With Nick the Stick's home run in yesterday's exhibition contest, a creeping suspicion I've had for a few weeks was confirmed: I am, against my own best interests, becoming cautiously excited about the presence of Nick Johnson in the O's lineup. Fortunately, a bizarre injury remains likely to befall him before I finish this post, so the situation will likely be resolved before the horse gets too far out of the barn. In the meantime, however, said horse gallops furiously towards the barnyard fence.
As all Orioles fans know, our team OBP has nose-dived in the post-BRob universe, with Nick "The Other Stick" Markakis's .351 mark last season representing the only regular above .328. By comparison, the Red Sox had only three regulars below .358. There is, in my opinion, a popular misconception that our offense is more or less in good shape, but I think this is only true relative to the shabby state of the pitching staff, at whose numbers in almost every category it is far too early in the morning to look. Much of this un-deserved confidence springs from the bumper crop of home runs that sprouted last season, the vast majority of which occurred with few to no runners aboard. I don't have the numbers on the number of teams whose lineups featured four 20+ homerun seasons, yet not a single 90+ RBI tally--but it can't be many.
Johnson has long had a reputation as an exquisite evaluator of the strike zone, and the potential of his reliable presence in the 3-hole in the order behind (or in front of) Markakis would suddenly create a bevy of RBI chances for Jones, Wieters, Hardy, and Reynolds. Assuming Reimold can actually find some traction as the leadoff hitter and get on base the roughly 35% of the time his existing record would seem to indicate he's capable of, we've suddenly, through the simple insertion of Johnson in the order, created a much higher percentage of early big-inning opportunities, which has the added benefit of easing the pressure on the rotation.
The problem, of course, is that the sound you just heard was Nick Johnson's wrist exploding.