Fewer strikeouts and more walks should be a goal for Orioles; Another catcher signed; Canada's vaccine rules - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Fewer strikeouts and more walks should be a goal for Orioles; Another catcher signed; Canada’s vaccine rules

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles’ new co-hitting coaches, Matt Borgschulte and Ryan Fuller, face a formidable challenge. In 2021, the Orioles had a .304 on-base percentage, 12th among the American League’s 15 teams. Their 1,454 strikeouts were the were the fifth most, and the 451 walks were 13th.

Even throughout the Orioles’ playoff run last decade, Dan Duquette, their head of baseball operations, said it was his aim to increase the team’s on-base percentage. During their most successful season, 2014, when they won the American League East and reached the League Championship Series, the team had a .311 on-base percentage, which ranked ninth.

Duquette’s solution was to add sluggers Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo, who didn’t do anything to increase the on-base percentage but enabled the team to set a franchise record of 253 homers in 2016.

Last season, each of the 20 Orioles who played in at least 22 games struck out twice as often as he walked. The Oriole with the most strikeouts was Ryan Mountcastle, who had nearly four times as many strikeouts, 161, as walks, 41.

Trey Mancini, who shared first base and designatedhitter duties with Mountcastle, had the second-most strikeouts, 143, nearly three times the number of walks he drew, 51.

Centerfielder Cedric Mullins, who became the first Oriole with 30 homer and 30 steals in a season, was third on the team with 125 strikeouts, but his ratio wasn’t as bad. He struck out just over twice as often as he walked, 59.

Catcher Pedro Severino, 109 strikeouts, 34 walks; leftfielder Austin Hays, 108, 27; and rightfielder Anthony Santander, 101, 23, were the other players with more than 100 strikeouts.

The only semi-regular who came close to walking half as often as striking out was outfielder/DH DJ Stewart, who walked 44 times to his 89 strikeouts.

In recent years, strikeouts haven’t carried the stigma that they did in previous generations.

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All-time great Oriole sluggers Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson each had multiple seasons with the team when they walked more often than they struck out. They didn’t face a parade of hard-throwing relievers, but even in today’s game, some of the best hitters are able to keep their strikeouts relatively low and walk often.

Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, who led the major leagues with a .465 on-base percentage, drew 145 walks and struck out only 93 times. Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper, who was second with a .429 on-base percentage, struck out 134 times and walked 100 times. The American League’s leader, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had a .401 on-base percentage with 110 strikeouts and 86 walks.

There might be some improvement in 2022 when Adley Rutschman joins the team. Rutschman had a .397 on-base percentage at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, striking out 90 times and walking 79. With the Baysox, Rutschman struck out 57 times and walked 55 times.

Another catcher added: The Orioles signed catcher Anthony Bemboom to a minor league contract. The 31-year-old Bemboom is a left-handed hitter who played 54 games with Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels from 2019-2021. His lifetime average is .178 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

Bemboom has thrown out 40 percent (14 of 35) baserunners attempting to steal.

He’s the second catcher with major league experience that the Orioles have signed to a minor league contract. On December 1st, they signed Jacob Nottingham, a 26-year-old right-handed hitter who played in 53 games from 2018-2021 with Milwaukee and Seattle.

The Orioles don’t have any catchers on the 40-man roster. Rutschman must be added to the 40-man when he joins the team.

Canada’s new vaccination rules: Beginning January 15th, unvaccinated professional athletes will be barred from entering Canada. For now, that will affect players facing the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the seven Canadian NHL teams.

This week, some Canadian teams have reinstated capacity limits in their arena because of a rise in Covid-19 cases. If the pandemic persists into the baseball season, there could be consequences for the four American League East teams facing the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles are scheduled to play 10 games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, but the first isn’t until June 13th.

In 2020, the Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo. In 2021, they began their season in Dunedin, Florida before returning to Buffalo from June 1st-July 21st. They were able to play in Toronto beginning on July 30th.

The Orioles played their first series in Buffalo, and the final two in Toronto.

On May 12th, the Orioles became one of the first teams to reach the 85 percent rate of vaccination, allowing for freer movement and loosened restrictions. Non-vaccinated players have not been identified, but if the restriction stays in place for the season, we’ll find out who they are.

Health and safety protocols for next season must be negotiated between Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 17, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Screw les habitants. Shuffle the Jays back to Buffalo. Problem solved.

    Drink Pepsi

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 17, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      Agree about Jays playing in Buffalo.
      I recommend more healthy hydration options

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 17, 2021 at 4:56 pm

        Pepsi will be my choice of colas, until another all star game is played in Atlanta.

        • WhyDoIBother

          December 18, 2021 at 9:15 am

          I am totally in agreement with your choice of Pepsi over Coke and your reasoning for your choice

    • dlgruber1

      December 17, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      You’ve got a better chance of seeing an All Star game in Atlanta than we do of seeing another one in Baltimore I’m afraid. I truly believe as long as Angelos owns the team and Manfred is commish it ain’t happening.

