A healthy Nolan Reimold could be a real X factor for Orioles offense

The assumption seems to be that the Orioles offense needs to get better and needs a key addition before the start of the 2013 season. This after the club scored just 15 runs in six postseason games and finished ninth in the American League in runs scored last year, 10th in batting average and 11th in on-base percentage.

But while those numbers cover the entire 2012 season, the O’s offense was better in the second half.

The Orioles hit .240 with an OPS of .704 and they scored 4.13 runs per game, before the 2012 All-Star break. After the break, the O’s hit .255 with an OPS of .755 and they scored 4.69 runs per game. Had they scored at that pace all year, the Orioles would have finished fourth in the American League in runs scored. The AL average was 4.45 runs per game last year.

In September, the Orioles offense produced more than at any point during the 2012 season with an average of .257, an OPS of .771 and 5.1 runs per game.

So what does this all mean? Is the O’s offense better than some think it is? Possibly. And the entire second half, where the club averaged 4.69 runs per game, over the league average, is in a large sample size.

It doesn’t mean the club should or would turn its back on that middle-of-the-order bat. But what will be the cost in salary via free agency or players via a trade?

An X factor for the 2013 offense could be Nolan Reimold. We all keep waiting to see what he could do with 500 at-bats, but he can’t seem to stay healthy enough to get them. After his neck surgery the hope and expectation are that Reimold will be full-go come spring training.

Reimold began the 2012 season with a red-hot bat. Over 16 games until his latest injury, he hit .313 with six doubles, five homers, 10 RBIs, a .627 slugging percentage and OPS of .960.

In his career, Reimold has an on-base percentage of .338, a slugging average of .455 and a .794 OPS. Only three O’s regulars bettered that OPS last season, with Adam Jones at .839, Nick Markakis at .834 and Chris Davis at .827.

At this point, to me, the question is less about whether Reimold would perform well if he gets 500 at-bats and more about whether he will stay on the field to get them.

The fans have a right to be skeptical. But while Reimold has been dogged by injuries in recent years he also did get 507 at-bats in 2008, 467 in 2009, 453 in 2010 and 406 in 2011. He’s been on the field a little more than it seems.

Reimold remains a key to the O’s offense. Could he do in 2013 what Chris Davis did last year? The improvement of the Orioles bats in the second half of 2012, combined with the return of a healthy Reimold, would leave the offense in much better shape than it appears to be right now.

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