It has been an oft-debated topic this winter. Do the Orioles need a big home run bat in the middle of the lineup?
There are varying opinions on that one.
A - The O's just don't have a true four-hole hitter.
B - The O's can't win without one.
C - To keep up in this division, you must have one.
D - What if a team has several mid-range homer hitters but not one huge bopper?
E - Is it buy the bats, grow the arms, or grow the bats, buy the arms?
Just kidding about that last one.
I'd like to answer "D" and feel pretty confident the 2010 Orioles can score plenty of runs without a 30-homer guy among them.
For what it is worth, Baseball Prospectus came out with a projection this week that the O's would go 79-83 and score 864 runs. That would be the most scored by any O's club since 1996 and no fan could argue about the offense with that type of run output, if they can do it.
The bigger point remains, with dozens of examples during the history of this great game - teams can win games and championships without a huge home run hitter.
Jim Hunter pointed out recently in an excellent article that balance is also key for any lineup. It can be huge to have several 20-homer types to offset one player hitting 40.
He cited the 1998 Yankees, a team that won 114 games and the World Series. Tino Martinez led that club with 28 homers. That team scored 965 runs, that is 50 more than last year's Bronx Mashers. (Last year's Yankees had four players hit 28 or more homers.)
The 2007 Red Sox won 96 games and the World Series with one player hitting more than 21 homers. But their team scored 867 runs. The eight regulars in that lineup hit a combined 142 homers and I'd take a lunch bet that the 2010 O's eight projected regulars hit more than that.
It's about scoring runs, no matter how that happens.
With Jones, Roberts, Markakis and Tejada the O's might lead the AL in doubles. They were 5th last year.
A bigger key for this O's team may be improved baserunning. So many O's were cut down on the bases in 2009 due to foolish mistakes. Just cutting that down to size will increase scoring chances.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against adding a 40-homer type, it is certainly not a bad thing. But there are many ways for a team to score over 800 runs.
The O's could lead the league in 20-homer players this year.
While the pitching will tell a lot about the Orioles this season, an improved offense and more runs will be needed. It will help the young pitchers and maybe help in the close games. In 2009, 44 percent of O's games were decided by one or two runs and the team went 29-43 in those contests.
What is your take on the state of the O's offense heading to spring training? Do they need a true cleanup hitter? Does the offense have good balance?