In my last blog post, I argued that the Orioles main problem this season has been their inconsistency at the plate. Now, let’s take a deeper look into three Oriole sluggers (Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds and Luke Scott) who have not been able to perform on a constant basis which the Birds need to stay in contention and make a possible playoff run.
This season, the Orioles are hitting at a .250 clip, with 53 HR, 233 runs scored, 498 hits and a team average of .376 slugging % in 58 games this year. Mark Reynolds, although hitting below the Mendoza line, leads the team with 9 HR and Adam Jones tops the list with 31 RBIs and a .293 batting average.
Left fielder Nick Markakis, who was the Orioles number one draft choice (7th overall in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft), has probably been the most disappointing player of the 2011 season.
When Markakis burst onto the scene in 2006, everyone knew he could be the type of player who can carry a team on his shoulders. Markakis has been the face of the Orioles since his rookie season, a year in which he finished 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting.
A year ago today, Markakis was batting at a cool .288 with 3 HR, 18 RBI, 61 hits, 83 total bases in 56 games. In his 261 at-bats thus far into the grind, Markakis has walked and struck out 35 times each, while crossing the plate 24 times.
Although his numbers aren’t staggering, Markakis has shown over his six years with the team that he is a consistent player who will hit around the .300 mark and get his hits. The Orioles count on his relatively young, but veteran leadership on the team, and he needs to step up his game for the remainder of the season.
However, this season, Markakis is only hitting .240 with 4 HR, 19 RBI, 56 hits, 72 total bases, in one more game than last year. He’s cut down on his walks this season (18) and strikeouts (29), and he’s scored one more run this season (25). Markakis’ slugging % is down almost 100 points from .406 to .309.
Although Markakis has crushed one more HR and knocked in one more runner, the scary number is his average. Markakis is batting almost 50 points lower than last year and he has five fewer hits in 2011.
Last season, Markakis made it safely on-base 38.7% of the time, but this season, he only makes it safely 30.2% of the time. Markakis has walked half as many times as he did at this point in the season last year, and that is a major reason why his on-base % is much lower this year.
All major-league baseball fans knew that Reynolds would be one of those either gotta love ‘em or just hate ‘em players. Reynolds is notorious for swinging and missing (similar to Adam Dunn, but more severe). He’s struck out over 600 times in the past three seasons.
Reynolds also has the ability to launch moon shots with the best of them. The last two seasons, Reynolds has smashed 76 HR. Coming into the season (in a new league with a new team), fans knew that Reynolds was averaging 200 strikeouts and 35+ HR – so both were reasonable numbers to expect.
Last season on June 6th, Reynolds was hitting .215, with 12 HR, 40 RBI, 26 runs and 41 hits in 54 games. Over his 191 at-bats, Reynolds struck out 76 times, while walking only 28 times. .455 SLG %, .325 OBP %, 87 total bases
Reynolds got off to a rough start this season but has recently come around despite tough criticism from media and baseball critics. All of his numbers are down from a year ago, but he’s heating up a bit at the plate – and it is only a matter of time before he starts mashing monster shots out of ballparks.
This season, through 57 games, Reynolds is hitting .188, has knocked 9 HR out of the park, drove in 28 runners, with 36 hits, and 26 runs for the Birds. In his 191 at-bats (same as last season at the same point), he’s struck out 60 times and walked on 31 occasions.
A major concern for Reynolds and the Orioles this season would be his numbers against left-handed pitchers (Reynolds is a right-handed hitter). Reynolds is six for 56 (.107 average), with 10 runs, two doubles, one HR, 6 RBIs, 11 walks and 21 strikeouts against southpaws. This is something that has to change.
One reason the Orioles might have been so keen on luring him to the Inner Harbor was his numbers against southpaws. Last season, Reynolds 29 hits in 133 at-bats, with 25 runs, six doubles and 12 homeruns, 30 RBI, 33 walks and 56 strikeouts.
In his third season with the Birds, Scott won the 2010 team MVP as he finished the season with a team-high 27 HR, 72 RBI, collected 127 hits and batted at a .284 clip on a team with very little offense.
This season has been a completely different story at the plate for Scott. Last year on June 6th, Scott was hitting .272 average, with 10 HR already and 22 RBI, and a very high .532 slugging %. Over his 158 at-bats, he scored 24 runs, accumulated 43 hits, 16 walks, 37 strikeouts, in 47 games.
However, this season in 152 at-bats, Scott has only crushed 6 HR, but has driven in 19 Orioles. Over 46 games this season, Scott’s scored 17 runs, recorded 34 hits, 19 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 2011.
An important number to look at is his slugging percentage, which is 130 points lower this spring than last year. The slugging percentage calculates the power of the hitter by dividing total bases by at-bats. Scott needs to improve his slugging percentage if the Orioles want to be competitive down the stretch.
As I’ve already looked at with Reynolds, Scott has really struggled this season against lefties. He has only three hits in 30 at-bats (.100 average), with one double and 2 HR, 5 RBI, with three runs, three walks and 11 strikeouts.
Although Scott did not have the greatest numbers against southpaws last season, Luke was able to produce more runs effectively for the Birds. He had 24 hits in 100 at-bats (.240 average), 10 runs, three doubles and 7 HR, 19 RBI, 11 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Scott needs to improve his numbers against lefties. Lately, every time the Orioles are set to face off against a southpaw, Scott is removed from the lineup relgated to a pinch-hitting role. Buck Showalter needs to give Scott the chance to prove he can hit lefties.
The main reason (in my opinion) why the Birds cannot string together consistent wins is because they are missing their leadoff hitter. Brian Roberts, before he was injured last season, was one of the best leadoff hitters in the majors because he could steal bases, hit doubles, homeruns and was great defensively.
In 163 at-bats this season, Roberts has a.221 average, 3 HR, drove in 19 RBI, scored 18 runs, and stole six bases. Through 39 games, he’s recorded only 36 hits, 12 walks and 21 strikeouts.
An important number to look at while considering Roberts is his on-base percentage because Brian needs to get on base in order to use all of his tools and really be a nuisance on the bases. While Roberts was injury-free, he would usually make it to base safely about 37% of the time, but this season it’s only .273.
Last season with the Orioles, Roberts missed 103 games (he only played in 59) and ended the season with 64 hits, 28 runs, 14 doubles, 4 HR, 15 RBI, only 12 stolen bases, .278 average, .354 on base % in 230 at-bats. So, the Birds really haven’t seen the Roberts they’ve learned to love throughout the mid-2000s.
In 2007, Roberts was elected to the All-star game for the second time in his career. He also stole 50 bags for the first and only time in his young career.
In 2009, Roberts hit 56 doubles, which is a new major-league record for doubles by a switch-hitter in a single season. Roberts also set an Oriole record for doubles in a single season with 52. He also crushed 16 HR, and knocked in 79 RBIs (both career-highs).
The Orioles only have 23 stolen bases this season and Roberts has the most with six (but hasn’t played since mid May). Jones ranks second with five, and Markakis third with four. Hardy, Reimold, Wieters and Scott have no stolen bases yet and Robert Andino (his replacement) only has two stolen bases. The O’s need Roberts back both for his hitting and defensive skills, but also for his base-running techniques.
Overall, Markakis, Reynolds and Scott really need to step up their hitting stats, and mainly just focus on getting more base hits and the RBIs will come. If the Orioles are going to be contenders, Roberts’ name has to be in the leadoff position.
Stats were taken prior to Tuesday night’s game against Oakland.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.