Why have O’s abandoned efforts to improve team OBP?

dan duquette and buck showalter side by side talking

If you look at the MLB statistical rankings of the Orioles’ offense in 2013 there’s one outlier – see if you can spot it:

Runs – 5th

Hits – 8th

HR – 1st

RBI – 5th

AVG – 10th

OBP – 19th

SLG – 3rd

OPS – 4th

So which one of those stats stands out?  Yes, it’s OBP (on-base percentage).  So why then have the Orioles made little to no effort to improve team OBP this offseason? It might even be worse.

I’m searching for answers because judging by those stats, if the Orioles could fix team OBP, they’d likely have an offense ranked in the top three of MLB.

Instead the Orioles have brought in David Lough (career .308 OBP), Francisco Peguero (career .217 OBP) and Delmon Young (career .316 OBP) while jettisoning Danny Valencia (career .367 OBP  vs. LHP) and Nate McLouth (career .345 OBP vs. RHP).

Signing Jack Cust, who has been out of baseball for two years, and his career .374 OBP to a minor league deal is the only significant move the Orioles have made all offseason to improve team OBP.

The bats that they are pursuing now Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales won’t help either. Both had average-to-below-average OBP in 2013, which certainly won’t compensate for the lack of OBP on the club already.

Hitting coach Jim Presley (as I mentioned earlier) has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t think OBP is all that important and I’m not really sure where Buck stands on the issue, but considering how old school he is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back his hitting coach. Presley shouldn’t have been brought back in the first place in my opinion, because of his disdain for OBP.

But Dan Duquette? This is a guy that built his teams around OBP which was referenced in an article by the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly in April 2013:

Much has been made about Beane’s infatuation with on-base percentage — that was a major focus of the book and movie — and Duquette is also a big fan of seeking out hitters with high OBPs. But this current Orioles club isn’t exactly an on-base machine — with a .324 mark heading into the road trip.

“We are still working on that,” he said with a laugh.

Duquette points out that OBP was something he focused on when he was building those Montreal clubs, but the concept pre-dates his tenure and Moneyball’s rise.

“These things are getting a lot of publicity. But [Orioles Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver] recognized the value of on-base percentage. You have to have guys on base before you score runs,” Duquette said.

So why then are the Orioles suddenly doing a 180 and instead going after guys that just try to hit the ball out of the ballpark?  Wasn’t Earl Weaver right?

The Red Sox and Cardinals sure thought so, and we’ve seen how well they’ve done as both had top-three offenses last season and met in the World Series while the Orioles missed the playoffs.

Now granted, pitching is a big part of why the Orioles didn’t get to the playoffs, but having a top-three offense would sure have helped their chances to get a Wild Card berth at the very least, and it would certainly help their chances this year, especially with the potential upgrade of Ubaldo Jimenez to the rotation.

So why aren’t they pursuing it?  They had a chance to get Norichika Aoki who has a career .350+ OBP  from the Brewers but didn’t pursue it.  Shin Soo-Choo was expensive, but the Orioles can apparently afford Jimenez, Yoon and Cruz or Morales, so why couldn’t they have tried for Choo?  And they didn’t seem to be able to get the money to work out for Andre Ethier in a Jim Johnson swap despite his career .388 OBP vs. RHP.

If the Orioles were truly serious about improving OBP you would think their choices would have been a lot different this offseason.

They’ve still got a chance to make some trades to improve OBP before the season starts, but they need to pursue those avenues and not players that won’t make the necessary impact.  Otherwise, they are doing the opposite of what has made Duquette’s teams successful in the past and what previous World Series teams like the 2013 Red Sox have built their teams around.

After all, isn’t a championship the goal? Or is it to hit the ball out of the ballpark as many times as possible?

Judging from the Orioles’ offseason thus far, it seems their answer is the latter. To me, that just doesn’t make sense.

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