The first month of the Baltimore Orioles season was driven by the hitters. Baltimore was not shut out in April and has scored a good amount of runs.
The top third of the lineup has been nothing short of outstanding. Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have gotten on base consistently for the middle of the order.
The middle third has done good enough job of getting runs home. Aubrey Huff and a mixture of Melvin Mora, Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton produced enough runs to help the Orioles get some early series wins over New York, Tampa Bay and Texas and off to a 6-3 start.
However, the lower third of the batting order has been terrible. Gregg Zaun has been known more for his defense, Felix Pie can’t seem to get his skills to work at the Major League level and Cesar Izturis has struggled at the plate.
Manager Dave Trembley has tried other combinations at the bottom of the order that have begun to work.
So how would I grade the Orioles hitters?
The Orioles leadoff hitter has played in all 32 games season and is hitting a solid .290. Roberts has 38 hits, 12 of which are for extra bases. The only thing lacking from his play this season is his stolen bases.
Roberts only has four stolen bases all season. I will give him a “B” so far because his average could be higher and he should have more stolen bases.
Jones has been as good as advertised. When the O’s traded Erik Bedard for Jones and four others, this is the player they were expecting. He has shown improvement in plate discipline, defense and power numbers.
The Orioles’ centerfielder has powered his way to being a co-leader in home runs. Like Roberts, Jones has to work on is stolen bases. I grade Jones with an “A-” at this point in the season. Most Improved Player
What is there to say about Nick Markakis? He is the most well-rounded player on the Orioles. His defense last season was Gold Glove-caliber and his offense has only gotten better.
Likes Jones, Markakis has hit six home runs to help lead the Orioles. Markakis is second on the team in batting average posting one of .352. Markakis gets an “A+” for his efforts this season. MVP
Huff has reverted back to his pre-2008 form. He hasn’t been terrible, but he also hasn’t been hitting with the same authority that he showed last season. Huff has played in every game this season collecting 31 RBI and six home runs.
His .268 batting average is closer to his career numbers than the .304 average he posted last season. Huff gets a “B-” so far.
Mora spent two weeks on the disabled list in April. One would have thought coming off his strong July and August in 2008 Mora could have carried over that success to this season. That hasn’t been the case, and Mora has struggled out of the gate in 2009.
In 62 at-bats Mora has two home runs and is hitting .242. These numbers are low for a No. 5 hitter. I give Mora an incomplete at this point in the season.
Scott currently may be taking some time off, but has righted himself after struggling for a bit to begin the season. Wigginton seems to be in a funk. The two-headed designated hitter has combined for six home runs and 25 RBI.
Scott is hitting a robust .303 while Wigginton is scuffling to a .198 average. The DH position gets a “C” and is being brought down by Wigginton’s struggles.
Zaun has gotten hot recently, but has never really been known as a hitter. His work with the pitching staff has been exemplary. The switch-hitting catcher has one home run and three RBI while hitting .210.
His grade is a “C+” because going in to the season everyone knew he wasn’t much of a hitter, but he has helped the pitching staff cut down on walks.
It is hard to combine these two players. Pie hasn’t been able to get it together anywhere. He’s struggled with the bat and has had trouble transitioning to the left field position. He has, however, shown flashes while stumbling out to a .183 average.
Montanez has looked average since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. He has one home run and five RBI, but has come up with a few clutch hits for the Birds.
I would give Felix Pie a “C-” and Lou Montanez an incomplete.
Cesar Izturis is another player known primarily for his glove. Lately, his bat has started to come around and he has gotten his average up to .244 which is close to his career numbers.
Izturis delivered a big home run on Opening Day but hasn’t done much in the power department since. His grade for April is a “C” because of his knack for banging out important hits.