Power Failure

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, May 07, 2007 | 0 comments »

It's beginning to look like the O's "braintrust" was wrong. Again. The now-famous $42M they spent overhauling their embattled bullpen from last year is simply an exercise in throwing more bad money out the window. This isn't a chicken-and-egg thing here. You have to have a lead to protect it. The O's simply don't have enough hitting to justify having a roughly $45M bullpen.

Today's game notwithstanding, Baez, Walker, Bradford and Williamson have pitched fairly effectively. But that's not the point. The trouble with the Orioles right now is a jarring lack of offensive firepower. The O's as a team have 24 home runs, fourth worst in the AL, but they have 63 doubles, good for 4th in the league. They have scored 136 runs, tied for 6th worst. But they are right in the middle of the pack in batting average and on-base percentage. What does all this tell us? Simply, the O's have a bunch of guys with medium power, playing station-to-station baseball, unable to sustain big innings and knock starters out of games early enough to do damage to shaky bullpens.

It's this simple: it's better to hit a three-run homer than to string together enough singles and doubles to score those same three runs. And the O's just don't have that guy. They really, really lack that scary bat in the middle of the line-up that opposing pitchers have to fear when they step up to the plate. Let's break 'em down:

Tejada: The team's "superstar", clearly the O's best player. Hitting .344/.396/.434 coming into today's game. I'm not going to discredit that at all. But he has only 5 doubles and two homers among his 42 hits this year, combined with his power outage post all-star break last year (17 HRs pre, 7 post), and you have the makings of a lead-off hitter that can't run.

Mora: .252/.343/.471 5 homers, 18 rbis to lead the club. Tampa's LEADOFF hitter has only one less rbi. Here's a guy whose average, on-base and slugging have all dropped each of the last three years. For this, he's rewarded with a 4 year-$25M contract.

Markakis: .250/.312/.403 3 homers, 18 rbis to share with Melvin. Until the past three days this was your 3-hole hitter. He may exceed expectations, but Baseball Prospectus says he's a .280-18-80 type of hitter. More suited for the 6-hole than number 3?

Gibbons: .188/.225/.282 Here's where it gets real ugly. Poor Jay. Great teammate, hard worker, community guy. Lousy hitter, lost all power, can't field, injury prone. Someone more cynical that I may note his downward spiral since his "career" year of 2003, his ever changing physique and his penchant for injury and make an unfounded allegation. I won't do that. Again, rewarded with 4 year, $21M contact last January.

Millar: .244/.375/.385 Don't get me started. Classic Millar last week, from baltimoresun.com: "It is what it is right now. I am an employee here. If this is the direction that [manager] Sam Perlozzo wants to go right now, this is the direction that he is going to go. Numbers are numbers, computers are computers, and matchups are matchups. He is the manager. He makes the decisions. I got to live with them."

Huff: .246/.268./390 Slow-startin' Aubrey Huff. Baseball-Reference.com compares to Bobby Higginson. He's gonna give you .280-23-80. Just don't expect much of it in April or May. Like before it becomes irrelevant.

So in summation, I'd like to reiterate my point that in order to protect a lead and justify spending $42M on bullpen adjustments, a team must have said lead first. And this team just ain't built for it.