Heath Bintliff: The Orioles’ power surge

Power makes the offense go ‘round and the Orioles received it in large doses from a quartet of sluggers over a terrific April that left them five games over .500. I thought I would take a closer look at their performances so far in terms of their Isolate Power (ISO), a stat that measures power independent of batting average.

Matt Wieters - We’ll start with Wieters, who just 14 months after being labeled one of the 50 biggest busts in baseball history, is building on his breakout 2011 season by delivering the amazing power that was hinted at when he was raking in the minors.

Here are the 10 best power seasons from a catcher in terms of ISO over the past 30 years:

Rk Player ISO Year Age Tm
1 Matt Wieters .294 2012 26 BAL
2 Todd Hundley .291 1996 27 NYM
3 Mike Piazza .290 2000 31 NYM
4 Mike Piazza .277 1997 28 LAD
5 Yadier Molina .276 2012 29 STL
6 Todd Hundley .276 1997 28 NYM
7 Chris Hoiles .274 1993 28 BAL
8 Mike Piazza .272 2001 32 NYM
9 Mike Piazza .272 1999 30 NYM
10 Mike Piazza .264 2002 33 NYM

As you can see, if Wieters keeps up this kind of hitting all season, he would have the best ISO season from a catcher in the past 30 years. He may not be “Mauer with Power,” but he certainly looks like he could be Piazza with a Gold Glove.

(As an aside, note that Chris Hoiles’ 1993 season is right up there, one of the most underrated seasons ever by an Oriole.)

Adam Jones - Jones is providing some power of his own after a minor breakout season in 2011, hitting 25 homers. This season, he has a .278 ISO a rate that would but him well in the top 10 power seasons for center fielders over the last 10 years. No center fielder who has had a .275 ISO or greater over the last 10 years has hit fewer than 30 home runs.

Jones has his flaws as a player. He still strikes out a ton and does not walk much. And his defense in center can be questionable at times. But his power potential and his ability to hit for average have always made him an intriguing player with star potential. A couple of years ago, there were rumors that the Orioles might send Jones, a San Diego native, to the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez. I objected at the time, stating that Jones could develop into every bit the power hitter that Gonzalez was. A bit of hyperbole, but Jones is coming into his own and multiple 30 home run seasons are within his reach.

Nolan Reimold - I’ve already gone on and on about Reimold. A .313 ISO and 11 extra-base hits in April. Enough said.

Chris Davis - With a .254 ISO, Davis is demonstrating more raw power than he has since his rookie season and more raw power from an Orioles first baseman since the days of Rafael Palmiero. His left-handed power has made the loss of Luke Scott easier to take and he does it for far less money. The Orioles have been committed to penciling his name into the lineup regulary and he just keeps delivering.

(Another aside, how great does that Koji Uehara trade look right now? Davis has given the O’s a productive slugging first baseman and Tommy Hunter is in a virtual dead heat for innings pitched leader for the team, even if the results have been mixed. Uehara is pitching well for Texas, but he is still just a reliever and that gap in value is apparent in Baltimore’s favor.)

A big name missing here is Mark Reynolds, who has been abysmal so far and has yet to hit a home run after crushing 37 in 2011. But Reynolds started slowly last season, too, and still is tied for the team lead with 10 walks. Unless there’s an injury we are not aware of, he should start provding some power of his own and giving the Orioles a quintet of legitiamte sluggers, something we haven’t seen in a Baltimore lineup since the days when the team had winning seasons.

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.

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