The Baltimore Orioles are one of the most interesting teams to analyze heading into the 2013 season for a few reasons. They were a team that won 93 games after a previous season in which they were well below .500. They made quite a bit of noise in the post season in spite of lack-luster numbers offensively.
Most notably, they ranked dead last in stolen bases in Major League Baseball in 2012.
Yes, one answer that makes sense is that they did hit 214 home runs, which ranks second in the majors behind the division-winning New York Yankees. However, they ranked 15th in the league in runs scored with 712. For a team that ranked so high in homers, and made the post season, one would think they’d be in the top ten in this category, regardless of the numbers from their pitching staff. This is, after all, the AL East they are competing in.
Outfielders Adam Jones (16) and Nate McLouth (12) were the only Orioles to steal more than 10 bases in 2012. Orioles Hall-of-Fame manager, Earl Weaver, always said one of his favorite tactical moves was the three-run homer, and the Orioles certainly proved that to be true in 2012. Still, it is hard to believe this is a team that can return to the post season by duplicating numbers like these on the base paths. Especially when opposing teams will be more aware of the hitting tendencies of players on the Orioles that they may have looked past in the previous season.
Luckily for Baltimore, there are some alternatives to add some pressure to opposing pitchers when they reach base.
The first option is to take more chances with the players they have. Adam Jones is capable of stealing over 30 bases, as well as Nate McLouth. Young infielder Manny Machado showcased some explosiveness on the base paths when going for extra base hits at the end of last season. It may not be a bad idea to see if he is a smart enough base runner at the Major League level to swipe a few bags this season. Let’s not forget infielder Brian Roberts, who stole more bases than anyone in baseball in 2007 with 50.
One final thought for manager, Buck Showalter to consider is the speed of young outfielder, Xavier Avery. Avery managed to finish third on the team last season in stolen bases with six even though he was not with the team very long. He also led the Norfolk Tides, Baltimore’s Triple-A club, with 22 swipes.
This team does not have a lot of natural talent when it comes to speed, and Showalter did a fantastic job working around that in 2012. But there are some opportunities within the team to diversify their offensive production and give their opponent something extra to think about. Let’s just add this factor to the ever-growing list that makes the Baltimore Orioles one of the most interesting teams to analyze in baseball.