Everybody, including myself, predicted the Baltimore Orioles‘ offense would be among the best in the American League by the end of the 2014 season. But so far, a little over a month into the season, the lineup has failed to meet expectations. Blame it on injuries or the team’s plate approach all you want, but while that’s part of the problem, that’s not the real problem.
The real problem is that the bottom of the order (seven, eight, and nine) look like a trio of Mario Mendoza’s at the plate when the Orioles lose. Baltimore is currently 15-14, having lost six of those games when they score less than three runs, and in all of those games there’s a scary trend: The bottom of the order does absolutely nothing.
In those six games combined, the bottom three hitters have hit a pathetic 7-for-64. Yep, you read that right. That equates to a batting average of .109. It doesn’t matter if you have one of the most talented one-through-six hitters in baseball (which the Orioles do); you cannot consistently score if you give away about nine outs per game.
There are only 27 outs in a game of baseball, and the Orioles are essentially forfeiting 33 percent of their at-bats. Worse than that, though, is that they’re giving away outs all at once – in a row.
If I was a pitching coach on an opposing team, I’d tell my starting pitcher that all he has to do to stop the Orioles from scoring is to limit the damage that the one-through-six hitters do because Baltimore simply cannot turn their lineup over consistently.
It’s also tough for the lineup’s top two hitters to drive in any runs if the hitters batting in-front of them aren’t on base. Same goes for the middle of the lineup that is getting on base. If the bottom of the order can’t get any hits, then who’s going to drive in the four, five and six hitters? Nobody.
That right there is exactly what goes wrong when the Orioles fail to score. Buck Showalter has to address the situation. It’s not on Jim Presley or the team’s collective approach at the plate; it’s on the lineup construction.
While moving people around in the lineup won’t magically spark slumping hitters it will mask the problem. Sliding Nick Markakis down in the order to the eighth slot, for example, and moving David Lough up in the order wouldn’t necessarily make Lough gets hits, but it will give the bottom of the order the ability to get on base and drive runs in.
If the Orioles have six hitters who are hitting well and three who are slumping, Showalter has to sprinkle the three struggling hitters throughout the lineup to keep momentum going. It’s tough for Baltimore to score runs when a certain section of their offense is killing rallies and failing to get on base.
Until Showalter changes the lineup’s construction, there will continue to be these games where the lineup just can’t seem to get anything going.