    • Icterus fan

      December 18, 2021 at 3:21 pm

      Cito still sucks

  2. Orioles20

    December 17, 2021 at 8:34 am

    I think your already seeing this philosophy throughout the organization. Elias has drafted guys like Cowser and Kjersted that strikeout a little but will take a walk. And he’s hired guys that seem to be able to instill it in the players. I think where the problem lays is at the major league level. Where guys like Stewart and Santander and even mountcastle gotta lay off that high inside fastball and the slider away. We saw mountcastle start the make that adjustment in the second half. Stewart did not which in part is why they should give up on him. Who cares if he’s a first round pick. That was seven years ago and he’s twenty eight now. I’d tell these guys if you’re not going to follow the philosophies we want you will be released or won’t be up in the majors until you start.

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 17, 2021 at 4:28 pm

      Fact check – Mountcastle OBP 1st half 0.305, 2nd half 0.314; Stewart OBP 1st half 0.311, 2nd half 0.349. Also Stewart’s K rate dropped from 30% to 25% 1st to 2nd half while hist BB rate increased from 12% to 17%. Mountcastle’s 2nd half K rate was 27% and his walk rate was 8%. Yup!!!! Mountcastle made adjustments in the 2nd half but Stewart still had better K and BB rates.

      Why don’t just post “I don’t like Stewart and the O’s should cut him” it would be a better look

      • Orioles20

        December 17, 2021 at 4:56 pm

        I hope you know that Stewart barely played in the second half due to injury and the emergence of hays. And Stewart has been able to walk but it doesn’t matter when he strikes out too. His 200 batting average would say otherwise. I know average is not every thing but it’s important in Stewart case.

        • JerseyO

          December 17, 2021 at 6:20 pm

          And his defense is, at best, not good.

      • JerseyO

        December 17, 2021 at 6:18 pm

        I don’t like Stewart and the O’s should cut him.

  3. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 17, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Hey Rich – “They didn’t face a parade of hard -hrowing relievers,…” Please add the “t” before the salary challenged English teachers start to critique you! And btw, you cannot use spell-check as an excuse either! Lol
    One question though, is 85% of the Oriole players vaccination list of the 26 man roster or 40 man roster? And does this include the Booster? And are all the coaches and manager of the Orioles vaccinated? I guess I meant 3 questions. Lol

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2021 at 10:00 am

      Dario, I appreciate catching the typo.

      I believe the 85 percent is of the 40-man roster in addition to the staff that travels with the team–manager, coaches, trainers, support staff, public relations. I know Brandon Hyde was vaccinated during spring training last year because he was asked about it. The booster was not available during the season, so it doesn’t include that, and as I wrote, the health and safety protocols for 2022 will be negotiated shortly.

    • CalsPals

      December 17, 2021 at 5:34 pm

      Maybe he can get a subscription to help with the spelling problem, or was that a prescription?…tee hee…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 17, 2021 at 8:23 pm

        tee hee

    • Icterus fan

      December 20, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Nice postscription

  4. NormOs

    December 17, 2021 at 9:21 am

    “Fewer strikeouts and more walks” can be attained but the O’s need to shake off their top farm team, “The Waiver Wire”. “Fewer strikeouts and more walks” COST MONEY so the O’s need to get with the program and SPEND MONEY. “Going Cheap” is killing this franchise, As I have said before, “baseball is money driven” and when rich people “poor mouth”, it makes them look silly.

  5. jimcarter

    December 17, 2021 at 9:54 am

    I’ve never been impressed by how hard someone throws. I’m more impressed by location, mixing speeds and inducing ground balls. Every time I see a hard throwing pitcher who can’t locate, I think of the Beverly Hillbillies episode where Leo Durocher was scouting Jethro Bodine.

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 17, 2021 at 4:33 pm

      Well then the Orioles are the perfect team for you because they have very few hard throwing pitches

  6. willmiranda

    December 17, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Question: don’t the new Canadian edicts affect all NBA and NHL teams playing in that country, not just the home teams?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Yes, changed a word to make that clearer.

  7. Orial

    December 17, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Ironically the reverse applies to the pitching staff–MORE strikeouts and LESS walks.

  8. skyhighonlife

    December 17, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    Rich,

    You may want to amend your comment regarding D J Stewart. If he walked 44 times compared to 89 strikeouts, then he didn’t come close to walking twice as often as striking out. Rather, he came close to walking half as often as he struck out. For your comment to be factually correct, D J would have had to walk approximately 178 times.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2021 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you for pointing that out. It’s been changed.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 17, 2021 at 5:00 pm

      I too have been known to smoke Lifes on occasion.

