The Orioles will once again put out a lineup that has good power and a low OBP, although I do think we have some more OBP upside than we have had in recent years. The Orioles finished as one of the top half offenses in the AL last year. They were 6th in runs scored, 3rd in OPS, 2nd in slugging, 1st in homers (by a lot) and 6th in BA. The problem with the offense was that they were 11th in OBP. A team with the power of the Orioles should score more runs than they did but the OBP held them back from scoring more. The Orioles were also only 9th in doubles and last in triples.
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As we all know, the Orioles lost Cruz and Markakis in the offseason. Cruz had an MVP caliber season with the bat. He hit 40 homers and had an 859 OPS. Nick didn’t have a great year with the bat and has shown some offensive decline in recent years. He wasn’t showing the power he once had and the average had been slipping although he has had to deal with some injuries in recent years as well. If he is totally healthy, will he get back to where he was? Either way, the Orioles lost 2 contributors on their offense and didn’t do a lot to replace them.
For 2015, the Orioles are largely pinning their offensive hopes on Machado and Wieters being healthy for a full season and Chris Davis bouncing back. 2014 saw Machado and Wieters miss a combined 216 games and Davis, who was coming off of a 50 homer season, had a sub 200 BA and struggled to keep his OPS above 700. It is reasonable for the Orioles to expect more out of these guys in 2015 and that is something we should expect. We have to hope that the gamble pays off though because, as I mentioned, they did very little to replace lost production.
Now, the other side to our position players is the defense. It is very likely the Orioles will have the best IF defense in baseball this year. The OF should also be very solid. As was mentioned in the pitching articles, the defense is the best part of this team and will be a big reason why this team should be in contention all year.
So, let’s look at the main pieces of the offense and go over the best and worst case scenarios, along with my predictions.
If I were to say that Chris Davis had a poor year in 2014, I may be insulting the word poor. Davis actually started off okay the first 2 months. He had about an 800 OPS the first 2 months although he hit only 209 in May and you were seeing signs of things to come in those first 2 months. He only had one month with an OPS over 700 the rest of the year and that was in September, the month where he was suspended for Adderall. He only had 39 at bats that month. Davis talked about needing to take Adderall because he had issues focusing. He has now received the exemption to use the Adderall, so we will see if that helps him. The shifts appeared to really hurt Davis in 2014. He hit everything into the shift. His LD% was actually higher than his career average. His GB rate was basically his career rate. But he only had a 242 BABIP. His career BABIP is 320 and that is after his poor year last year. Davis must show that he can hit the ball the other way with some kind of consistency to allow teams to let up on the shift some. Davis is one of the wild cards on this team.
More of the same we saw in 2014. Davis shows an inability to hit the ball the other way, continues to hit into the shift, strikes out a ton and continues to struggle with the mechanics of his swing.
Best case is what we saw in 2013. 900+ OPS, lots of homers, very good OBP and back to the MVP caliber player he was. This is his last year of free agency, so he has that extra motivation.
30-35 homers and an 840ish OPS. Essentially, I am predicting what he did in 2012 but with a better OBP.
Schoop wasn’t supposed to be in the majors in 2014. He was in over his head offensively. He had a sub 600 OPS. He batted 209. He had a sub 3% walk rate. His wRC+ was 65. In other words, he had a terrible offensive season. Now, Schoop had MiL success, at relatively young ages for his leagues, so the upside is there. In the minors, he showed that he could walk some, so there is hope there. I don’t ever expect him to have a walk rate at 10+% but somewhere in the 6-7% range is reasonable IMO. Now, I don’t expect to see that in 2015 but I would like to see an increase in the walk rate to about 4%. That would be a start. We need to remember that Schoop is only 23 and he didn’t turn 23 until mid October. There is still a lot of growth in his game. We saw Schoop do 2 things pretty well. His defense was very good at second base and he hit 16 homers. Schoop has lost some weight and plans to lose a little more. He feels that will help his speed and range. Many of us wanted them to give Flaherty more of a chance last year and if they weren’t going to do that, we wanted to see a trade. What became obvious is Buck wanted Schoop out there. He liked his defense and, presumably, liked his long term upside as an everyday player, so he wanted him to get the experience to carry over into 2015 and beyond. We will see if that “gamble” pays of for this team.
I am not sure it can get any worse than last year. For me, worst case will be no improvement. I want to see the increased walk rate, starting to use all fields more consistently and, more importantly, just him going up there with a better plan at the plate. If he isn’t able to do those things, that will be disappointing for the long term and we will have to hope that Flaherty is able to perform, which I do think he could do but the upside isn’t there with him that exists with Schoop.
The walk rate increases, the BA goes up and he continues to show good power. The defense stays very good and he is a 3-4 WAR player.
675ish OPS and GG caliber defense. He shows improvement as the season goes on and we have a player going into 2016 that we could see as a potential breakout star player.
