The jury is still out on whether these Orioles are going to make the playoffs, but one thing is fairly certain: These guys are going to challenge for the title of “most powerful team in club history.”
Even Orioles manager Buck Showalter – who has seen it all in baseball – admits he marvels at times about how consistently this team hits the longball.
“I’ve got a really good seat and I don’t ever take it for granted, the things that they do against the best pitchers in the world,” Showalter said after the Orioles’ 8-0 win against the New York Yankees. “It’s not like they’re sneaking up on anybody, either. So it’s just been a consistent threat we’ve had all year. It’s who we are, and that’s OK. We’ll score enough runs.”
With four homers Friday, these Orioles have hit 213 in 134 games. That’s a pace of 257 ½ for a 162-game season.
What’s the franchise record for homers in one campaign?
You guessed it – 257, by that ridiculous 1996 squad. So the Orioles are right there, give or take half a homer. The major league record for a season, by the way, was set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners with 264.
That one’s probably out of reach – but maybe not for this homer-crazy crew.
“It’s a lot of fun. I think that’s something we do,” said right fielder Mark Trumbo, who leads the majors with 41 home runs. “That’s what we were hoping for in spring training when we were fielding questions along the same lines. ‘What is this offense capable of?’ And I think, in a lot of ways, we’ve had the kind of production we were looking for.”
Maybe an historic kind of production, though they’ll be duking it out with the 1996 Ghosts of Homers Past. That group was led by Brady Anderson’s 50, which stood as the franchise record until Chris Davis slugged 53 in 2013.
There were seven Orioles with 20 or more homers in 1996 — a franchise record that is going to hold unless Matt Wieters hits eight in the final month of this year. The Orioles’ season likely will end with six players with 20 homers – with Pedro Alvarez joining the 20-homer club Friday night. According to Stats LLC, these Orioles are the 19th team in baseball history to have six, 20-homer hitters, and the first since the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays.
“It’s just been a lot of fun to play beside all these guys, to have such a good group of talent together playing alongside one another, night after night, is something that is a privilege and a treat,” Alvarez said. “We go out there every day and compete, and we really don’t focus on numbers and stats. All that takes care of itself at the end of the day.”
These Orioles already have three sluggers with 30 or more home runs: Davis (33), Manny Machado (33) and Trumbo (41). It’s the first time in club history the Orioles have reached that distinction – and the 13th time since 1973 that it has happened in the majors.
Now, if Machado and Davis really caught fire in September, the Orioles could own an impressive AL record. According to Baseball-Almanac.com, no American League team has ever had three, 40-homer-hitters in one season.
A bunch have had two, including the Los Angeles Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays last year. The Blue Jays fell one homer shy of making AL history when Edwin Encarnacion hit 39 to trail teammates Jose Bautista (40) and Josh Donaldson (41).
There are three National League teams that have had three, 40-homer sluggers: the 1973 Atlanta Braves (Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson), the 1996 Colorado Rockies (Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla and Andres Galarraga) and the 1997 Rockies (Castilla, Galarraga and Larry Walker).
One other homer note: If Adam Jones hits six between now and the end of the season, the Orioles would become the fourth AL team to have four, 30-homer-or-more sluggers, joining the 2000 Angels, 2000 Blue Jays and 2006 Chicago White Sox.
No major league team has had five, 30-homer players, so Jones (24) and Jonathan Schoop (21) and/or Alvarez (20) need to step it up.
The real homer chase, though, is against those 1996 Orioles. It’s likely going to come down to the wire – to see if they can sneak one more half-homer (or a full one) than the record-setters.