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Why the Orioles Better Land a Shortstop. Like, Now.

It's well-known that acquiring a long-term option at shortstop remains one of the Orioles' top priorities this offseason. And various reports have linked them to some of the top free agents in the class, including Rafael Furcal.

However, just how badly the Orioles need a legitimate replacement for Miguel Tejada can't be fully appreciated without examining the work of those who tried to fill in last season -- Juan Castro, Freddie Bynum, Alex Cintron, Brandon Fahey and Luis Hernandez.

In short, they weren't just bad. They were historically bad.

Category Result MLB Rank (of 30)
Average .218 30th
On-Base .259 30th
Slugging .276 30th
OPS .535 30th

Anybody spot a trend here? The five players combined for arguably one of the worst offensive seasons for shortstops on any team in the last 35 years. Their collective inability to reach base was the most egregious sin. The Orioles .259 OBP was among the bottom 25 in baseball since 1974, and the lowest since by any team since the shortstops for the 1999 Anaheim Angels turned in an equally pathetic .256.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the defensively deficient Cintron was the only Oriole shortstop whose VORP wasn't in the negative column. Though barely. For the heck of it, here's that list too:

Player VORP MLB Rank (of 71 shortstops)
Cintron 0.7 41st
Hernandez -2.7 52nd
Fahey -3.2 54th
Castro -8.0 64th
Bymum -11.6 69th

As a result, the Orioles were forced to compete in the brutal AL East with an eight-man lineup. That, combined with the Orioles pitching, is the recipe for what you saw the last six weeks of the season. In the end, several National League teams, with pitchers hitting, actually got more offensive production from those in the 9th spot (where O's Manager Dave Trembley typically batted his shortstop) than the Orioles did in 2008.

Category Result MLB Rank AL Rank (of 14) NL Ranked Higher*
Average .220 16th 14th Cubs
On-Base .257 19th 14th Cubs, Brewers, Braves, Diamondbacks,
Slugging .297 16th 13th Cubs, Brewers
OPS .554 17th 14th Cubs, Brewers
* excludes the St. Louis Cardinals, because they often batted pitchers eighth.

Baltimore's .257 OBP was the 14th worst by any AL team since 1974. Yuck.

By Marc Carig  |  December 2, 2008; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  Orioles  
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Well, the Orioles were reportedly interested in Felipe Lopez and could have had him, probably for cheap, that weekend last June when the O's were at Nationals Park. But noooooo. I believe he's a FA now, isn't he? He certainly performed much better for the Cards the second half of the season after the Nats dumped him and his salary. Would the Orioles take him, or would they be afraid that his zone of suckitude encompasses the entire Washington-Baltimore metro area?

Posted by: raykingsgutfeeling2 | December 2, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

And Alex Cintron was also one of my many fantasy middle infielders (AL only, replacement player in a deep, deep league). Replacement player with a positive VORP - sweet!

Right now the Os need not only a long term prospect for SS, they could probably use a 1 year fill-in. Beyond Furcal, you have to hope Renteria can bounce back, give up a draft choice for an old O-Cab, or bottom fish among the Nick Puntos or deal for an Aybar, any Aybar.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 2, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

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