Has Buck Showalter worn the Orioles out?
Sept. 22, 2013
Something tells me Buck Showalter and Cal Ripken Jr. would have gotten along well as manager and player. Buck likes guys to play every day, and Cal played every day.
Naturally, Showalter faces the same critique that Ripken faced throughout the streak (I'm looking at you, Ken Rosenthal). It's called the fatigue factor, and thanks to Tom Verducci O's fans are wondering if the 2013 Orioles are flat worn out.
Verducci noted as part of Saturday's national Fox broadcast that the Orioles were the only team with five guys to have played 150 or more games to that point in the season: Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Nick Markakis. Looking more deeply into the O's numbers for this year along with Showalter's overall managerial record, there's a clear pattern.
Consider the following:
-The Orioles have three players in the Top 10 for at-bats in all of baseball. Manny Machado entered Sunday's game with 660 at-bats, the most in baseball. Adam Jones had 630 and Nick Markakis had 607. No other team has more than one player in the Top 10 for at-bats.
-Showalter has had at least one player appear in 160 games in each of the last seven full seasons he has managed. Luis Gonzalez (2000), Alex Rodriguez (2003), Michael Young (2004), Mark Teixeira (2005), Teixeira (2006), Nick Markakis (2011), and Adam Jones (2012).
-Showalter's streak is likely to continue as both Jones and Machado have played in every Orioles games this season.
The closest parallel to this year's Orioles among Showalter-led teams is the 2005 Texas Rangers.
The Rangers had five players appear in 150 or more games: Mark Teixeira (162), Hank Blalock (161), Michael Young (159), Alfonso Soriano (156), and Kevin Mench (150). The Orioles also have five players who have appeared in 150 or more games: Machado 155, Jones 155, Davis 154, Markakis 153, Hardy 152.
The Rangers led the big leagues with 260 home runs. The Orioles currently lead the bigs with 200 home runs.
The Rangers had three of the Top 10 players for at-bats: Michael Young (fourth with 668); Hank Blalock (eighth with 647); and Teixeira (tied for ninth with 644). And, as is the case with the Orioles this year, no other team had more than one player in the top 10 for at-bats.
After improving by 18 games by winning 89 games in 2004, the Rangers dropped 79-83 record in 2005. Despite an otherwise successful September, the Rangers went 4-8 in their last 12. An 11-18 August seemed to be their undoing. The Orioles, meanwhile, improved by 24 games by winning 93 in 2013 and are currently stuck on 81 wins. They've lost four straight. they went 12-14 in August.
It's clear that Buck Showalter believes in playing his top guys nearly every day, so it's fair to ask if that strategy wears guys out. However, that question shouldn't distract fans from the pitching problems that limited this year's team to being good rather than being great.
Solid pitching earlier in the season - the kind that the O's have been getting during this weekend's series with the Rays - would have allowed the team to rest players in preparation for the playoffs. Instead, the entire team will likely be resting from home during the playoffs.
In other words, fatigue is not the primary reason the Orioles won't reach the postseason.