The Orioles signed Hardy to, IMO, a questionable 3 year extension in the off-season. He’s a good SS and plays elite defense but his age combined with the back issues he had last year make him a very risky extension candidate. We also saw Hardy’s power decline in 2014. His slugging was well below where it has been in his career and where it was in 2013. He only hit 9 homers, after coming off of 3 straight seasons of having 22+ homers. He didn’t hit a homer until June 21 last year. Hardy continued to be elite defensively in 2014, posting a 13.9 UZR and a 15.4 UZR/150. The Orioles need Hardy to continue to be elite defensively and get his power back so that he is worth that deal.
The back injury causes an issue all year long. He doesn’t play much and the back zaps his power and slows him down defensively. A sub 700 OPS isn’t out of the question at all…the question is, how sub 700 can it get?
JJ gets his power back, he stays healthy and gets the OPS back in the 750-800 range.
We all know Hardy isn’t going to walk much and the average isn’t going to be that great. I think he ends up with an OPS in the 680-700 range and 15-18 homers. I think the defense continues to be very good and he ends up with a 3ish WAR.
Machado, as we all know, is coming off of his second major knee surgery. He missed half of last year and it took him a while to get going once he came back from the first knee surgery. He had a 556 OPS in May last year but after that, he took off. In June, he had a 774 OPS. In July, he had a 921 OPS and, in only 45 at bats in August(before he hurt his other knee), he had a 940 OPS. The best thing we saw from him offensively last year was an increased walk rate(it went from 4.1 % to 5.6%). He walked 9 less times in 2014 than he did in 2013 but that was in 340 less at bats. He also hit only 2 less homers in 2014 than he did in 2013 but he also saw a lot less doubles. What we all felt would eventually happen, started in 2014. Those doubles started to turn into homers. The young 3rd baseman has very good upside with the bat. He can use all fields, has good power and has the ability to continue to see that walk rate rise. We also know how elite his glove is at third. The question with him will be the health of those knees. He is only 22, so he can easily get past those issues but its hardly a given.
The knees act up and he is on the shelf again for an extended period of time. The walk rate regresses and the knee injuries cause him to lose some range at third and he becomes a slightly above average defensive player.
He stays healthy, the walk rate continues to rise and the power continues to increase. He has a total break out season and ends up with an 875ish OPS season and gets the platinum glove back on his shelf.
I think the knees will hold up and he will continue to show offensive improvement. He will end up with an OPS in the 810 range. The walk rate will be in the 6-6.5% area and the homers will end up in the 20s.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in all of baseball last year was Steve Pearce. He had an fWAR of about 5. His wRC+ was 161 and his OPS was 930. Unlike most of his career, Pearce did a good job vs. righties as well. He had an 856 OPS vs. righties. In 2013, his OPS vs. righties was round 750, which was the highest of his career at that time. Prior to 2013, his OPS was usually below 600 vs. righties. So, the question is, has he made an adjustment against righties since the last 2 years have been pretty good? He closed his stance and he said that allowed him to see the ball a little longer. To go along with his solid year at the plate, Pearce was very good in the field, no matter where he was put. He had a UZR of 4.9 at first(UZR/150 was 19.6) and he had a UZR of 5 in LF(UZR/150 was 31.0). He didn’t score as high in RF(1.3 and -6.2) but he had a lot less innings played there. So, he was an all around very good player for the Orioles. Not bad for a guy that was released during the season and picked back up when Davis hurt his groin in late April/early May. Pearce wanted to stay here and he rewarded the Orioles with his effort and performance.
I think last year was best case and, before last year, it would have probably been looked at as an unrealistic scenario. Pearce has been known as a decent role player that can hit lefties but his ability to hit righties changes things for him. Is he a one year wonder? That’s tough to say. None of his stats jump out to you as really lucky except his HR rate. However, he also hit more fly balls than usual last year as well, so maybe the increase in HR rate is real.
His worst case would be that he shows last year was fluky and gets buried on the bench because Lough, De Aza and Young are playing well. He struggles vs. righties, is adequate vs. lefties and his defense suffers some. He ends up with a 720ish OPS in limited playing time.
I think Pearce can have a similar year he had for us in 2013, just in more at bats. He had a 261/362/420 slash line that year. I can see a similar line to that but in 350-400 at bats, instead of the 119 he had in 2013.
