Monday, May 17, 2010

Terry Crowley, OBP, and Home Runs

Among the many things that have gone horribly, horribly wrong for the Orioles this spring, one of the most disappointing has been the dismal performance of the offense.  Understandably, many are calling for change at the position of hitting coach.  Kevin Cowherd somehow "doesn't get it," and Dave Mc responds:
When [Crowley] took over as hitting coach before the 1999 season, it was a different era. Without making judgments, lets just say it was an era in which power was the dominant aspect of offense...
It seems more likely that Crowley is still employing the same hitting philosophies that worked a decade ago.
Just one problem: the Orioles don't hit with power!  In fact, I think you can make a pretty good case that Crowley's philosophies have actually stunted power development from a number of Orioles young hitters.  Let's look at some numbers.

1) Nick Markakis hit 23 homers as a 23-year old in 2007.  He then hit 20 in 2008, 18 in 2009, and has just two this season.
2) Matt Wieters hit a home run once every 18 at-bats in the minors.  He has hit a homer once every 37 at-bats in the majors.
3) Adam Jones goes deep about once every 36 at-bats for the Orioles.  In his final two AAA seasons (at ages 20 and 21), he homered every 21.5 at-bats.

To be fair, the Orioles haven't had a lot of highly touted prospects over the last decade, but a few other young hitters that have failed to develop on Crowley's watch include Ryan Minor, Larry Bigbie, Jerry Hairston, and Gary Matthews, Jr.  About the only successes we can really count are Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Nick Markakis and (gulp) Jay Gibbons.

This team's (lack of a good) hitting approach drives me absolutely nuts; just give me quality at-bats, swings at pitches in the strike zone, and the indication that hitters have some idea of what they're doing when they go to plate.  Instead, I get to watch Tejada ground into double plays on the first pitch, Cesar Izturis waive his wet noodle, and Garrett Atkins look mind-numbingly older than 30.  Now, not all of that is the hitting coach's doing.  Tejada has always been hacktastic, Izturis an awful hitter, and I'm pretty sure Garrett Atkins is finished as a Major League ballplayer.  No, what really makes me mad is when I see no progress from Adam Jones or Matt Wieters, or when I read stories in the Sun hinting that Nick Markakis needs to be more aggressive at the plate.

Maybe Crowley really is doing a great job, and without his tutelage the O's offense would be even worse.  Maybe firing the hitting coach would be a symbolic gesture that wouldn't have any effect on the offense.  Or maybe Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold need a fresh voice in order to get their careers back on track.  In the wake of such a disappointing start and regression from so many of the highly touted hitters, I hope the organization is taking a hard look at the coaching staff.  Because I don't think this one is capable of effecting any on-field improvement.

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