  9. willmiranda

    December 17, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    How about fewer losses, more wins. I’m thinking mostly about more walks. It may be a chicken-and-egg thing and maybe the stats people have numbers on this, but I think pitchers have little motivation to walk losing players, especially on really bad teams. It’s not only that many of the individuals pose no threat with the bat, but the strategy of the game invites throwing strikes. When a pitcher –especially, but not only– on a very good team takes to the mound against the O’s, he expects his team to score 5 or 6 or more runs. The most damage a single batter can do against him is a solo home run, something, in fact, highly unlikely. However, if he starts giving free base runners via walks, he could be opening the door to multiple runs, particularly if he gets a bad break or two in the field. Thus, walking O’s would signal a lack of command rather than an intention to pitch around a particular hitter. This signals a sloppiness that does lead to more carelessness and bad breaks. Good teams –and, compared to the O’s, they’re all good teams– don’t tolerate this. The result is that they throw strikes that –whether they’re taken, missed, or hit– do not lead to bases on balls. Concrete instance: Mullins hits a leadoff home run. We are justifiably elated, but the pitcher knows that he’s not going to lose 1-0. If he walks Mountcastle and/or Mancini, there will be more concern in the dugout than about the home run because it would be a greater sign that he didn’t have it that day.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      December 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm

      Unless you are Jacob deGrom. Then you do lose 1-0 just about every time you take the mound

    • WhyDoIBother

      December 17, 2021 at 4:48 pm

      The average MLB saw 63.7% strikes while at the plate, the Orioles saw 64.8% strikes. Orioles were 4th worst in swinging at pitches outside of the zone and had 4th worst hard hit %. Oriole pitchers threw 63.1%. Those 2 extra strikes per 100 thrown by the opposition doesn’t really support the theory in your post IMO.

      • willmiranda

        December 18, 2021 at 10:26 am

        Thanks, Y, for the response and opportunity to clarify. I was reacting to the notion that getting more walks is simply a matter of being “patient” or “selective” at the plate. If opponents don’t throw balls, you will not get walks. You don’t give much info about the source or methodology of your stats, but I’ll go with them. Pitchers threw O’s batters 65% percent strikes, almost precisely two strikes for every ball. At that rate, I think the odds are against receiving four balls before three strikes. You can’t just say “take more pitches” and expect to get more walks. What I find striking in your findings is that although the O’s are at the top of the list for swinging at bad pitches, pitchers continue to throw them good pitches at a rate slightly above average. That, of course, was my point. If you want to get more bases on balls, you had better do something with the strikes you’re given. If a Mountcastle, for example, raises his average twenty points –not unrealistic, in my opinion– and hits forty home runs, he’ll have a better chance at getting bases on balls. The same for other hitters. And for the team, I say playing better all around to keep scores closer and win more games will make opposing pitchers more cautious about throwing hittable pitches.

  10. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 17, 2021 at 5:12 pm

    I know he isn’t the origin of the phrase, but I remember Miguel Tejada when once asked about his horrific walk rate responding, “You can’t walk off the island.”

    As hard as the moneyballers try, I’m not sure they’ll ever get the game back to playing for on base percentage. There’ just too much money in the long ball. And yes, the chicks dig it too.

  11. WorldlyView

    December 17, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    Lost amid the walks and strikeouts discussion is the news that our GM has just taken a giant step forward in strengthening our catching staff. We can count on the new guy, Anthony Bathroom, to give a jolt to our runs production. Never mind that he’s over 30 and has a lifetime MLB BA of .178. He has four home runs and 11 RBIs! We do need to know his strikeout ratio before formally anointing Bathroom as yet another diamond in the rough discovered by the man who builds pennant contenders. (Truth be told, I am sick of this endless procession of under-performing journeymen.)

    • Raymo

      December 17, 2021 at 5:59 pm

      Whew. You saved me. I almost started calling him Boom Boom (with apologies to Trey. )

    • CalsPals

      December 17, 2021 at 6:04 pm

      Didn’t we have a left handed hitting catcher with a lil better stats, younger that they released?…go O’s…

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 17, 2021 at 7:48 pm

        Chance Sisco was released by the Mets at the end of the season and hasn’t been signed by anyone.

        • Buzz1979

          December 19, 2021 at 8:36 pm

          Bust status confirmed!

  12. Raymo

    December 17, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    “Their 1,454 strikeouts were the 11th most” in the AL. That means 10 teams had more K’s. Not so shabby. Or were we actually 4th most?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2021 at 7:47 pm

      They were actually the fifth most in the league, and I have changed that. My mathematical weaknesses seem to have been exposed in this post, Ray. Thank you for pointing that out.

    • Buzz1979

      December 17, 2021 at 7:49 pm

      Elias Blach fetish is over, he signed with the Rockies! Whew!

      • JerseyO

        December 18, 2021 at 6:13 pm

        Yaz for Blach….

        No one is perfect.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 20, 2021 at 8:41 am

      JO, Blach was claimed on waivers. It was Tyler Herb you’re thinking of.

      • WorldlyView

        December 20, 2021 at 5:20 pm

        Having nothing better to do, I looked up Herb’s status. He’s out of baseball at the moment, having been released by the Arkansas Travelers. He sounds like the kind of talent Ellis will offer a minor league contract to.

  13. CalsPals

    December 18, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    Congrats to Buck Showalter…go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      December 19, 2021 at 9:42 pm

      I’ve already made 2 predictions for next season:
      1. The Mets will bring Buck his 1St World Series Championship.
      2. Francisco Lindor will be NL MVP.

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