In my last blog post, I analyzed the Orioles’ pitching stats this season; in this post, I’m going to uncover the Birds’ offensive trends, surprises and disappointments for the 2011 season.
Although their offense produced better power numbers, especially with the addition of home run slugging Mark Reynolds (37 hrs), they collectively hit a couple of points worse batting average-wise. Last season they finished with a .259 average and this season it dropped to .257.
With that being said, some of the Birds’ young hitters are improving and there were some break out stars of 2011.
Let’s start with overall trends from this season.
In 5585 at-bats, the Birds’ collected 1434 base hits, including 191 home runs, 273 doubles and 13 triples. Collectively, they scored 708 runs, drove in 684 RBI, received 452 free passes, struck out 1120 times and stole 81 bases in just 106 attempts. Their on-base percentage finished at .316, their slugging at .413 and their OPS at .729
Last season, the Birds accumulated 31 fewer at-bats (5554), but they compiled six more hits (1440). Although, their power numbers were down last year as they only smashed 131 home runs, laced 264 doubles, but legged out 21 triples (eight more than this year). They scored 613 runs, drove in 577 RBI, walked 424 times, struck out 1056 times, and stole 76 bases in 110 attempts. Their on-base percentage stayed the same, their slugging finished at .386 and their OPS ended at .702 last season.
So, although the Birds’ batting average was a bit lower this season, the rest of their offensive numbers increased with the addition of sluggers Reynolds and Guerrero. Centerfielder Adam Jones had a breakout season, shortstop J.J. Hardy impressed fans and catcher Matt Wieters came into his own this season.
Even without leadoff man Brian Roberts, who missed basically the entire season after suffering a concussion in mid-May, their offense performed better this year. Let’s take a look at how they achieved this feat.
The biggest surprise of the season has to be shortstop Hardy. I was expecting 20-25 homeruns and about 70 or so RBI, and he jolted 30 home runs (a new career-high) and drove in 80 RBI (which matches a career-high) in just 128 games on the year. Think of if he didn’t miss a month of the season. He could have hit 35 home runs!
Hardy did it all at the dish. He scored 76 runs, collected 142 hits, including 27 doubles. He finished with a lofty .491 slugging percentage and his OPS ended at .801 on the year. Not only did he produce staggering numbers, he did so out of the leadoff position, which he hadn’t been accustomed to before joining the Birds. He smashed 18 of his 30 home runs leading off.
We all knew Reynolds would rack up the strike outs no matter what team he plays for. But, I was expecting for him to have an off-season in the home run department being it’s his first season in a new park with an American League team.
Plus, it seems as if everyone home run slugger that the Birds bring in struggle. For example, Sammy Sosa couldn’t hit a lick in 2005 and Rafael Palmeiro, who proved he could hit home runs with the best of them in the 90s, couldn’t find his power stroke in his second tenure with the Birds.
But, Reynolds finished leading the team with 37 home runs and 86 RBI, and a team low .221 batting average, but that was expected. Actually, he hit higher than most had anticipated. He collected 118 hits, including 27 doubles and one triple (31% of his hits went for long-balls).
So, I think it’s safe to say that Oriole fans would take his 196 strike outs if he were to hit around 40 home runs per season.
The Orioles awarded Jones the Orioles’ MVP award this season for his excellence in hitting and his tremendous defense in center field. Although he batted four points lower this season (.280), his power numbers jumped up as he jolted 25 home runs and drove in 83 RBI, (both career-highs). This was the first time he hit more than 20 home runs and 80 RBI in a single season.
For most of the season, Jones was leading the team in RBI. If he didn’t suffer a thumb injury that sidelined him from the starting lineup for 10 consecutive games, he probably would have finished the season with more RBI than Reynolds.
Not only did Jones break out in the power department, he continued to flash impressive leather as he manned center field. He lead all major league center fielders with 14 assists and made one of the most impressive catches this season as he ran up the wall at Safe Co Field.
Wieters, who we all knew was a great catch and throw guy behind the plate, exploded this season with the bat. He smashed 22 homeruns, and his previous high for a season was 11 last year. He drove in 68 RBI in 500 at-bats and collected a career-high 131 hits, including 28 doubles. His slugging percentage (.450) and OPS (.778) were both career-highs as well.
Although Guerrero led the team in batting average (.290) and finished second in hits (163), he crushed only 13 home runs on the season. Not to mention, he drove in only 63 RBI through 145 games.
The Orioles signed the designated power-hitting Dominican because of his power numbers. We all know he can hit home runs with the best of them, but if this year is any indication, his home run career might be over.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a very hitter-friendly park and I was expecting at least 25 home runs on the season, and around 80 RBI or so, if not more. So, although the most prolific Dominican-born hitter can still collect his base hits, it seems as if his power is gone and that’s really what the Orioles needed this season.
Scott, who finished last season as the Orioles MVP with 27 home runs and 22 RBI, struggled mightily in his 64 games. Over his 209 at-bats, he collected only 46 base hits, including 11 doubles and nine home runs. He drove in only 22 RBI and struck out 54 times while hitting .220 before suffering season-ending surgery.
Entering the season, I’m sure fans and the Orioles’ organization was expecting around 30 home runs again and 75 RBI. Even before his injury, Scott looked very uncomfortable at the dish and never found his RBI stroke. Last season, he led the team, not just in power numbers, but in the clubhouse. It was evident this season that he just wasn’t there both on the field and in spirit.
Former Cubs prospect and highly touted outfielder, who was thought to be a five-tool player, has never been able to fulfill his destiny in the majors. This season with the Birds, Pie appeared in 85 games and collected just 36 base hits, including eight doubles and no home runs. In his 164 at-bats, he drove in just seven Orioles and struck out 32 times while batting at a .220 clip.
Pie was demoted to the minor leagues in August, and his future with the Birds is definitely in jeopardy after he suffered his worst season in the majors.
So, overall, although the Birds offense batted at a lower clip, just by two points, the rest of their offensive numbers rose from a year ago, which is a very encouraging sign for the future. If Brian Robertsis able to return to the top of the order next year, I think they’ll have an even better offensive year.
Not to mention, infielder Chris Davis is finally coming into his own in an Oriole uniform. If he’s able to come back and put up the numbers he has in September, then they’ll have an impressive young infield that will feature Reynolds at third, Hardy at short, Roberts at second and Davis at first. Their outfield, hopefully if all goes as planned, will feature Markakis in right, Jones in center and Nolan Reimoldin left. It’s not certain whether Guerrero will return, but if he does, he’ll man the DH spot and of course, Wieters behind the plate.
If everyone is able to stay healthy and Showalter is able to use this offense for most of next year, their numbers will definitely increase and they’ll continue to score even more runs. The key to their success next season lies with Roberts and his ability at the top of the order.
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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.