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With Mark Trumbo back from the DL, the Orioles need his bat to heat up

The Orioles were winning without Mark Trumbo in the lineup. He needs to get his stroke back to prove worthy of batting in the middle of the order.

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

After winning seven of ten games while Mark Trumbo was on the disabled list, the Orioles welcomed back their DH on Wednesday and inserted him right back in the middle of the order. Forgive me if I don’t celebrate.

Trumbo picked up where he left off before his rib injury going 0-for-3 and striking out twice. His high 23.3 percent strikeout rate is consistent with his history (actually, a bit lower), but his declining power and limited run production are concerning. Through Wednesday, Trumbo has only hit 17 home runs this year – a far cry from his league leading 47 in 2016, and he’s on pace to drive in only 71 runs compared to 108 last year.

Trumbo’s discouraging season isn’t going unnoticed. My Camden Chat colleague, George Battersby, just wrote a piece showing that batting Trumbo and Chris Davis in prominent lineup positions is hurting the team. The Orioles DH also made ESPN writer David Schoenfield’s 2017 All-Disappointment Team, stating that Trumbo’s slugging percentage is 130 points lower than last year.

Battersby points out that, when batting back-to-back, it’s more likely that at least one of Davis and Trumbo will strikeout than neither of them striking out. That is a recipe for disaster, especially when they usually bat fourth and fifth in the order often with men on base. But if they both continue to start games, wherever they are in the order, Showalter should definitely not hit them consecutively unless they prove they've turned it around.

The chances of scoring aren’t so hot when batters don’t put the ball in play. Trumbo’s strikeout rate has zoomed to 35.9 percent in his last 18 games through Wednesday, and Davis’ 36.6 year long strikeout rate is second worst in the AL for players with at least 350 plate appearances.

A play in Wednesday’s game highlighted this issue and, for a moment, it seemed like third base coach Bobby Dickerson was aware of it too. In the sixth inning with the Orioles down 2-1, Dickerson surprisingly sent Craig Gentry home all the way from first after a two-out Jonathan Schoop single to center.

As the play developed, it was obvious that Gentry had no real chance to score and was thrown out by 15 feet. Could Dickerson have made this choice because he factored in the slim chance that the next hitters, Davis and Trumbo, would drive in the run? Maybe. The fact that the team's four and five hitters give fans little hope of coming through in a two-out, RBI situation is far from playoff worthy.

Watching the Angels this week versus the Birds, I was reminded of how Albert Pujols has been a shell of his former self for a while now. What a smart move by the Cardinals not to better the contract offer the Halos gave him in 2012.

Pujols hasn’t been much more than a slow, mediocre hitter with power for the past four years in LA. In this respect, he’s very much like Trumbo. See how their numbers compare from 2013 through Tuesday’s games:

With almost the identical number of homers and OPS, it would seem that Trumbo is a value making just half the salary of Prince Albert. You thought Davis’ contract was bad? The Angels owe Pujols the balance of $26M for the remainder of this season and $114M more through 2021.

But Pujols’ ability to put the ball in play is where Trumbo’s production pales. Trumbo strikes out twice as much, limiting his RBI total and making him a less than ideal middle of the order hitter. Especially coupled with the contact-challenged Davis.

Maybe Buck is beginning to address the issue. He did sit the ice cold Davis in last night’s game. He and Trumbo can’t hit back-to-back if they aren’t in the same lineup. And Trumbo was dropped to sixth in the order. We may see more of that unless they start making better contact and knocking in more runs.