More so than in the regular season, hot takes are flying from all angles in the offseason leading up to the Winter Meetings. And for the Orioles this December, that statement couldn’t represent more of the truth.
First, let's extract a few obvious points.
- Blanco's strikeout and walk percentages would be more than welcomed on the Orioles. Both marks represent major pluses.
- His WAR from '13-'15 was, by Orioles recent corner outfield performances, impressive. In those same years, his straight slash lines were starting caliber in Birdland. You won't find anyone arguing that.
- Most glaringly, 2016 was a brutal year that marked a potential negative shift in Blanco's career ... or did it?
Here, a quote from Giants manager Bruce Bochy, spotlighting on the injury that apparently initially occurred in May:
Via MLB.com: "I think [Blanco's injury] did start gradually and has been getting worse and worse to the point where he couldn't get a good swing off."
After getting this perspective, I decided to take a look at Blanco's April 2016 numbers, pre-injury, to see how he began the year. I wasn't disappointed:
April 2016: 10-29 (.345), .406 OBP, .586 SLG, three triples, double.
Granted, a small sample size - but a healthy sample size nonetheless.
Digging a bit deeper into Blanco's game, I saw two statistical trends that spoke to the 32-year-old's success. One came in the form of Blanco's wOBA, which saw marks from '13-'15 of .307, .317 and .337 respectively. If you're a believer in the "regression to the mean post-injury" theory - which I most certainly am - this bodes well.
In the big picture, one look at Blanco's wRC+ shows that a 2017 rebound would most certainly mark an upgrade for the Orioles. His 100, 106 and 118 wRC+ marks in those three healthy years are impressive by Orioles standards.
In comparison, Joey Rickard posted a 2016 wRC+ of 86, Nolan Reimold a 78.
Consider, too, that Blanco's lowest OBP from '13-'15 was .333. That lowest number would have been near the top of the 2016 Orioles leaderboards, surpassing the likes of Mark Trumbo (.316), Adam Jones (.310), J.J. Hardy (.309) and Jonathan Schoop (.298) by a wide margin. And that was a "down" OBP campaign for Blanco in the grand scheme of his career.
Imagine a repeat of Blanco's 2015 season, in which he posted that .368 OBP.
To put his entire abilities in a nutshell without making this article a lengthy essay, here are a few other statistics to consider:
- In 2013, Blanco's line-drive rate was 27.7%. In 2015, it was 24.2%. The league average generally hovers around 21.0%. Last year, the Orioles team high was 24.2%, a mark posted by Matt Wieters
- Taking defensive metrics with caution (they're, statistically, still very imperfect), Blanco grades out to be nearly league-average in the field, with the stats saying he's much better in left field than right. He has experience in all three spots.
- Against left-handed pitchers, Blanco is a career .251 hitter. The Orioles as a team, worst in the AL by a bit of a margin in 2016, hit just .234 against southpaws.
- Finally, Blanco's leadoff numbers: 311 games, .252 average, .338 OBP. He might not be the best option in the one-hole at this point of his career, but he's still an option.
I don't know about you, but he's got my vote.