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Nate McLouth's Crazy Bounceback Year

Sep 18, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) and left fielder Nate McLouth (9) celebrate at home plate after McLouth scores off a single hit by designated hitter Chris Davis (not pictured) during the 9th inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

It's not news that the Orioles are competing this year on the backs of a number of players who weren't supposed to be very good. One such player is Nate McLouth, who was signed to the Norfolk Tides after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of May.

Here are some comments that were made about Nate McLouth right here on Camden Chat earlier this season:

  • DD must be thinking that he needs to continue last year's award for having the worst player in MLB in Felix Pie. McLouth is ready to carry that torch. --salvotion
  • Its the barnstorming Norfolk Tides. Somebody get Canseco on the phone, maybe that guy from Rock’n Jock. --snotboogie; Don't forget Nate McLouth --Gamecock24
  • Nate McLouth. Blech. Are we sure Dino can’t play OF? -daveh873
  • I’d be happy to see Avery come up. I think we’re more likely to see Lew Ford or Nate McLouth, because we have offended the gods. - Marylander
  • Am I missing something? McLouth is OPSing .788 as a 30 year old at AAA. Peace the f*** out. -- O'sFan21
  • And the grand finale from FreddieBoomBoomBynum:
    If Nate McLouth is called up I am going to be quite angry
    : There is absolutely no chance that we call up Nate McLouth.
    : I know I'm a day late.. but I am really mad over the McLouth>Endy decision

I'm not posting those in an attempt to call anyone out. I didn't see any comments by me disparaging McLouth, but I certainly said them out loud and thought them several times. The point is that nobody really thought McLouth would be good. But Dan Duquette saw something worth stashing at AAA, and it's worked out marvelously.

The Orioles started the season with the ill-fated Nolan Reimold. Reimold was awesome, but as we've all learned he can't stay on the field. And so the Orioles began trotting out a parade of guys in left, hoping it would work. Endy Chavez, Xavier Avery, Steve Pearce, Steve Tolleson, Chris Davis, Lew Ford. And finally, Nate McLouth. He wasn't given the everyday job outright, but he's earned it.

From 2007 to 2009, McLouth was a pretty good player. In 418 games with Pittsburgh and Atlanta, he hit .265/.353/.467, although he was never really known for doing much in the field. His bat dropped off steeply after that, and in two years as a part-time player with the Braves he had an OPS+ of just 79. Upon reaching free agency in 2012 he went back home to Pittsburgh where, in 34 games, he just flat out stunk until his release.

I don't know what has happened, but the McLouth that the Orioles have seen looks much more like the 2007-2009 vintage. He's currently hitting for more power, more average, striking out less, and he's playing decent defense. It's all a relatively small sample size, of course, as he's played just 42 games with the Orioles this season. But his OPS of .804 makes him the only hitter on the team other than Adam Jones and broken Nick Markakis to be >.800.

When Markakis was injured, everyone wondered who might possibly take his place at the top of the lineup? Well, Nate McLouth has been awesome in that role. When he bats first this season he's hitting .319/.396/.511. Yes, it's only 54 plate appearances, but it's still awesome.

In a year when the Orioles are very clearly more valuable than the sum of their parts, the presumed washed-up McLouth had been a lifesaver. He's not the long-term answer, not even close, but he's making some magic this year and doing everything he can to get the O's to the playoffs.