As the Orioles move to within one game of tieing the all-time record for games allowing five or more runs in a row there has been very little room for talk about the offense. Understandable.
But the offense has been sputtering too. In the month of June, the team has only scored more than three runs nine times in 22 games. That's not great for a team that was supposed to be offense-first.
What's more concerning then the raw numbers is Buck Showalter's refusal to play to the team's strengths.
Since losing Chris Davis the Orioles one through four has been something like Smith, Machado, Jones, Trumbo pretty much every night. If this was 2016 and those four players were all playing their bests that would be fine. The Orioles expected those to be the cogs that drive the bus. But outside of Smith they aren't.
Let's be clear – it's not that they are black-holes; Jones, Trumbo and Machado have all had roughly league average production. Disappointing surely, but its not like 2005 Sammy Sosa is clogging the middle of the lineup.
The problem is that other guys are putting in work and not getting moved up in the lineup. Trey Mancini entered Friday with the highest OPS on the team at .916 andslashing .313/.355/.561 – but has batted above the five spot just a handful of times. He's batted BELOW the five spot 41 times.
.916 OPS is over 200 points higher than what Mark Trumbo entered Thursday's game with. Despite that, and a hot streak, he only batted 6th on Friday. Jonathan Schoop, who has the second highest OPS on the team at .882 has spent most of the season in the 6-8 holes – 50 total games. Wellington Castillo who has played with heart and hustle and has the 5th highest OPS has only started above the six spot three times all season.
Maybe Schoop and Mancini aren't for real, but they've been consistently the best hitters on the team for nearly three months. Castillo obviously isn't the hot streak he was on, but he's been solid throughout his career. Having your 3/4 best hitters bat below the four hole just doesn't make any sense.
I understand what Buck is trying to do here. He's trying to get these struggling stars going. In the past he's used the top of the lineup to get guys going. This is a reasonable tactic, if you can get a guy an extra at-bat maybe he can get it back together a little faster. I'm not a fan of it, but I get the idea.
Do this with one guy. Not three at once (and four when Davis is in there). Three slightly below league average hitting 2/3/4 means three crucial things:
1) You're giving the opposing starting pitcher an easier first inning to get settled.
2) When the lineup turns over late in a game, you're not getting your best.
3) The players producing the most are getting the least at-bats.
Jonathan Schoop got a turn at the three spot in Thursday's game. Maybe that's a sign that this lineup is going to start to change, but we'll have to wait and see on that as Friday's game saw he and Mancini moved down again.
If Schoop started to get looks in the three hole that would be great; but as this team approaches the halfway point, it needs a radical shakeup. Small tweaks here and there are too little. The team is below .500 and neck and neck with the Jays for last place. Egos, agents, and contracts be damned.