As a team, your Baltimore Orioles are sitting pretty at the top of the American League East and are one of only nine teams with a wRC+ over 100 and their .323 wOBA is tied for fourth in all of baseball.
If you are unfamiliar with wRC+, the basic idea is that it is an all-encompassing offensive statistic that adjusts for park effects and league. Anything higher than 100 is above average and lower than 100 is below average. I use this stat a lot so please read this article here for more information.
This is good news, though, right? The Orioles have one of the most potent offenses in the entire majors even after you adjust for park effects and league. From top-to-bottom they rank in the upper-half of the league in offense at every position except for two. Take a look:
Discuss the Orioles’ pathetic offense from the second base position on the BSL Forums.
Catcher: 94 wRC+ (13th)
First Base: 110 wRC+ (16th)
Second Base: 64 wRC+ (28th)
Third Base: 91 wRC+ (19th)
Shortstop: 94 wRC+ (12th)
Left Field/DH: 123 wRC+ (2nd)
Center Field: 119 wRC+ (5th)
Right Field: 115 wRC+ (9th)
The third base numbers are a bit misleading once you realize that the innings logged there while Manny Machado has been on the disabled list, and on suspension, have mainly been logged by second basemen Ryan Flaherty.
Oh, the keystone position. This position is keeping the Orioles’ offensive from being possibly the best offense in the majors this season.
There are only two teams with a worse offensive output (if you can call that an output) from the second base position this season: the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox.
Rookie, and top prospect, Jonathan Schoop –who came through in a major way last night– has seen the lion’s share of time at second base and has played a good defense. Jonathan Schoop’s UZR at second base this season has been a stellar +6.6 but, as we learned from Patrick Dougherty’s article yesterday, defense doesn’t win championships.
It would be one thing if Jonathan Schoop was simply a weak bat but among second basemen with at least 350 plate appearances he ranks second-to-last with a 66 wRC+ and only four other players in the entire game have a lower wRC+, two of which could win Gold Gloves: D.J. LeMahieu, Zack Cozart, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Jean Segura.
And, to make matters worse, Jonathan Schoop has the lowest on-base percentage of all players with at least 350 plate appearances. Period. Heck, even Brian Roberts had better offensive numbers before getting cut.
The lack of offense from the keystone position is a major problem but one that the Orioles do not have an internal answer for.
Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jemile Weeks have combined to hit .221/.264/.334 with the second lowest walk rate of any position in the majors, a laughable 3.5%, just barely above the Milwaukee Brewers’ shortstops’ 3.4% walk rate.
Orioles fans can point out the woulda-coulda-shoulda and thrown a ton of money at Robinson Cano and likely be sitting at 73-74 wins and the best record in baseball right now.
Or the fans can talk about how the Orioles should have struck a deal for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist who has an identical fWAR total to Robinson Cano and is the proud owner of a .303/.394/.514 career triple-slash in Camden Yards, but would have likely cost a lot in trade.
Was Chase Utley even available? Could Chase Headley, who owns a 108 wRC+ as a Yankee, have faked second base for a few months? By now, we have all heard about the Orioles making a push for Asdrubal Cabrera.
Would the Rays be willing to talk about Sean Rodriguez? He has 11 homeruns and a 113 wRC+ over 200 plate appearances and can play all over the diamond. Oh, and he is under team control for another season and is only making $1.48M this season through arbitration. But he likely will not make it through waivers. Too late on this one.
Sadly, there really are not any good options out there. Dan Uggla is toast. Jamey Carroll ran out of magic last season and was cut during spring training. Brian Roberts, as crazy as it sounds, is the best readily-available option out there.
Aaron Hill is an option that would cost nearly $28M and he is already 32 years old and not exactly tearing the cover off of the ball in a very hitter-friendly park.
As it stands, the Baltimore Orioles are likely headed to the playoffs but they will be there as the owners of the worst offensive position in baseball. With hindsight being 20/20, would you O’s fans have been happy to see the front office sell the farm for Ben Zobrist or given Robinson Cano all the monies?
Jonathan C. Mitchell is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Florida Post and has had articles featured on ESPN and FanGraphs, among others. He is a former contributor to DRaysBay and Marlins Daily (formerly part of ESPN’s SweetSpot Network) and currently resides in Tampa with his beautiful wife and daughter. In his spare time you are likely to catch him at a local coffee roaster talking about sports, espresso, or single-origin coffees.