As the Orioles' ninth-inning rally fizzled out last night to extend their losing streak in Toronto to 16 games, it made me wonder how the team has fared late in games this season. I didn't remember a lot of come-from-behind victories for Baltimore this season and the numbers for the offense kind of show you why.
OPS for Baltimore broken down by inning for 2011:
Inning OPS 1st .592 2nd .688 3rd .683 4th .663 5th .814 6th .702 7th .798 8th .723 9th .644
The team has scored a mere 17 runs all season in the ninth inning, tied with the first inning for runs fewest scored in an inning this season. So, basically, if the Orioles don't have the lead late in the game, don't go holding your breath for that late rally to win the game.
And not to wallow in the offensive misery but I noticed these splits, too. OPS for the positions in the Baltimore batting order for 2011:
Batting OPS 1st .662 2nd .693 3rd .631 4th .699 5th .665 6th .768 7th .724 8th .792 9th .754
That top four or five spots in the order is just brutal. The Brian Roberts injury, the inexplicable Nick Markakis slump, the Felix Pie/Robert Andino hitting at the top of the order experiments and the general ineffectiveness of Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee have been crippling for this offense.
Manager Buck Showalter has been trying to address the problem. Adam Jones is the new No. 3 hitter and J.J. Hardy seems to be the best option available as a leadoff hitter right now. Maybe it's time to drop Markakis and Guerrero in the lineup? Of course, Markakis is coming around a bit and the lineup is not exactly filled with potent hitters right now. But maybe Matt Wieters as the cleanup hitter with Mark Reynolds hitting fifth and Guerrero in the sixth spot?
I'm not sure what the answer is, but it may take some out-of-the-box thinking to get the most out of this struggling offense.
Heath Bintliff blogs about the Orioles at Dempsey's Army. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.