Monday, July 30, 2007

Out in Leftfield

It takes a special brand of incompetence to fail to surpass even the lowest expectations, but yet the Orioles' Front Office manages to find ways to do it.

Last year's left field situation for the Birds was pathetic. At a position where offense should be incredibly easy to find, a gaggle of Orioles' LF hit .248/.322/.359 in 2006. That .682 OPS was easily the worst in the majors. Jeff Conine and, inexplicably, Brandon Fahey got the lion's share of the playing time there, but Nick Markakis (before his break out), Luis Matos, David Newhan, Jeff Fiorentino and a few others saw time there. But in a perverse way, LF might have been a bright spot. Certainly it couldn't get any worse, could it?

Apparently so. With the Two Jays (Gibbons and Payton) splitting up LF duties, the team's LF have cobbled together a nifty .247/.302/.349 mark this season. But in the spirit of fairness, the Royals and the Nationals have managed to field even less impressive left fielders, at least as judged by OPS. And with 5 HR already, the LF are on their way to shattering last season's standard of 7.

At least we're not in the dark days of 2005 where the team got .239/.289/.381 production out of LF.

It really shouldn't be this hard. To go three consecutive seasons without getting a .700 OPS out of one of your four corner spots (or DH) is unacceptable. LF that can put up a .700 OPS almost literally grow on trees. Luis Terrero (.715 OPS), formerly a member of this very organization, has done it for the White Sox this year. Jon Knott could almost certainly do it. Platoon Jeff Fiorentino with someone who can hit lefties reasonably, and you wouldn't do any worse than a .650 OPS. And that would be for less than 10% of the cost of the current LF.

If the Orioles failed with cheap, inventive solutions like the ones above, it wouldn't be fun, but at least it would be better than getting that run production from two guys combining to make nearly eight figures. Maybe next year will be the year for some wise roster moves under MacPhail. Let's just hope that somehow, someway, the Two Jays aren't out in left field for the 2008 Orioles.

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