Recently signed outfielder, Colby Rasmus, may be the best defensive outfielder the Baltimore Orioles have. That’s a problem.
What if I told you that Colby Rasmus is the best defensive outfielder the Baltimore Orioles have? Camden Yards is hitter-friendly, as are the Orioles’ pitchers. It doesn’t help that the American League East is home to four of the top 17 hardest hitters in baseball. When Colby Rasmus instantly makes your defense better, there are major issues.
These issues aren’t new. The Orioles and Adam Jones have gone back and forth for years over his positioning in the outfield. We’ve watched Mark Trumbo lumber around right field one too many times and Trey Mancini is just learning the position after playing all 458 of his minor league games at first base. Just how bad is this outfield? It’s depressing.
Last week, Daren Willman, Director of Baseball Research for Major League Baseball, released the newest Statcast leaderboard for fans to enjoy, Catcher Pop Time. Not surprisingly, in 2017 Caleb Joseph ranked 31st in pop time to second base (2.03 secs) and 38th in arm strength (80.8 mph). As I filtered through the other leaderboards, I decided to look at the Orioles’ outfield rankings. Bottom line, the numbers are disheartening.
Simply put, the Baltimore Orioles can’t get to flyballs.
First, let’s look at sprint speed. Adam Jones came in 241st among all major leaguers with a 27.1 ft/sec sprint speed. Trey Mancini wasn’t too far behind him, coming in at 262 with a 26.9 speed. Among center fielders, Jones ranked 53rd, essentially equal with Jaycob Brugman. Mancini’s mark placed him 39th among all left fielders.
The jury is still out on how effective Outs Above Average is at measuring an outfielder’s defense. The folks over at Fangraphs, however, seem pretty certain that OAA is a better predictor of defensive capabilities than UZR. So, how do the Orioles’ stack up? Well, Mancini posted a -5 OAA, as did Trumbo. Adam Jones finished at -7. For reference, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton led the league with 25, while Matt Kemp finished in last (10 spots behind Adam Jones) with a -17.
I’ll stop picking on Mancini and Jones, specifically, though looking at stats from a team perspective doesn’t improve the dismal narrative. The Orioles went 0-134 in making a catch that had 25% or lower odds of being caught. The Arizona Diamondbacks were the only other team to not reach a single one of these balls. What about the easier catches? On balls that had a 26-50% chance of being caught, the Orioles finished 24th in turning them into outs, but 29th in making catches with a 51-75% probability. What were the outfielders good at last year? Making catches that were hit right at them, securing a third-best 98.7% of those balls.
To make matters worse, as bad as these stats seem, the players that kept the team from sinking lower in the rankings are guys we won’t see on the field much (if at all) this season.Craig Gentry’s 28.5 ft/sec sprint speed was more than a foot/sec faster than Manini and Jones. Gentry and Joey Rickard combined for six OAA and caught 71 -96 (74%) of balls hit in their direction
What does Colby Rasmus and the future bring for the Baltimore Orioles?
Looking back at 2016 Statcast data (last full season for Rasmus), Rasmus was as close to average as you can get. He made zero OAA (replacement level), but did post a sprint speed of 27.9 ft/sec, and made a higher percentage of catches than just about anyone on the Orioles roster.
Rasmus has posted a career Defensive Runs Saved total of 38 and a career UZR of 16.7. Career totals for Adam Jones in those same two categories are -12 and -34.2. Despite only one professional season, Mancini put up a -1 DRS and -4.2 UZR.
The Baltimore Orioles needed help in the outfield this offseason, but like most of their needs failed to address it. Adam Jones has pleaded for more defensive help in the outfield, and it fell on deaf ears.
Baltimore does have a tremendous athlete in the minors who is ready to bang down the doors to the major leagues. His name is Cedric Mullins. He is, arguably, the most athletic and exciting prospect in the entire farm system. An outfield of Austin Hays in left, Mullins in center, and Adam Jones in right would be a vast improvement. That is if the Orioles extend Jones this season.