Heath Bintliff: Brian Roberts is still missed

This post was inspired by Neal Shaffer’s guest blog from last Wednesday entitled, “Tell the truth: Do you want Brian Roberts back?” I thought about responding to his post in the comments, but had so many opinions on the subject, it seemed like it needed its own post.

First, let’s discuss Brian Roberts. Earlier this season, I wrote a post arguing that Roberts was the greatest second baseman in Orioles history. I also made the proclamation that I seriously doubted that he would have any meaningful playing time for Baltimore over the last two years of his contract. And I still have serious doubts that he will make it through his minor league rehab without some kind of setback.

But if he comes back, he has to be in the lineup batting leadoff, just for the chance that he could be even a shadow of his former self.

Roberts is the prototypical leadoff hitter. He gets on base, he can steal bases and, as an added bonus, he provides a little pop at the top of the order. Roberts’ career OBP is .353. Orioles leadoff hitters in 2012 have an OBP of .259. Outside of Nolan Reimold, nobody has provided any kind of on-base skills at the top of the order. With a combined triple slash line of .217/.259/.382, Orioles leadoff hitters have been a serious liability to the offense. Over the last three seasons, even a diminished Brian Roberts has managed a line of .272/.343/.419 which would be a serious boost to OBP from the leadoff spot as well as a very nice offensive upgrade overall.

One of the big things this offense is missing is a leadoff hitter. If you have a shot at getting one back, even for a month of two, you grab it. If Roberts gets the all-clear after his minor league rehab assignment, stick him in there and see what he has left.

Secondly, let’s discuss Robert Andino. The fact that there is even a question about whether Roberts should be the starting second baseman when he returns shows how much Andino has become overvalued.

Andino is a nice player. I like him. He is a good fielder and the bat has developed enough as to not be embarrassing. But make no mistake, he is a utility guy. If not for injury, he should not be a starting major league team. Not for a team that could win. For 2011-2012, Andino has a slash line of .262/.324/.348. For 2010-2011, Brian Roberts has a line of .254/.321/.366. Even at his best, Andino cannot even match Roberts’ worst. You can’t get carried away with Andino, he’s just a role player and Roberts is a star. Andino will be a decent bench player playing some third base, spelling J.J. Hardy at shortstop and giving Roberts days off as he works his way back into the lineup. He can be quite valuable in that role.

So if and when Brian Roberts finishes his minor league rehab, he should be back in the starting lineup and hitting leadoff immediately. He is making $20 million over 2012-2013 so we might as well get the most out of him.

A decision between Roberts and Andino? It’s not even close.

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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