Baltimore Orioles Should Try Giving Outs Away in 2017

Sep 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

If they want to succeed in 2017, the Baltimore Orioles will need to become a more multi-dimensional offense. That means being more adventurous on the base paths.

The Baltimore Orioles had a solid 2016 season. They finished tied for second in the American League East and clinched a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. Unfortunately they were eliminated in the Wild Card Game by the Toronto Blue Jays in an absolute nail-biter. The game ended in extra innings and consisted of the O’s opting to go with Ubaldo Jimenez over their lights-out closer Zach Britton. Orioles fans know the rest of the story.

The Orioles did one specific thing very well offensively in 2016. They hit a lot of home runs. In fact, they hit 28 more home runs than any other team in baseball. Their 253 round-trippers were the second-most in a season in team history.

Unfortunately the Orioles also broke another offensive record that may have just been the reason for their ultimate demise. The Orioles only stole 19 total bases in 2016. Yes, I did say that right, if you were wondering. They only stole 19 bases as a team. It was the fewest for any team in over 40 years. It was actually just the third time since the start of the expansion era in 1961 that a team stole fewer than 20 bases in a season. They joined the 1964 Red Sox and the 1972 Tigers.

Buck Showalter does not believe in stealing bases. He has been extremely adamant about “not giving outs away” on the base paths. With that being said, Showalter stacks his lineups with bats that are RBI threats at all times. Showalter plays to the strength of Camden Yards as a hitter’s ballpark. However, there are 81 games played away, and not running in 2017 is not an option if this team is to make any serious noise in the American League.

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The Orioles are a very slow base running team. The Arizona Diamondbacks led baseball in team triples with 56 in 2016. The World Series champion Cubs finished 14th in baseball with a respectable 30 total team triples. The Baltimore Orioles finished last in baseball with a team total of six triples in 2016. That was nine fewer than the next closest team, the Seattle Mariners. It was also the lowest amount of team triples in the history of Major League Baseball.

The 2016 Orioles will go down as one of, if not the slowest team in the history of baseball. They will also need to be able to manufacture runs at a much higher rate. The Orioles ranked 21st in baseball with a .317 OBP in 2016. The also ranked 27th in the league with an underwhelming 17 sacrifice bunts. The Braves led the league with 64 and the champion Cubs had 42.

Why are all of last year’s horrific metrics important, you might ask? Well, the Orioles head into the 2017 season with a projected lineup that almost mirrors that of 2017 with the addition of Seth Smith, who is by no means a trailblazer. Buck Showalter has shown to be a good manager. He is a numbers- and matchups-driven coach who looks for the smallest angles in which his teams can succeed. However, his consistent resistance to small-ball strategies may be what is holding this team back.

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Stealing, bunting, walking and situational sacrificing will be necessary when the Orioles face dominant pitching. The Orioles cannot simply hit home runs all of the way to the World Series. In the playoffs they will be facing pitching where the manufacturing of runs will be required to win. If Showalter does not come around to possibly having to sacrifice outs on the base paths from time to time, he may just be sacrificing the O’s chances in 2017.