It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Orioles are destined to hit a ton of home runs, yet again. Guys like last year’s home run champion, Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Welington Castillo, and eventually Trey Mancini, are ready to begin teeing off at Camden Yards and ballparks around the American League. But, hypothetically speaking of course, what if the Orioles didn’t hit a lot of home runs, and wound up not leading the world in 2017?
The Orioles offense have been juggernauts recently when it comes to the long ball, and they’ve led all of baseball in home runs dating back to 2011. Three of the five teams in the American League East share the top three spots in home runs since 2011, but the Orioles have the lead with 1,298. The Blue Jays are right behind them with 1,199, and the Yankees follow with 1,153. That is a ton of home runs. To put it into perspective during this time, the Orioles have hit 822 more home runs than the San Francisco Giants, the team with the least amount of homers in that time.
And yes, I’m talking about the same San Francisco Giants that have won two World Series championships in that very same timeframe we’re discussing. The same Giants team that finished first in the National League in on-base percentage in 2015, and have consistently been a top-10 team in OBP since 2011. The same San Francisco Giants team that is fourth overall in the National League in wins since 2011 (515).
So, let’s recap; since 2011, the Giants haven’t hit a ton of home runs, have been in the top-10 in OBP for six years straight, and have won the World Series twice. In the same time period, the Orioles have hit a ton of home runs, have finished only as high as ninth in the AL in on-base percentage, and have been eliminated from the postseason three separate times–Interesting.
Home runs are fun to watch, and are exciting from time-to-time, but if you can’t win a championship, home runs don’t matter.
If the Orioles didn’t lead the American League, or the majors for that matter, in home runs would it really be that bad? If they sacrificed hitting four HR’s in a game multiple times this season for a high team OBP, and a deep postseason run that ends in a World Championship, would anybody honestly be mad? Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially with all-or-nothing type hitters like Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis. They too though had good OBP’s last season, with Trumbo at the .316 mark, and Davis finishing at .332.
This Spring, guys like Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry, Trey Mancini, and Chris Johnson have shown that they can get on-base, and can contribute to the teams success. Rickard in 30 games has a .464 OBP, Gentry through 28 games has a .435, Mancini in 29 games has a .385, and Johnson in 24 games has a .310. Johnson was released on Monday, re-signed on Wednesday, and reassigned to AAA Norfolk.
With the nucleus of the team returning, the addition of guys like Welington Castillo, and Seth Smith, and guys waiting to be called up from Norfolk, the Orioles shouldn’t have any problem with guys getting on base this season. If the starting rotation can find a way to hold it together, there’s no doubt in my mind that this team could make that deep run into October.
Will they though? That’s the question.