Perhaps the Orioles offense is waiting for the weather to feel more like Baltimore in early May and less like Seattle as it has during the current homestand and for much of the season.
The overall numbers look mostly great as they rank sixth in the AL in runs, fifth in hits, third in home runs, third in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging percentage, but that reflects how much an MVP-like performance from Manny Machado and a white-hot start from Mark Trumbo have carried the Orioles through the first month of the season. Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop have had their moments — as did J.J. Hardy before his unfortunate injury — but virtually all hitters not named Machado or Trumbo are failing to pull their weight.
Manager Buck Showalter can’t rely on those two to do it all year while the rest of the order struggles to get going.
“That’s kind of been the way things have been going for us lately,” said Davis, whose on-base plus slugging percentage dipped to .795 on Wednesday. “We’ve had a few games where we’ve been able to score some runs early and capitalize on those opportunities, but for the most part, we’re not getting the job done when we have runners in scoring position.
“The biggest thing to remember is to stay the course. We’re playing really good ball defensively. I think we’re throwing the ball well and keeping ourselves in the game. We all know the bats are going to heat up when the weather [stops] raining and [being] cold and it warms up a little bit.”
Joey Rickard was the feel-good story of the spring, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify his .304 on-base percentage remaining in the lineup every day, let alone in the leadoff spot. Despite much praise for his defense this spring, the 24-year-old has also struggled in the outfield at minus-seven defensive runs saved, creating more reason to see less of him and more of Nolan Reimold or even Hyun Soo Kim.
Burying Rickard on the bench would be premature, but lowering him in the lineup might be appropriate, even if Machado is the only viable alternative to lead off and you’d rather keep him in the No. 2 spot.
The catching tandem of Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph have combined to hit .217 with one home run and a .577 OPS. A $15.8 million salary for Wieters wasn’t going to suddenly transform him into the type of hitter many hoped he would be at the start of his career, but his .588 OPS is sub-replacement level and dramatically below his career .740 mark and Joseph (.485) has been even worse.
Pedro Alvarez has warmed up recently, but the former Pittsburgh Pirate still hasn’t shown enough to justify the Orioles spending $5.75 million on him this spring.
However, the biggest early-season concern is veteran center fielder Adam Jones, who is batting .205 with just one homer. He’s grounded into more double plays (seven) than he has extra-base hits (five) through his first 87 plate appearances.
Of course, Jones is a famously streaky hitter and has gone through extended dry spells before, but these struggles coming off the rib injury that cost him a week early in the season make you wonder if he’s truly healthy — or at least healthy enough to be himself. The 30-year-old would never use an injury as an excuse, but the Orioles need Jones to be his usual strong presence in the middle of the order.
His 75.4 percent contact rate is perfectly in line with his career average, but he’s hitting more ground balls (57.4 percent of balls put in play compared to 47.9 percent in his career) and fewer line drives (9.8 percent to 18.4 percent for his career), suggesting that he could be struggling to elevate the ball with authority. However, FanGraphs has tracked 33.9 percent of his balls in play being hard contact, which is in line with his 31.8 percent career average. His average exit velocity of 92.4 miles per hour is also better than last year’s 88.9 mph, creating more hope that Jones is just in an early-season funk.
“He’s not the only one, but we know there are some good things ahead,” said Showalter after Wednesday’s 7-0 loss in which Jones went 0-for-3 and the Orioles went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. “Like good hitters with good track records and things that he’s done for us, some [opponent] will pay. He’s a little frustrated by it, but I know Adam. We’ve seen it a lot where he’s gone through some periods like a lot of good hitters do and he’ll get it going.
“He’ll get it going.”
Showalter hopes that several members of his lineup heat up sooner than later — along with the weather.