL first basemen, and his 49 walks are second. Though his average is low, his OBP is the reason why he's scored 46 runs. Millar is a decent option at first for the Orioles, who really don't have anyone else much better to replace him with at the moment.

Millar has played an above-average first base and has committed only three errors. He saves a lot of errors for other infielders by picking some tough throws out of the dirt, but that's exactly what a solid first baseman is supposed to do. He has decent range, but he makes the occasional mistake of not running to first himself and is sometimes caught out of place.

Melvin Mora: .233 AVG / .301 OBP / .387 SLG / 11 HR / 48 RBI / 44 Rs / 2 SB / 6 CS

I have now come to the portion of the roster that has been, well, pretty bad. Out of nine AL third basemen who qualify (meaning they have enough at bats), Mora ranks ninth in OBP and eighth in OPS (ahead of Jack Hannahan, whoever that is). The only bright spot for Mora has been when runners are in scoring position, except for that last game in Boston where he left 11 men on base. Mora is hitting .333 with RISP, .351 with RISP with 2 outs, and .333 with the bases loaded, which explains the 48 RBIs. The 11 home runs, tied for sixth among AL third basemen, help a bit, but he doesn't deserve to bat second or in the middle of the lineup until his numbers start to improve. It also doesn't help that Mora is one of the worst baserunners that I've ever seen. If you can identify another player who seems to get thrown out at second, third, and home more than Mora, I'm all ears.

Mora still plays, for the most part, pretty good defense at third. He's no Scott Rolen, Evan Longoria, or Mike Lowell, but he still has excellent range and the sixth-best fielding percentage among AL third basemen (.962). He doesn't have the best arm, but he has been getting the job done and makes some outstanding diving catches. Still, he needs to hit better -- obviously.

Ramon Hernandez: .238 AVG / .285 OBP / .379 SLG / 8 HR / 35 RBI / 27 Rs / 0 SB / 0 CS

To be blunt, Hernandez has been one of the worst full-time catchers in the AL, rivaling Kenji Johjima, Victor Martinez, and Jason Varitek, who somehow was voted in by the players to make the AL All-Star team. Hernandez's putrid .664 OPS ranks 14th among AL catchers with more than 150 at bats -- 44 points behind the A's Kurt Suzuki. Hernandez has played in 78 of the team's 93 games, and he hasn't hit this poorly since 2002 when he batted .233 with seven home runs and an OPS of .648.

Another surprise has been the deterioration of Hernandez's defense behind the plate. His eight errors committed are tied with Russell Martin for the most in MLB, and Hernandez's five passed balls are the most in both leagues. Hernandez's 61 stolen bases against are the second-most in baseball, and his .208 caught stealing percentage is 20th among catchers with at least 50 or more games started. Pitchers like Daniel Cabrera, who allow many stolen bases, are partially to blame, but those numbers are still pretty bad. The play of Hernandez is certainly worrisome for Orioles fans, but then again, with Matt Wieters waiting in the wings at Double-A Bowie, relief seems to be on the way next season.

Jay Payton: .243 AVG / .283 OBP / .370 SLG / 6 HR / 31 RBI / 21 Rs / 4 SB / 0 CS

Playing the role of the fourth outfielder, Payton (.653 OPS) has not had consistent playing time other than coming in for Scott as a defensive replacement in left field late in games. But part-time playing duty isn't really an excuse here; Payton put up similar numbers in a full season last year (131 games, 434 at bats, .256 average, .668 OPS, 7 HRs, 58 RBI). The one difference this year is that Payton already has six homers in 181 at bats, so that's a bonus. But other than those six home runs, Payton only has five extra base hits, all doubles; the rest of his hits are singles. The biggest problem with Payton is that he's a free swinger who doesn't get on base that much. Not only does he see few pitches in most at bats, but he rarely walks. He only has nine walks this season, and in all those at bats last year, he only walked 22 times! In fact, in his entire career, he's never walked more than 43 times in a season. (Remember, Markakis has already walked 59 times so far this season.)

The Orioles will surely try to trade Payton to a contender before the trade deadline, but it won't matter because there's no way the team brings him back after this season when his contract expires.

Guillermo Quiroz: .203 AVG / .276 OBP / .304 SLG / 2 HRs / 8 RBI / 10 Rs / 0 SB / 0 CS

Quiroz hasn't played enough (30 games) to really worry about breaking down his offensive numbers, but in limited time, his defense has been better than Hernandez's. He's committed one error, allowed two passed balls, and has 16 stolen bases against him. But he has caught eight runners stealing, good enough for a .333 caught stealing percentage. If a catcher isn't going to hit that well, you might as well have one who plays good defense.

Brandon Fahey: .230 AVG / .254 OBP / .344 SLG / 0 HR / 9 RBI / 4 Rs / 0 SB / 0 CS

Fahey's offensive numbers aren't good at all, but to be fair, he's not the long-term answer at shortstop. If he improves his hitting, he could become a serviceable bench/utility player for Dave Trembley. On defense, Fahey has committed three errors and has been decent.

Freddie Bynum: .179 AVG / .220 OBP / .223 SLG / 0 HR / 8 RBI / 12 Rs / 2 SB / 3 CS

If Fahey's offensive numbers are bad, then Bynum's stats are absolutely awful. Bynum had a chance earlier in the season to earn the starting shortstop spot for good, but he completely blew the opportunity. Right now, he's only on the roster because of the injury to Alex Cintron. With five errors committed, Bynum has not been good in the field either. Unfortunately for him, he might not have much of a future with the Orioles.


All in all, the Orioles offense has been pretty good after a slow start. There is much room for improvement, obviously, at catcher, third base, first base, and shortstop. The fielding (tied for eighth in MLB with a .985 fielding percentage) has also been good, but not as strong as last season (.987).

One other thing: the Orioles are tied for second in the AL with the most runners caught stealing (28) but are just seventh in the league in stolen bases (58). For a team that doesn't swipe that many bases, a 67% stolen base percentage (tied for 11th in the AL) is very bad. Other than Roberts, Jones, Markakis, and Fahey in the everyday lineup, the O's don't have a lot of team speed. By getting thrown out by trying to make some things happen, they may actually be taking a few runs off the board. If the team is going to keep stealing, the 67% mark will need to improve.

1 comment:

  1. Would Jack Cust qualify as a worse baserunner than Melvin Mora?