The more you watch this team, the more you get the feeling that nothing will ever work for them. Not only have the Orioles been snakebit by injuries so far in the early part of the season, but the entire lineup is underperforming. Where have we seen this before? The lack of offense so far has been just as embarrassing as it was in 2010. The team is on pace to score about the same amount of runs as last year’s team, when the Orioles only outscored the historically bad Seattle Mariners. However, it is not appropriate to be in outright panic mode as so many Orioles fans are right now. Losing streaks happen all the time, even good teams have them. Are the Orioles a good team? No. That is the fact that is being lost on so many. People may have actually bought into the undeserved Baltimore hype and the fast start. The Orioles are more or less a .500 team by my estimation, along with most publications. Let’s all keep that in perspective please.
With Matusz out, the rotation takes a pretty big hit with Tillman being forced to pitch. It’s not time yet to give up on him, but if he doesn’t rediscover that 93-94 mph fastball there is reason for serious concern. His stuff just isn’t fooling anyone where it is right now. Zach Britton looked human in his last start, that was going to happen. Is it a coincidence that the starting pitcher got absolutely destroyed both times Jake Fox has caught? Maybe, maybe not. I will say that Fox is hilariously bad behind the plate. He looks bad on anything not right in his glove, he doesn’t throw well, and he even pulled a Rube Baker and fucking threw a ball intended to go back to Guthrie into center field in Saturday’s game. It was awesome. He did however hit a homer and a triple in that game. It may be time to get him some at bats around the field to see if he is still on his crazy spring training hot streak to shake things up. It definitely couldn’t hurt at this point.
The Orioles lineup is struggling top to bottom. The middle of the order is where teams are supposed to be dangerous, for the Orioles it may be where they are struggling the most. Derrek Lee is sporting a .594 OPS, Vladimir Guerrero is at .586, and Luke Scott is at .672. There is some silver lining is here however. The good news is that each of these guys are like fucking 200 points under their career averages. They will be better than this, I guarantee it. The question is how much better.
Derrek Lee’s strike out, walk , and line drive rates are pretty much right in line with his career averages. His line drive percentage is also very good at 28.2% (career 21.5%), but he has a .263 batting average on balls he puts into play, way down from his career mark of .322. These peripherals numbers would suggest that he is due for a pretty sizable rebound. Watching his at bats, he seems to have a good approach right now and doesn’t look completely lost at the plate. I will chalk his slow start up to not getting hardly any spring training at bats and his timing will come soon.
Luke Scott’s peripherals tell a similar story to Lee. Scott’s walk rate and line drive rates are around his career averages. His strikeout rate is higher than normal however at 30% right now, up from his career average of 23. His batting average on balls put into the play is .238, way down from his career average of .299. He is also hitting a 54.5% of balls in play in the air (career 42%) and only 8 percent of them have been home runs. For his career, Scott hits home runs on 15.4% of his fly balls. The strikeout rate is the only caution flag here, but these numbers suggest to me that Scott should be better soon.
…and then there is Guerrero.
I have been very vocal on Twitter that I have despised watching Vladimir Guerrero hit. I was certain there was no way that a guy with his current approach could ever have been successful. It was suggested to me that I was wrong and the hitter we are watching is the same one he has always been. To those people I have the following rebuttal:
With that out of the way, let me say that with some legitimate evidence. Guerrero has some pretty scary peripherals going on in the early going of 2011. Guerrero has walked in 0 percent of his plate appearances. That 0% rate is well below his career mark of 8.4%. Yes, contrary to popular belief Vladimir Guerrero does walk occasionally. He is coming off of two years where he walked at career low levels of 4.7% and 5.4%. These were already warning signs, as I have previously pointed out. He has also struck out at a 15.5% rate, which would also be a career high. His batting average on balls in play is .292, which is not absurdly low considering that is the exact mark he put up in 2010. His line drive rate of 16.3% is below his career rate of 19.4%. He has hit infield fly balls in 27.3% of his plate appearances, which is way above normal levels.
Guerrero’s plate discipline so far this season has clearly been the issue. Yes, Guerrero has never been a patient hitter, but he has taken it to new levels in 2011. He is swinging at 56% of pitches outside of the strike zone, up from his career average of 39.6. He is also swinging at 70.1% of total pitches. His career swing percentage is 59%. People marvel at the great “bad ball hitter” that Guerrero is, but even he can’t hit the stuff he is currently swinging at. The pitchers know it, so they are throwing him almost nothing but pitches in the dirt. Occasionally he may get lucky and run into one the bounces before the plate. It will however be far more common for him to just make a ton of outs as he has done recently.
The numbers tell me exactly what I have been seeing. Vlad Guerrero looks bad, like way worse than usual. He is having awful, awful at bats and the results have been similar. There are some real red flags in here that are concerning, but then again it is still early and there is plenty of time for him to turn it around but the warning signs were there before the season started. I worry that not only was this a poor signing to begin with, but it could now become much much worse. I know he will get a long leash even if he is finished and we could end up with a Sammy Sosa situation. I really hope he turns it around, or if he doesn’t they do something quicker than I expect.
Just win a fucking game so I can stop listening to these idiots babble, please. How about tonight?