When the Orioles entered the 2010 offseason, their focus was to add power to a lineup that saw spurts from some players, but lacked an impact bat that could hammer mistakes. Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee entered, expected to change things. Lee is now in Pittsburgh and enjoyed a two home run debut for the Bucs, but the team has still seen a dramatic increase in power.
After ranking 21st in the majors in home runs in 2010 with 133, the Orioles mashed their way to 125 so far in 2011. That total puts them in 5th place in the majors, just ahead of Jose Bautista and his Toronto Blue Jays.
With the Orioles clearly on pace to shatter last year's number, let's take a look at the guys that have been the main contributors and who will contribute for the rest of the season.
I'll admit that this is sort of a joke, but Britton hit very well in his three interleague starts outside of Baltimore.
In his eight at-bats, Britton notched five hits, including a double and a home run. His last couple of starts have been nightmarish, but he can rest well knowing that his OPS in his rookie season will be a whopping 1.750. Eat your heart out, Jose Bautista!
Wieters is still finding his power stroke at the big league level, but he'll set a career high this year in home runs and he has a ton of room to grow.
You'd sort of expect a 6'5", 225 pound guy to hit the ball hard, but Wieters can crush the ball and make it look easy. His swing is just so smooth that it doesn't even seem like he is putting that much into it, but he can rocket balls all over the place.
Wieters only has 10 home runs so far this year, one less than his career high, but he has the potential to do more in future years. As one of the fans in attendance for career home run number one, I can attest to the fact that this guy has power. He hit that home run (and the next few) opposite field, which takes some true power.
I could list off all of the numbers for J.J. Hardy among shortstops and it would be impressive. He missed time this year with an injury, but is still third among shortstops in home runs with 18. That's all well and good, but his numbers aren't just good for a shortstop. His numbers are good for anyone.
To put it into perspective, Hardy has hit home runs at a pace of one per 17.4 at-bats. That pace is 15th best in the majors, ahead of such sluggers as Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard. He is second on the team in that category, but I'll get back to that later.
Hardy's resurgence earned him a three year extension in Baltimore, which is big because it's rare to find a shortstop with such incredible power. The only two shortstops with more home runs are Troy Tulowitzki and Asdrubal Cabrera. That's pretty good company.
When the Orioles traded for Adam Jones in 2008, they thought they may have a five tool outfielder with the potential to become a star. Jones is finally starting to show more consistency with all five tools and the power is better than ever before.
Like Wieters, Jones is just one home run shy of his career high in home runs. Jones has hit 19 home runs each of the past two seasons, but this season, he is hitting home runs with more swagger. The balls are launching like never before and Jones is starting to remind me of his mentor, Torii Hunter.
Jones still lacks patience at the plate, but when a pitcher makes a mistake, Jones lets the ball fly into the stands in left.
Chris Davis may only be two games into his Orioles career, but he immediately jumped to the top of the power rankings. There's a reason why teams switched from calling Texas to calling Baltimore after Davis got dealt this weekend.
Davis hasn't been able to reproduce the power that allowed him to hit 17 home runs in just 80 games in his rookie year, but it comes partly because he wasn't developed enough at the time and then never got a fair chance. The opportunity now with the Orioles gives Chris Davis the chance to become the 30 home run guy that Texas thought they had in 2008.
Despite not having the big Major League numbers so far this year, he has a combined 28 home runs now between Triple-A Round Rock, Texas and Baltimore, which is an encouraging sign.
Chris Davis hit his first Orioles home run last night against the Royals and there are many more where that came from. With the help of Jim Presley, Davis should start making more contact, so the home runs should follow.
I mentioned that I would get back to who led the Orioles in AB/HR. If you hadn't figured it out already, it is Mark Reynolds, who cranks out a bomb every 14.7 at-bats, which ranks 6th in the majors. He blasted his 24th home run last night against the Royals and continues to not only clear the fence, but clear the seats as well.
When I heard David Ortiz was selecting the AL participants in the Home Run Derby, I thought Reynold was a shoo-in to be invited because he faces Ortiz often, had 20 home runs at the time and had played for Arizona for his entire career up until 2011. I was shocked when Ortiz chose Robinson Cano instead. Why would he take the guy on his most hated rival team who had also only hit 15 home runs? To win.
That said, I think that Reynolds would have won if he was invited. The shear power that is in Mark Reynolds' swing can devastate ecosystems. Reynolds demolishes balls with ease and has done it consistently for the past five years. Since entering the league in 2007, Reynolds ranks 13th in the majors in home runs with 144. He played his first full season in 2008 and from then until now, Reynolds is 6th in the majors with 127 home runs.
The trade of David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio has turned out pretty good for the Orioles. Reynolds is on pace to hit 37 home runs, which would be the second highest total of his career. The more amazing thing is that he probably won't strike out 200 times in the process.