Comparing the 2014 Orioles Lineup to the 2012 Playoff Team
The Baltimore Orioles' 2012 season was magical by all means for a team that had suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons to persevere by not only achieving the first winning season since 1997, but reaching the playoffs for the first time in that same time span as well.
Although they lost in a dramatic five-game ALDS to the New York Yankees, the Orioles' accomplishments in winning the wild-card play-in game against the Texas Rangers, and the fact that they were among the AL's best, inspired hope in their fanbase.
Fast-forward one-and-a-half years later and the Orioles have begun the 2014 season with a lineup that has had little turnover from the 2012 playoff lineup, which is a testament to the front office's stance that they should covet their own players over personnel from outside the organization.
Let's take a position-by-position look at who is holding down each position in the 2014 lineup, who held the position during the 2012 playoffs and if the team has gotten better, worse or stayed about the same in those spots based on offensive statistics.
C: 2014 Matt Wieters, 2012 Matt Wieters
2012: Matt Wieters
Matt Wieters had solid production all around regarding his basic offensive stats for 2012. Although he tied for a career low at the time in batting average with .249, Wieters set new career highs in home runs and runs batted in.
2014: Matt Wieters
.321 BA, .365 OBP, 9 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB (15 games)
So far in 2014, Wieters is having one of the greatest one-month stretches of his career, batting over 30 points higher than his previous career high in batting average set in his rookie year of 2009 (.288) and getting on base at an elite level, surpassing the .350 mark.
Perhaps the most notable cause to Wieters' remarkably high batting average is his particular split batting left-handed (.375), an area that has been the cause of criticism in the past for the switch-hitter. Whatever the case may be to his hot start, if Wieters can perform close to what he has done so far in 2014, he will have the greatest offensive season of his career.
1B: 2014 Chris Davis, 2012 Mark Reynolds
2012: Mark Reynolds
.221 BA, .335 OBP, 65 R, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 1 SB (135 games)
Despite causing many Orioles fans to constantly roll their eyes at his free-swinging ways, Mark Reynolds' high walk total (73) allowed him to boost his on-base percentage over 100 points higher than his batting average. Reynolds was also a member of the 20-plus-homer club along with four other Orioles.
2014: Chris Davis
.234 BA, .378 OBP, 11 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2 SB (19 games)
Chris Davis' power numbers are off to a slow start this season, as the home run king from last year has only gone yard once so far. The burly left-handed hitter has been contributing in other areas, though, posting a .378 on-base percentage that ranks among the AL's best.
Chris Davis is hands down the better player, as he has proved last year that he is one of the strongest men in all of baseball. Davis' drought won't last for long, and when the season ends, we'll probably see him with at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in on the year.
2B: 2014 Ryan Flaherty, 2012 Ryan Flaherty
2012: Ryan Flaherty
.216 BA, .258 OBP, 15 R, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB (77 games)
Ryan Flaherty's rookie season with the Orioles will never be talked about in the same regard as fellow infielders Manny Machado and, so far, Jonathan Schoop's. Flaherty never provided an impact bat to a loaded Baltimore lineup, and was known instead for his defensive prowess.
2014: Ryan Flaherty
.204 BA, .278 OBP, 7 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB (16 games)
After an impressive spring training that saw the second baseman hit for a stellar .294/.351/.529 slash line, Flaherty quickly reverted back to his old ways of retaining a poor batting average coupled with an equally poor on-base percentage for a starter.
The 2014 version of Flaherty is no different from its predecessor, as his numbers are nearly identical, except for the fact that his slugging percentage is down 94 points from 2012.
3B: 2014 Jonathan Schoop, 2012 Manny Machado
2012: Manny Machado
.262 BA, .294 OBP, 24 R, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB (51 games)
Manny Machado's call-up in the middle of the 2012 season took many fans by surprise in a good way. Heralded for his offensive potential equally as much for his defensive skills, Machado didn't disappoint, providing solid numbers for a rookie at the hot corner, including seven second-half home runs.
2014: Jonathan Schoop
.242 BA, .242 OBP, 7 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB (16 games)
Following a superb spring training in which he put up a .385/.432/.667 slash line, Jonathan Schoop forced the Orioles' hands, landing him a spot on the Opening Day roster. So far, Schoop has been somewhat solid, offensively that is. Filling in for an injured Machado, Schoop is hitting for a meager .242 average, but has knocked in eight baserunners over the course of 14 games.
Taking defensive ability out of the equation, these two young infielders seem to profile similar to each other offensively in their rookie seasons, and Schoop's ability to drive in runs considering his spot in the lineup and number of games played is certainly worth taking note of.
SS: 2014 J.J. Hardy, 2012 J.J. Hardy
2012: J.J. Hardy
.238 BA, .282 OBP, 85 R, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 0 SB (158 games played)
The 2012 season was a very productive one for Gold Glove-winning shortstop J.J. Hardy. Even though Hardy finished with a below-average batting average and on-base percentage, he hit 22 dingers and drove in 68 baserunners. Hardy also stayed extremely healthy, appearing in all but four games.
