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.
|ORIOLES SHORTSTOPS, COMBINED OFFENSE, 2008|
|Category||Result||MLB Rank (of 30)|
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)|
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.
|ORIOLES NO. 9 HITTERS, COMBINED, 2008|
|Category||Result||MLB Rank||AL Rank (of 14)||NL Ranked Higher*|
|On-Base||.257||19th||14th||Cubs, Brewers, Braves, Diamondbacks,|
|* 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.
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