18 July 2017

Orioles Can't Hit Breaking Pitches To Save Their Lives

On the third of April, Mark Trumbo kicked off the 2017 Orioles’ season in dramatic fashion: a walk-off home run in extra innings.  The Birds were undefeated and Eutaw Street was euphoric.  Ah, the good old days.

On the fourth of April, I wrote a column about Mr. Trumbo, warning that his struggles against breaking pitches might ultimately undo his murderous-prowess against straight stuff. 

Well, that malaise seems to have caught on with the whole club.  On Sunday, that ineptitude was on display against the Chicago Cubs and their shiny-new toy, Jose Quintana.  In his debut, Quintana made short work of the Orioles, fanning twelve in seven innings of work. 

The Orioles seemed particularly befuddled by the Colombian lefty’s curveball.  They swung at 46% of such offerings, but whiffed nearly a third of those instances.  It’s not an isolated incident, either. 

Breaking pitches have been a bugaboo for the Orioles’ batters, all season.  In fact, they’re probably better off NOT swinging at them at all.  Here’s how some of the Orioles’ mainstays have fared against curveballs, thus far:

Trouble With The Curve 
  • Seth Smith (31.92% Whiff/Swing, .190 BAA, .066 ISO)
  • Manny Machado (32.34% Whiff/Swing, .213 BAA, .142 ISO)
  • Mark Trumbo (36.46% Whiff/Swing, .212 BAA, .182 ISO)
  • Welington Castillo (37.00% Whiff/Swing, .220 BAA, .093 ISO)
  • Adam Jones (37.58% Whiff/Swing, .260 BAA, .156 ISO)
  • Jonathan Schoop (37.66% Whiff/Swing, .215 BAA, .199 ISO)
  • Trey Mancini (41.89% Whiff/Swing, .206 BAA, .000 ISO)
  • Chris Davis (43.91% Whiff/Swing, .187 BAA, .170 ISO)

Even the world’s best hitters aren’t expected to hit the moon against some of the nastier offerings MLB pitchers have to offer.  As Barry Bonds once said, “If you make your pitch, you can get me out.” 

The Orioles’ line-up is heavy on sluggers, waiting for a bit of dead-red heat to jack into the stratosphere.  The result: as a club, they rank in the “top” ten in baseball for strikeouts, and are in the bottom five for walks.  The approach sorely needs some refinement. 

Of course, it’s easy for someone like me to sit back and tell them they should sit on pitches.  However, if the Orioles can temper their aggression a bit – and lay off a few pitches that end in the dirt – maybe they can start working some counts in their favor and stop striking out so darn much.   

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