clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How did we get here? Orioles OF & DH 2010-2014

How did we go from the August 2010 laughing stock of the American League to the 2014 American League Championship Series? A look at the roster evolution of the Orioles outfield and designated hitter under Buck Showalter.

Rob Carr

So just how much has changed since 2010 in the roster construction? How did we get to this particular collection of players that has the O's just four wins from a World Series appearance? Let's take a look at just how we got to the current starting roster of the Orioles by tracing its roots in that 2010 roster that Buck inherited. This entry will focus on the outfield and designated hitter.

Left Field

HWGH-Left Field

Shakespeare wrote tragedies with fewer characters than the O's have fielded in left field, methinks. In 2010, Felix Pie may have been adorable, but he couldn't get on base reliably and couldn't hit for power, so the Orioles looked elsewhere.

In 2011, Luke Scott could hit homers, but little else and couldn't field and couldn't run. And since DH wasn't an option in 2011 with Vladimir Guerrero claiming the spot, his lack of range, arm and common sense in what to say to teammates eventually cost him the spot. He split time with Pie, and both hit .220 exactly. Nolan Reimold played left field in the second half of the year and stayed healthy for, oh, 15 minutes.

At this point, in just a season and a third as manager, Buck Showalter had run through three left fielders and found all of them wanting. Dan Duquette ran over to the nearest BFI waste container and found Nate McLouth. McLouth would prove to be a key part of the 2012 playoff run, but when his contract was due to increase, the Orioles wished him well and let the Nationals overpay for his services. He is being paid $16.5 million through 2016, and he put up a 45 OPS+ in just 79 games this season. Regression, when she appears, can be a harsh and swift.

David Lough was acquired to be the left fielder in 2014, in a trade with the Royals, but probably would have better luck modeling for Muscle & Fitness. Lough wasn't terrible - he slashed .247/.309/.358/.694 - but the Orioles wanted more pop in a corner outfield bat. Delmon Young attempted to play left field, and even started a game in the ALDS. Hopefully, that doesn't happen again. In his stead, Alejandro de Aza, acquired from the White Sox in late August, took the job, slashed .293/.341/.537/.877 with a 145 OPS+, and never looked back. Look for de Aza to be the de facto starter for the rest of the playoffs.

Center Field

HWGH-Center Field

So, Adam Jones. He's pretty good, huh? And durable. Yup. Just write his name down every day, and you're going to get a .800 OPS, a pretty good arm in the outfield (that's getting more accurate) and all the bubblegum bubbles you'd want. The 4-time All Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner has been the only Oriole to maintain his starting position since the day Buck Showalter was hired as manager. He's the heart and soul and unofficial captain, and his victory lap the night the O's clinched theA.L. East  will always be one of my favorite memories of this team.

Right Field

HWGH-Right Field

One great aspect about the O's winning the division in 2014 meant that Nick Markakis was going to the playoffs. A key part of the 2012 squad that battled the Rangers in the Wild Card game and took the Yankees to the maximum five games in the ALDS, Markakis was a involuntary spectator to the festivities after suffering a broken hand on a pitch thrown by C.C. Sabathia. And nothing short of a broken bone was going to keep Nick away from the playoffs this year. The Gold Glove winner isn't fast, his arm isn't what it used to be, and his batting power is pretty much gone, (just 14 home runs as an everyday corner outfielder) but he will work a count, be in position to catch every ball he can reach and show the rookies how to be interviewed and not really, um, say anything, you know.

And let's just pretend Endy Chavez never happened, shall we?

Designated Hitter

HWGH-DH

Luke Scott got plenty of chances with the Orioles, and his first was at Designated Hitter. A .897 OPS earned him a chance to play left field to begin 2011, but Scott never returned to his 2010 level of production. Which led to Vlad. Ugh.

Signing Vladimir Guerrero to be DH in 2011 probably wasn't as bad an idea as we remember. He had hit .300 in 2010 and slugged .841.  And even his season with the Orioles, looking solely at his slash line, wasn't horrid - .290/.317/.416./.733. OK, maybe it was horrid for a DH. He could barely run, he could not take the field, and by the end of the season he looked as if he may need a walker and a escort to get to home plate to bat. Obviously, a new option was needed for 2012.

The Orioles acquired Chris Davis (and Tommy Hunter) in a mid-season 2011 trade that sent Koji Uehara to the Rangers. Davis always had power, which he flashed in Texas in 2009 with 19 home runs in just 113 games. But his plate discipline was something to be desired, batting under .200 in his last full season with Texas. Buck Showalter must have seen something he liked in the last half of 2011 from Davis and installed him as DH in 2012.  And while his greatest success would come in 2013 while playing first base, his 2012 campaign at DH wasn't bad. He slashed  .270/.326/.501/.827 with 33 home runs and helped lead the O's to the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half.

Danny Valencia was acquired to DH in 2013. Well, that's not entirely true. The Orioles rotated quite a few players through the DH slot in 2013, but Valencia batted there 19 times, bested only by Nolan Reimold's 27 appearances in the DH slot. Wilson Betemit and Henry Urrutia also saw time there. Suffice it to say, none were a long-term answer (and Reimold was released mid-season). Valencia was traded to the Royals in the 2013 off-season for David Lough.

Entering the 2014 season, the Orioles looked around, didn't like most of their options at DH, and saw Nelson Cruz on a street corner with a sign that said "Will Hit Homers For Well Below Market Value", so they signed him for $8 million for the 2014 season.  And 40 home runs later, he's leading the charge into the playoffs. The O's most likely will have to find yet another solution to DH for 2015, but for the moment, they're covered quite nicely.

Next up, a brief review of the starting pitching. Here there be monsters, people. Be prepared.