Alejandro De Aza:
The Orioles acquired De Aza in late August to help them down the stretch and in the playoffs and he did just that. De Aza had an 878 OPS with the Orioles in the regular season, in 82 at bats. He showed good power and decent on base skills. He also played solid defensively. His solid play carried over into the postseason with an 867 OPS. De Aza will play more roles for the Orioles in 2015. He will likely be the go to everyday left fielder but depending on how things play out, he could get time in CF(when Jones is given a much needed rest) and RF as well. If Snider struggles, he could end up in RF and Pearce in LF. There are many different scenarios and his ability to play all 3 OF positions will help if some movement needs to happen. De Aza struggled vs. lefties last year but he has been able to hold his own in the past. He has a career OPS of 733. When he was an everyday player for the White Sox, he had a 759 OPS and 728 OPS prior to 2014. 2014 was a struggle while in Chicago but, as I said, he performed well in Baltimore. He also is one of the few guys on the team with speed, which is nice and something we need IMO.
His struggles in 2014 vs. lefties carry over and he is mediocre vs. righties. While he has speed, his SB% hasn’t been great and that continues. He ends up with a sub 670 OPS and is a part time player at best.
His starts hitting lefties again and continues to perform well vs. righties. His speed and defense end up being assets and he ends up being a 3-4 WAR player.
De Aza is a 2-2.5 WAR player. He plays well defensively, steals 15-20 bases and ends up with a 720ish OPS.
Jones had his best year in 2014, according to fWAR. He had an 5.4 fWAR, driven mainly by improved defense. His OPS has dropped the last few years and his walk rate was abysmal, down to a career low 2.8%. His slugging has dropped the last few years, as has his OBP. He is usually going to be a 280-290 hitter, so that hasn’t changed much the last several years. The difference was his UZR. His UZR was +8.3 and his UZR/150 was +8.7. In years past, those numbers were always in the negative. It seems that the reason for that is improved positioning. Hopefully he keeps that up because that defense was an asset last year.
His offensive numbers continue the decline they have been on and his defense goes back to being an issue. He goes down to a 2ish WAR player.
The defense continues to be as good as it was last year, the walk rate increases to the 5% or so area and the power goes back up. He ends up as a 6-7 WAR player and is an MVP candidate.
I think he goes back to a 4ish WAR player, which is obviously very good but not as good as last year. His OPS ends up in the same area it was last year(780 OPS) and the defense is a little worse.
Snider was a late acquisition for the Orioles this off-season. He ended last year strong but he has largely been a disappointment thus far in his career. He ended up with a 776 OPS last year, which is the first time his OPS has been over 700 since 2010. Once a top prospect, he has never lived up to his top billing of years ago. The Orioles gave up a few decent arms but nothing that is some absorbent cost. The reality is, we have no idea what we have in Snider. He is a complete wild card. But, he was a worthwhile lottery ticket to acquire. His UZR in RF wasn’t good in 2014 but it was a solid 4.3 in LF. He has never been a bad defensive player. According to UZR, he has usually been around league average or so.
Worst case is he is basically what he has been in many of his seasons. A sub 700 OPS that shows poor power and is a DFA candidate.
He carries over what he did in the second half last year and ends up being an 800ish OPS OFer with quality defense.
I think he can be a 2-2.5 WAR OFer. Something in the 730ish OPS area with decent defense.
Wieters is coming off of TJ surgery. Wieters has been an elite defensive catcher but has struggled with the bat. His struggles have mainly come batting left handed and since that is where he gets most of his at bats, his numbers get driven down. Last year, he made an adjustment. He lowered his hands when batting left handed and his offense was greatly improved. It will be interesting to see if he continues with that adjustment and if so, if the improved offense can continue over a large sample size of a full season. And, of course, will the TJ surgery cause an issue with his throwing?
The TJ surgery effects his defense and offense, the adjustments made batting left handed don’t work over a large sample size and he goes back to being a 700ish OPS catcher.
The adjustments he made batting left handed carry over, his surgery doesn’t effect him this year and he ends up an MVP candidate because of his offense/defense combo. He has an OPS in the 875-900 range. In his final year before he hits free agency, he goes off and enters free agency as one of the most sought after free agents.
I think the offensive game will improve but I am skeptical of his defense. I expect an 800-825 OPS. He won’t be an MVP candidate but he ends up a 4ish WAR guy, like he was in 2011 and 2012.
The Orioles will also have a lot of capable players coming off the bench. Delmon Young excelled in his role last year. David Lough struggled early but was really good late and gives us good defense and speed. Caleb Joseph showed some skill with the bat at times last year but his glove was very good. He is a quality back up C.
Overall, I expect the offense to be similar this year to last year. We may hit fewer homers but there are other ways we can make up for it. As I alluded to, I do think we have some upside in OBP than we have had in years past. I expect Manny and Davis to improve and Snider carries a decent walk rate. I would also expect Wieters to carry a higher OBP than we got out of our catchers last year.
Defensively, I expect this team to be elite. OF defense will probably be improved from last year and the IF should be better with everyone back and healthy. The combo of great defense and solid offense, combined with solid but not great pitching should put this team in position to win the AL East again.
Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570. Co-Host of The Warehouse: https://anchor.fm/the-warehouse Co-Host of Sports Tonight: https://anchor.fm/sports-tonight