While the Orioles have taken some steps to increase their on-base percentage, the way the team scores runs could be remarkably the same this year.
Even in the Orioles’ best year, 2014, their OBP was just .311, the fifth worst in the American League. Last year, it fell further to .307, fourth worst.
The addition of Hyun-soo Kim could help. Kim had a remarkable on-base percentage in South Korea, but it’s an open question of how his .438 will translate to the United States.
In Korea, he actually walked more than he struck out. It would be nothing short of miraculous if he did that here.
Joey Rickard, who was the Orioles’ selection in the Rule 5 draft, also had a great OBP (.427) in the minor leagues last year, but he’s played just 29 games in Triple-A.
Chris Davis (.361) and Manny Machado (.359) have improved their ability to take pitches, but it’s not likely that J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo are going to be much more selective at this advanced stage of their careers.
If that’s the case, there are probably going to be lots of home runs and many more strikeouts this year.
In 2015, the Orioles hit 217 home runs and struck 1,331 times, third most in the American League.
How many home runs can they hit?
Davis was re-signed for his prodigious home run stroke. At last month’s press conference announcing his return, manager Buck Showalter jokingly promised to never pitch him again, so Davis can concentrate on swatting homers. He hit 53 in 2013 and 47 last year.
Machado easily bested his career high with 35. Jones missed 25 game and fell three home runs short of his third 30 home run season.
Jonathan Schoop was out for nearly half the season, but still had 15 homers. Matt Wieters was on a restricted schedule. In his last three full seasons, he hit more than 20 home runs. Hardy hit 25 home runs in 2013, but he’s been restricted by various hurts the last two years.
And then there’s the quietest big acquisition of the off-season. Trumbo averaged more than 30 home runs in a power packed Angels lineup from 2011-13, and at 30, should be able to return to that form in a hitter friendly ballpark.
If Davis, Jones, Machado and Trumbo all hit 30, and Schoop challenges that number, the Orioles could challenge their 1996 club record of 257 home runs.
That year, they had seven players hit more than 20. Could that happen again?
They would need Hardy and Wieters to return to their form, or additional home runs from an unlikely source (Kim, Ryan Flaherty or Caleb Joseph.)
Kim hit 28 home runs last year, but if he hits half that many here, the Orioles will be happy. Flaherty hit nine in 91 games and Joseph 11 in 100 games.
If the regulars are healthy, Flaherty and Joseph won’t play as much as they did last year, but there’s still the possibility of another outfielder coming along.
While the Orioles were negotiating with Scott Boras about Davis, another of his clients, Pedro Alvarez was also on the team’s minds.
Besides the number of competent outfielders still available, might the Orioles snap up Alvarez if he continues to be unsigned? Alvarez hit 27 homers last year and has two seasons of 30 or more in his recent past.
It doesn’t seem likely, and he’d have to DH and Trumbo would have to play right field. That might compromise the team’s outfield defense, but it could give them a lineup with many more home runs—and too many strikeouts to even contemplate.
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