Thursday, August 13, 2009

O's offense still struggling

It's easy to point a finger at the Orioles pitching staff and blame them for much of the team's struggles this season. Jeremy Guthrie has certainly had a down year, but even though the rookie pitchers have taken their lumps at one point or another -- and surely will continue to do so for the rest of the season -- they've kept the O's in many games.

Meanwhile, with more than one-fourth of the season remaining, the O's offense is currently ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored (516), ahead of only Seattle and Kansas City. The offense also ranks fifth in batting average (.268), ninth in on-base percentage (.331), 11th in slugging (.412), 11th in OPS (.743), 10th in total bases (1600), 11th in home runs (109), and sixth in doubles (211). The O's have combined to strike out the second fewest times in the AL (683), but they're also 11th in walks (350). The O's also aren't very good at playing small ball: They have the worst stolen-base percentage (67 percent) in the AL, are last in sacrifice bunts (9), and are generally a bad baserunning team. So, maybe it's not really shocking that a team that doesn't hit for a ton of power, doesn't walk much, and doesn't take the extra base can't seem to string several high-scoring games together.

To compare, last year the O's were a little better on offense. They finished eighth in runs (782), eighth in OBP (.333), fifth in slugging (.429), eighth in OPS (.762), fifth in total bases (2384), seventh in home runs (172), and fourth in doubles (322). They finished fifth in fewest strikeouts (990) and ninth in walks (533). Their stolen-base percentage was slightly better (69 percent), and they sacrificed more, though only 27 times.

So what exactly has changed? Let's take a look (batters placed in order of at bats):

I know that I didn't include every player or at bat from this year's or last year's teams, but it is interesting to see how much better Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff were last season -- and how bad Jay Payton was. Markakis and Roberts have also regressed a bit, but Adam Jones and Luke Scott have had better seasons so far. Nolan Reimold has been a welcome addition to the lineup, and he may possess the best batting eye on the team. Matt Wieters's numbers also figure to improve in the near future.

With the 2008 versions of Mora and Huff, though, the O's offense this year would have been significantly better. Still, they'll both probably be gone next season, so the Orioles could definitely be looking for some corner infielders in the free agent market.

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