Orioles Currently Lacking a Designated Hitter Who Can Actually Hit

If you’ve been reading this site (or most articles involving the young 2013 baseball season), you’ve heard the words “small sample size” applied frequently.  And since teams have barely played more than 20 games so far, those same three words apply directly to everything I am going to be presenting in this post.  So if you want the answer to the “what should the Orioles do about their DH?” question without actually reading the rest of write-up, the answer will be along the lines of, “they should go with what they have, until there is a large enough sample of plate appearances to support a decision”.

Hopefully the title alluded to this, but the Orioles designated hitters have been bad so far this year.  They have collectively compiled -0.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs), which is currently ranked 15th out of 17 teams (not every National League team has played an interleague game in an American League park yet).  If you take out the National League teams, the Orioles move up to 13th(!)…out of 15.  Let’s take a look at some other offensive (double entendre!) statistics for the Orioles DH’s (as of April 26), but let’s limit the list of teams to AL clubs only, since all of the teams will have similar sample sizes.

(as of April 26, 2013)

as of April 26, 2013

Yikes.  Remember, each of these rankings is out of 15 teams.  Again, yikes.  You can point to the very low BABIP and make an argument that maybe they’ve been unlucky, but looking at the other statistics, it would appear to be a reach.

Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce have held down the fort at the DH spot so far.  47 of Reimold’s 70 PA’s have come at DH (the others in LF and 1 as a pinch hitter), while Pearce has been used solely in the DH spot for a total of 25 PA’s.  Again, small sample.  Let’s put up their individual stats as a DH to compare the 2 players.  I’m not even going to tell which player is on which line, because as you can tell, it’s pretty pointless.

as of April 26

as of April 26

Since both players are pretty terrible hitting in the DH spot, is it possible that they’ve both been unlucky?  Reimold may be suffering from a bit of bad luck while it looks like Pearce is just suffering from being Steve Pearce.  Pearce is a 30 year old journeyman who has had some success against LHP, but not enough for a team to feel comfortable giving him regular at bats against them (career .258/.339/.456 against LHP in 289 plate appearances).  And he shouldn’t even face a right hander…pretty much ever.  Overall, he’s a career .231/.306/.365 hitter in almost 750 PA’s.  So if he is given more playing time, his numbers will probably improve, but not to the point where anyone should want him as a guy whose only job is to hit a baseball.

As for Reimold, he’s actually hit quite well in his 22 PA’s as a left fielder.  Comparing his numbers playing LF to his numbers in 47 PA’s as the DH…

as of April 26

as of April 26

…we see quite a difference.  If anything, Reimold may be on opposite ends of the luck spectrum during his time at the 2 different positions.  This provides some hope, as there is not much else they can do to improve at the DH position, other than hope that one of these 2 players becomes more productive in the DH spot.  It is WAY too early to talk about trading for anyone, and outside of (MAYBE) Russ Canzler, the Orioles don’t have anyone on their 40 man roster that would provide a substantial improvement.  One interesting option is to bring back Jim Thome, who has not declared retirement and remains unsigned.  While it wouldn’t take a lot of money to sign him, his presence wouldn’t automatically be an improvement, and his presence on the roster would severely limit the team’s roster flexibility, especially when they play games in NL ballparks (Thome cannot play anywhere in the field).

So if you’ve managed to keep reading after the answer was given in the first paragraph, the answer has not changed.  The Orioles should stay the course, continuing to use Reimold at the DH spot (in favor of Steve Pearce), and monitor the results.  If the DH numbers don’t improve by June, then it will be time to look seriously at other options.

2 Responses to “Orioles Currently Lacking a Designated Hitter Who Can Actually Hit”

  1. […] it a couple of times.  If you haven’t been reading this blog, you can find those discussions here and here.  Baltimore’s designated hitters have combined for a .230/.275/.385 triple slash line, […]

  2. […] was documented several times here at Orioles Proving Ground as well as Camden Depot (for example, here and here).  As a unit, they produced only 0.4 wins.  Zips sees an improvement for the Orioles in […]

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