Say this for the Orioles: they're no copycats.
While the latest fashion in baseball is to emulate the Royals, Baltimore has gone the opposite direction. Never mind slap-happy singles hitters and speed. The O's are all about dialing long distance.
With their latest acquisition -- the team introduced Pedro Alvarez on Thursday -- general manager Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles' brain trust have doubled down on their way of doing things. If the O's beat you, they will likely do so with home runs. Not with singles, or walks, or moving runners. With the long ball. And often with solo homers.
The 2015 Orioles went a good ways down this road. They ranked third in the American League in homers, 10th in batting average, 12th in on-base percentage and had the third-most strikeouts. The 2016 team adds Mark Trumbo and Alvarez. They expect to have full, healthy seasons from J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters, two more players known for hitting the ball a long way but not so much for keeping innings alive.
If Dave Kingman were a lineup, he might be the 2016 Orioles. Maybe more accurately, if the offensive trends of the past five years or so were a lineup, they'd be the 2016 Orioles. Alvarez's addition makes six Orioles who have hit at least 30 homers in a season. Wieters wouldn't shock anybody if he got there. Jonathan Schoop hit 15 in 305 at-bats last year, and it likewise would be no huge stunner if he pushed 30.
So the question is, will it work? Let's take a look at recent history.
The first thing that jumps out is that this style of offense has become the Oriole way. In the past 10 years, six teams have hit at least 200 home runs while finishing in the bottom third in their league in on-base percentage. Three of those teams are the 2015, 2014 and 2012 Orioles. The 2013 O's just missed, ranking 10th in the AL in OBP. The other three teams on the list are the 2010 Blue Jays, the 2009 Rangers and the 2006 Tigers. Whatever happens, the O's can't say they didn't see it coming.
The results, meanwhile, are oddly consistent. Every one of these teams had a decent offense. Not a single one of them had a great offense. The AL ranks in runs scored for the squads I just mentioned: Seventh, sixth, ninth, sixth, seventh and fifth. The best were the '14 O's, who were sixth out of 15 AL teams, and the '06 Tigers, fifth out of 14.
It's more or less the same story in overall results. Every one of these teams was at least pretty good, and the best were the same two clubs. The '14 O's won 96 games and advanced to the AL Championship Series; the '06 Tigers won 95 and a pennant. The '12 O's won 93 games and lost in the Division Series. All of the clubs won at least 81 games, and all but one won more than that.
The most extreme of these offenses was the '10 Blue Jays. They hit a staggering 257 homers, leading the AL by 46 -- more than 20 percent more than any other team in the league. Their .312 OBP ranked 12th in what was then a 14-team AL, 15 points worse than league average -- only the '09 Rangers were further off the league-average OBP. And the Jays were fourth in strikeouts. That added up to the No. 6 scoring offense in the league.
That gap between the team OBP and the league OBP may be instructive. One difference in the past few Orioles teams is that while their OBP ranks have been low, they haven't been that far off the league average. Everybody's OBPs are down. So the '15 Orioles' .307 mark was 11 points below average. The '14 team, a mere five points.
This will likely be the key thing to watch. If the O's slug a ton of homers, strike out a lot and don't get on base, the determining factor may not be just how many homers or just how many Ks. It may be how close to a league-average on-base rate they can stay.