“Every man on this roster is important” – Twin Cities

On paper, the Orioles’ series against the Los Angeles Angels didn’t look particularly pleasant for Ryan O’Hearn and Adam Frazier.

The Angels’ roster featured left-handed starters for all three games, meaning O’Hearn and Frazier would spend most of the series on the bench.

But the two veteran lefties knew their numbers would be announced at Angel Stadium at some point. They were on Tuesday, both of them supplied clutch punches to initiate a comeback en route to a decisive victory in September.

“We’re able to do that platoon thing, which isn’t necessarily fun when you’re facing three lefties in a row,” Frazier said. “But it’s honestly impressive how deep the bench is for us. I think that’s a big reason why we’re so good. We can win the games in our favor and we have good players coming off the bench.”

The art of pinch hitting is not easy. After riding the pine for most of the game, the player must quickly break free and face a relief pitcher who often throws a nasty breaking ball at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

The Orioles rank in the middle of the pack among MLB teams in tight OPS, but Tuesday’s game-winning hits weren’t the club’s first. And if the Orioles achieve their goals of finishing the regular season and making the playoffs, they won’t be their last.

O’Hearn said in his first year with the Orioles that he had never played on a team with a bench as deep as Baltimore. Baltimore’s bench almost always includes O’Hearn and Frazier against lefties, while catcher James McCann, shortstop Jorge Mateo and outfielder Ryan McKenna are available against righties. Ramón Urías, Jordan Westburg and Aaron Hicks are the other non-starters who spend a lot of time on the bench.

“I don’t know if there are many teams like that in the league that have 13 players that could potentially play every day,” O’Hearn said.

Although O’Hearn leads the team in OPS with .834, he rarely plays against lefties. Only 22 of his 289 plate appearances this season — and 186 of his 1,360 career plate appearances — came without a southpaw. His career OPS against lefties is .562 compared to .740 against righties.

Given these divisions and his role as Bench bat for the Kansas City Royals In recent years, O’Hearn has become one of the few baseball players to have a large number of pinch hits. Although he said the role “wouldn’t have been my first choice,” his extensive experience has made him one of the best in the sport.

For his career, O’Hearn slashed .259/.341/.494 in 91 pinch-hit plate appearances. His .835 OPS is third-best in the majors among hitters with at least 90 pinch-hit plate appearances since O’Hearn’s debut in 2018.

“There will be fears associated with that. It’s just a normal human reaction when you’re put in a big situation,” said O’Hearn, who is 4-for-17 with a home run and a team-best six RBIs as a pinch hitter this season. “I think I’ve kind of learned to use those emotions as energy to achieve high batting speed and use them as a tool rather than something that can cloud my decision-making process or make the moment bigger than it is.”

McKenna, the Orioles’ fifth outfielder, has the third-most pinch-hit plate appearances on the Orioles with 12 and was the Orioles’ best player. He is 6 of 11 with a double and three runs scored.

McKenna is manager Brandon Hyde’s preferred defensive outfield backup and sometimes center fielder. He spends his time on the bench watching the game unfold to know when he might be called upon to play.

“I think it starts with just paying attention,” McKenna said. “Being engaged in the game from the first pitch, just seeing what the trends are, what the pitch count is for the other pitcher.”

But it’s what happens off the field — the detailed hitting reports, the videos on the iPads in the dugout, the pitching machines that loosely replicate different types of pitches — that make the difference in these moments.

“I think being prepared for the attack is just as important as executing the attack,” O’Hearn said.

At the start of each game, the left-handed players on the bench know which right-handed players they are most likely to face, and vice versa the same goes for the right-handed players. They know how these relievers’ fastballs move, what their best off-speed pitches are, and what zones they throw them to. They practice on the pitching machines that mimic these pitches to get a better feel for what they’re about to face.

But Frazier said even with all these tools, he doesn’t want to get lost in too much information. The 31-year-old second baseman leads the team with 20 pinch-hit plate appearances in his first season with the Orioles. While he hits 2 out of 17 in them, he is also considered one of the club’s best batsmen with runners in scoring position and in high leverage situations.

“I’m actually trying to simplify things,” he said. “I try to warm up the body and prepare it for the competition. That is the same. If you are tight rather than loose, your swing and reactions will be a little slower. You just have to get ready and compete.”

It’s not as important as starting pitching, but as the Orioles approach the playoffs, where games are shortened and benches are emptied, the performance of pinch hitters can be the difference between advancing in the postseason and hitting the ground running earlier identify the links as intended.

“There are no egos here,” O’Hearn said. “The mentality is that we want to win as a group and whoever is in the lineup that day is doing their thing and whoever isn’t is always ready to step in and help.

“Every man in this squad is important.”


https://www.twincities.com/2023/09/07/orioles-deep-bench-working-to-master-the-art-of-pinch-hitting-ahead-of-playoffs-every-man-on-this-roster-is-important/ “Every man on this roster is important” – Twin Cities


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