Before we get into the mind-numbing strikeout totals Orioles’ hitters have amassed recently, I want to give you a couple other numbers.
In a seven-game stretch in early April, the Orioles’ hitters walked 22 times, struck out 57 times and left 43 men on base.
In another seven-game stretch in mid-May, the Orioles walked 21 times, struck out 50 times and left 45 men on base.
And in their last five games of this current, nine-game road trip, the Orioles walked 15 times, had 65 strikeouts and left 39 on base, including a mind-boggling 37 whiffs in their last two games.
So this stretch is obviously worse, but you can tell by the other two examples that this trend is nothing new.
And that is precisely my point.
Because those other two stretches?
The Orioles were 7-0 in each of those periods. So while everyone was praising how much better the Orioles were in selecting their pitches and taking walks during those winning streaks, the cold hard truth is that they were also striking out plenty.
This is who they are, folks. These Orioles were built for power, and that often means built for flailing uncontrollably and, therefore, built for making unproductive outs.
One commentator after Wednesday’s game said this isn’t what was expected when the team was assembled for Opening Day. I have to disagree slightly. This is exactly what was expected when the team was assembled for Opening Day. OK, so maybe that’s more than a slight disagreement.
Regardless, we all know this team’s offensive modus operandi during its strong run is that it is power-based, so it is often one-dimensional, albeit an exciting and effective dimension.
But it also means this offense in the last few years swings and misses frequently, doesn’t get on base often and doesn’t manufacture runs as frequently as it should. You can talk hitting approach all you want, but at some point the realization has to be that this is the personnel that’s been assembled.
It’s something the Orioles say they are going to address every year, but the changes are minimal. This offseason, the club re-signed slugger Chris Davis, traded for slugger Mark Trumbo and signed slugger Pedro Alvarez. Sense a trend?
Everyone was focused on the possibility that seven or more players in the lineup could have 25 or more homers this season; not as much fanfare that the same number of hitters could have 100 or more strikeouts, too.
In an attempt to diversify some this winter, the Orioles signed Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and selected outfielder Joey Rickard from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 draft. Both have posted low strikeout totals in their pro careers.
Rickard started Tuesday and Kim on Wednesday. They combined for one of the 37 whiffs in the past two days in Houston.
Kim, in fact, was 3-for-3 and walked. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the game that Kim will start again Thursday.
And, really, it’s what Showalter needs to do: diversify the lineup as best as he can with the personnel he currently has. And executive vice president Dan Duquette needs to be on the lookout as the season progresses for another contact hitter or two.
Showalter made a point in his post-game comments with MASN’s Jim Hunter Wednesday that he and his team are fully aware of the strikeout barrage. He also said he wasn’t going to throw players “under the bus” after everyone was washing them in superlatives a week ago.
He’s absolutely right. Because these guys have not changed. They were striking out when they were winning. But they’ve lost three in a row, fanned at a wholly unacceptable pace, mostly on constant off-speed, breaking pitches, and now the attention is on the wind their bats create.
It’s kind of funny. We wow at the power when they surge, but shake our heads at the strikeouts when they fail. The truth is this is how this team is going to win and this is how it is going to lose this year.
Get used to it now. And hope that if the club is in the postseason, the roster has a couple new faces that can put the ball in play more often. Because, as we saw in the 2012 and 2014 playoffs, living and dying by the home run can lead to a funeral before the World Series.