Some fans may have been surprised this week when manager Buck Showalter was asked about Jake Fox.
A reporter wanted to know if someone with seven homers (Fox) could still possibly not make this team come Opening Day.
“Yes,” Showalter replied.
I would guess he said that for a couple of reasons. One, he knows there are still almost two weeks of games left and a lot can still happen. Two, he knows defense is still such a big part of the equation.
Not a knock on Fox’s defense, but it seems Showalter is hoping to be impressed by his play there as well, and considers it rather important.
I have seen too many successful Orioles teams through the years win with pitching and defense to think it’s any less important today than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The San Francisco Giants won last year’s World Series thanks to great pitching.
To me, pitching and defense go hand in hand. They need each other and sure can help each other.
Fox should get major props for hitting seven spring homers. But if his defense is shaky, he still could miss out on making this team and Buck knows that.
The Orioles’ great 34-23 finish under Showalter last year had much more to do with pitching and defense than offense.
During those 57 games, the O’s averaged just 4.1 runs per game. Over a full season, that projects to 664 runs. If a team would have scored that many last year in the AL, that team would have finished 11th in the league in runs.
So how did the O’s win all those games?
Well, their team ERA for those 57 contests was 3.54. Oakland led the AL last season over 162 games with an ERA of 3.56.
Under Showalter the O’s scored about one-half run more per game, but the ERA dropped by about a run and a half per contest. The pitching and defense showed the way, and they won nearly 60 percent of their games with an offense ranked 11th best in the league.
When it comes to some fans and even those of us that report on the team, we can get smitten with offense. Also, defense is so much harder to quantify and put a number on. We often seem to feel a player’s offensive output will overcome any defensive shortcomings.
There is no stat in the boxscore for runs saved. But there are for RBI, hits, runs, batting with runners in scoring position and so many other offensive statistics.
This is in no way discounting the amazing spring performance of Fox. I don’t care if he is hitting just fastballs for all his homers. Other players are seeing a lot of fastballs and they haven’t hit seven home runs.
The Orioles have made some nice upgrades to their offense and we all can’t wait to see it in action. But we can’t forget that what happens when they are in the field is likely more important to any success they may have. It was true in 1971 and still is today.
Hope to see you this Monday: We will have another MASNsports.com chat with fans this Monday, March 21st at 6 p.m. at Hightopps on York Road in Timonium. Come on out for a Q and A, some trivia, prizes and more.