Matthew Taylor: Pondering what might have been for O’s

It’s not often that I find myself 10 pages deep into’s sortable player statistics, but that’s how far you have to go to find Mark Reynolds if you search by batting average. It turns out that page 10, which in this case lists players ranked between 451 and 500 for average, is a pretty interesting place for Orioles fans.

In addition to Reynolds who, for the record, is No. 460 for average, page 10 contains names of guys who have played for the Birds this season or who were talked about as potential acquisitions. I like to call it, somewhat ironically, the Orioles’ woulda, coulda, shoulda page.

First, there’s Cesar Izturis (No. 452) near the top of the page. To be fair, he only played in 16 games this year before landing on the 60-day disabled list. There’s a chance Izturis woulda been the Orioles’ answer at shortstop again this season had the team not traded for J.J. Hardy. That woulda been a problem given Izturis’ offensive liabilities and, more concerning, the elbow surgery that put him on the shelf.

Then there’s Jake Fox (No. 465), who coulda been a pleasant surprise in Baltimore in 2011 if spring training numbers were indicative of anything. They’re not. Fox hit .333 in the spring led the majors with 10 home runs. Then the regular season rolled around, the defensively limited Fox struggled to find regular at-bats and the O’s designated him for assignment.

Finally, we come to the shouldas. Even if you don’t follow baseball beyond the Orioles and the American League East you’ll still recognize the names of guys from other divisions and leagues who were at one time talked about as potential trade or free agent targets for the Birds.

There’s White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn (No. 481), who’s batting .179 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Dunn’s 78 strikeouts against 36 walks make Reynolds look like a discerning batter by comparison. Dunn’s just ahead of Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (No. 490). LaRoche posted a .172 average with three home runs and 15 RBIs before heading to the 15-day DL in late May.

Both Dunn and LaRoche were free agents this offseason. Their names floated through the local airwaves and bounced around the blogosphere as fans considered the possibility of having either player as the Orioles’ starting first baseman in 2011. Think back to the 2009-2010 offseason and you’ll remember a similar thing happening with both Dan Uggla and Chone Figgins, the former as a trade target and the latter as free agent.

Uggla, the Braves’ second baseman is tied with LaRoche in batting average and is ranked No. 492. Uggla’s .172 average isn’t buoyed much by his .240 on-base percentage. He’s walked 19 times and struck out 46 times. As for Figgins, nobody’s ever mistaken him for a power hitter - he’s never had even 10 home runs in a season - but what he lacks in power he typically makes up for with his ability to get aboard and provide speed on the base paths. Or at least he used to. Figgins (No. 469) is batting .186 with a .225 OBP. He’s stolen seven bases and been caught five times.

There are a lot of things the Orioles woulda, coulda, shoulda done in recent offseasons to improve their lineup. Take a visit to page 10 and you’ll see just how many of their options have turned out to be below average so far in 2011.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds will appear this week as part of’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 but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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