I hope you're sitting down when you read this: The Orioles assembled a team of power hitters, and they are striking out a lot. Sometimes, they are going to have games where they impress with powerful home run displays. They've done that. Other times, they are going to frustrate and run off stretches when they're not scoring a bunch of runs and look lost at the plate. They're in the middle of one of those brutal stretches right now, and Tuesday night's 19-strikeout, extra-inning loss was a prime, tough-to-watch example. They even managed to follow that up by striking out 18 times in nine innings on Wednesday.
Apparently Tuesday's struggles frustrated some more than others. Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun singled out Adam Jones's quote in this Jon Meoli story about strikeouts being "part of [the Orioles'] DNA as a team." As usual, Jones had other interesting things to say, but it's not all that surprising that someone focused on the DNA comment and wrote something negative about it.
No one likes to see his or her favorite team's hitters constantly flail away at the plate, especially in crucial situations. It's maddening. As of last night, the O's were 10th in the majors in strikeout percentage, so surely fans of the teams above them feel similarly at times just as often, if not more.
Maybe Schmuck's angle is that O's batters shouldn't accept their whiffing ways, or that saying they're going to strike out means they aren't doing anything to prevent it. Or maybe the larger point is about wanting games to be more aesthetically pleasing (more balls in play, etc.) instead of swing and miss after swing and miss. The former seems ridiculous, but perhaps the latter is a discussion worth having. I don't really share that opinion, but many do.
Anyway, unless you really think Jones's comments mean the O's aren't trying or aren't striving to get better, then nothing about what the Orioles have done at the plate should be surprising. They rank 10th in runs per game in the majors, and the goal is still to score as many runs as possible. Maybe they should even be striking out more, considering the various free-swinging sluggers in their lineup.
In a March post for FanGraphs -- titled "Are the Orioles Going to Strike Out Too Much?" because everyone knew the Orioles put together a lineup full of windmills -- Dave Cameron noted that "team strikeout rate doesn’t really have a negative impact on the number of runs a team scores relative to expectations" before moving on to an analysis of extreme strikeout teams underperforming their BaseRuns projections.
Along those lines, it's reasonable to worry about the team's level of production in clutch situations as the season goes along, because high-strikeout teams might not be as good in that department. But it is silly for Schmuck to assert that "opposing advance scouts just [discovered] how vulnerable the Orioles are to a steady diet of offspeed stuff that breaks under and around the strike zone." The O's are a collection of mostly veteran players that have been heavily scouted, so give both them, the pitchers they are facing, and advanced scouts more credit than that. You don't think teams in the American League East know several O's hitters are vulnerable to pitches out of the strike zone? If not, then they need new scouts.
The Orioles haven't looked good at the plate lately. Some of that is the result of a long season, with normal ebbs and flows. Some of that is because this is what the O's lineup will occasionally look like. And some of that is because of certain players getting more playing time than they probably should, or batting in non-optimal spots in the lineup. The O's roster has holes that Buck Showalter can't hide.
In both 2014 and 2015, the O's were in the top 10 of highest strikeout percentage teams, and they still finished with top 10 offenses. In 2013, the O's were much lower in strikeouts (23rd) but placed fifth in runs scored. None of those teams won the World Series, because the number of strikeouts isn't the sole determinant of who prevails and who doesn't.
If you want to criticize anything, then rail against how this team was put together. But considering that the O's are still eight games above .500, that would be strange timing.