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Orioles' Inability To Get On Base Continues To Hinder Club

April 16, 2018
While it's certainly nice that the Baltimore Orioles have, for the most part, been a competitive and relevant team since 2012, the franchise still hasn't won a World Series since 1983. 

So while the overall experience in Birdland from 2012-2017 has been a lot better than the losing seasons that preceded it, the reality is that it's only slightly better than kissing your sister, which is not exciting. 

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has proved his worth as a team-builder with the Montreal Expos (1987–1994), Boston Red Sox (1994–2002) and now with the Orioles.

When he arrived in Baltimore ahead of the 2012 season, a lot of the local media thought he was either disingenuous or daft when he said the Orioles could make the playoffs in 2012. Duquette got the last laugh after the 2012 Orioles advanced to the postseason, and he earned a nice extension that is now set to expire after the 2018 season.

With help from manager Buck Showalter, the culture in the Orioles' clubhouse has risen to the level of a winning club.

Defensively, the team has been solid. The bullpen has been extraordinary throughout most of Duquette's tenure and the Orioles continue to blast homer after homer.

So, what then has been the club's biggest problem? 

While the starting pitching was historically bad in 2017, that hasn't ultimately been the team's Achilles heel, nor is it the reason the Orioles haven't been able to reach the status of championship contender.

No, what continues to plague the Orioles is something that Duquette has promised to address: on-base percentage.

The Orioles' team OBP marks the last five seasons have been:

.313 in 2013
.311 in 2014
.307 in 2015
.317 in 2016
.312 in 2017

Through the early part of the 2018 season, the Orioles' team OBP has hovered around .270.

Aside from slugger Nelson Cruz, the Orioles' offensive additions during the past few years -- Mark Trumbo, Tim Beckham and Colby Rasmus -- have been OBP stiffs throughout their careers. To further add insult to injury, as a team the Orioles strike out at an alarming rate.

Let's look back at the OBP of the most recent World Series champions to see how they compare:

.2013 Boston Red Sox, .349 OBP
.2014 San Francisco Giants, .311 OBP
.2015 Kansas City Royals, .322 OBP (however, their five core  players -- Mike Moustakas (.348), Lorenzo Cain (.361), Kendrys Morales (.362), Alex Gordon (.377) and Eric Hosmer (.363) -- all had strong numbers)
.2016 Chicago Cubs, .343 OBP
.2017 Houston Astros, .346 OBP

It's no secret that Duquette had to focus on improving his starting pitching this past offseason. However, it's as if OBP was once again glossed over. 

While the additions of right-handers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb were absolute necessities, it sure would have been nice to have added someone like outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who eventually signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his career .324 OBP -- not to mention his speed at the top of the order.

But instead Duquette signed Rasmus, who sports a career .310 OBP and found himself on the disabled list after an embarrassing first 21 at-bats.

Dyson would have represented a real attempt at improving the team's OBP while also adding some speed to the top of the order. Instead, the Orioles' brain trust went with its tried-and-true formula of lower OBP and more strikeouts with Rasmus.

While the season is still young, it seems that the team may pitch at a higher level this season, but that OBP problem still haunts Showalter's daily lineup. Two weeks into the season, the six players with some of the most at-bats  -- Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Beckham, Rasmus, Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco -- have combined to strike out 68 times, while walking just seven times. Their OBPs aren't great either.

I may not be a baseball analytics expert, but I have watched enough baseball to know that you can't win championships with those kinds of numbers.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 243: April 2018