2014: J.J. Hardy
.256 BA, .267 OBP, 4 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB (11 games played)
This year's version of Hardy definitely suggests signs of aging from the 31-year-old shortstop, as the power-hitting, defensive whiz has missed several games so far dealing with injury, the most recent one being a strained right hamstring. Nagging injuries have sapped Hardy's power and without it, there's nothing much to be desired offensively speaking.
Although it's too early to determine whether Hardy will regain his power stroke this season, the Hardy of two years ago is the better player, as he contributed excellent numbers for a shortstop in the counting stats.
LF: 2014 Nelson Cruz, 2012 Nate McLouth
2012: Nate McLouth
.268 BA, .342 OBP, 35 R, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 12 SB (55 games played w/ BAL)
After being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2012 MLB trade deadline, Nate McLouth was signed to a minor league contract by the Baltimore Orioles and quickly became the club's primary leadoff man and offensive catalyst. The speedy outfielder excelled at getting on base and swiped 12 bags in well under half a season's worth of games with the birds.
2014: Nelson Cruz
.290 BA, .372 OBP, 12 R, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB (18 games played)
Left fielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz has been the Orioles' best offensive weapon this season. A perennial threat to put up 25-plus-homer seasons, Cruz is off to a hot start, having already hit four and driven in a team-high 16 RBI through 18 games played.
It's really a matter of preference between the two on whether you want power or speed from the left field spot, but seeing as how well Cruz is performing on a per-game basis in key offensive categories, the left field position has definitely improved.
CF: 2014 Adam Jones, 2012 Adam Jones
2012: Adam Jones
.287 BA, .334 OBP, 103 R, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB (162 games played)
Adam Jones, considered by most to be the face of the franchise, had a benchmark season in 2012, notching 30 homers for the first time and appearing in all 162 games of the regular season. Jones also set a career high in runs scored and stolen bases with 103 and 16, respectively.
2014: Adam Jones
.289 BA, .321 OBP, 9 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2 SB (19 games played)
Through 19 games played so far in 2014, Jones has been relatively steady. The free-swinging power hitter holds a batting average slightly under .300 and an on-base percentage that isn't much higher, much like in 2012. Jones has only one homer on the season, but he has proven in the past that his offensive numbers at the end of the season are always guaranteed to be elite.
There's not much difference in these two seasons for Jones unless you nitpick the slow start out of the gate home run wise. Jones is showing he's still going to be a looming threat on the basepaths and is performing slightly better in the batting average and on-base percentage categories.
RF: 2014 Nick Markakis, 2012 Chris Davis
2012: Chris Davis
.270 BA, .326 OBP, 75 R, 33 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB (139 games played)
After suffering a broken thumb in early September of the 2012 season, Nick Markakis was forced to miss the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs, forcing Chris Davis to man right field to close out the year. Davis had perhaps one of the quietest 30-homer seasons in recent memory, hitting more than 20 long balls for the first time since 2009, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers.
2014: Nick Markakis
.275 BA, .330 OBP, 9 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB (19 games played)
Make no mistake about it, Nick Markakis is doing exactly what he needs to do for the club; getting on base at a good rate for the heart of the Baltimore order to drive him in. Still, there's much to be desired from the longtime Oriole that was once lauded as the future of the franchise, in particular, better power numbers.
Markakis is having a very productive year so far holding down the leadoff role for the ballclub, it's just the fact that Davis had such a monster season in 2012 that it largely overshadows Markakis' 2014 production.
DH: 2014 Delmon Young, 2012 Jim Thome
2012: Jim Thome
.257 BA, .348 OBP, 8 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB (28 games played with BAL)
Acquired in a trade with the Philladelphia Phillies in late June of 2012 for two minor league prospects, designated hitter Jim Thome provided veteran leadership and solid production to a spot in the lineup that was in flux all year long.
2014: Delmon Young
.306 BA, .359 OBP, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB (9 games played)
Designated hitter/left fielder Delmon Young has been outstanding so far in the limited amount of time he has seen game action. Through nine games played so far, the still-in-his-prime 28-year-old is putting up solid numbers in the batting average and on-base percentage categories.
Even though Thome edges out Young power-wise, I'm still leaning towards the Young of this year as a better option than 2012 Thome. Young is still relatively young and has logged at least 120 games played in the past four years, excluding 2013, and has the potential to be a key contributor in the middle of the Orioles' lineup.
2014 Orioles Lineup vs. 2012 Orioles Playoff Lineup
Both of these lineups are loaded with talent—specifically the current one, which has improved with the development of players who are rollovers from the earlier version, and with the acquisition of key free agents.
In the end, the 2014 Orioles lineup boasts players that have improved significantly in plate awareness and sheer power.
Winner: 2014 Orioles Lineup