JOSH BELL HACKS INTO THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES RECORD BOOK
Baltimore Orioles 3B Josh Bell is setting a record pace in this, his rookie season. With just 14 games remaining, Bell appears to be posting the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in Orioles history. With 50 strikeouts against just two walks in his first 144 official at bats, the 23-year-old Rockford, Illinois-native is all alone in franchise annals with his rate of 25 whiffs per free pass.
Okay, Mike Cuellar struck out 54 times against two walks in 1971. Cuellar K’d 43 times with walking even once another season, and posted a 145:4 ratio when the Birds won three straight AL pennants from 1969-71. Of course he was a pitcher who won 67 regular season games in the same span. Amongst position players, Bell is pioneering a new extreme.
Reserve catchers Vic Rozvovsky and Larry Haney set the small sample size marks with a 20:1 mark in 1967 and a 19:0 effort in 1968, respectively. Baltimore’s award for most whiffs and fewest base-on-balls ought to be named in honor of the late Jerry Adair. Until the second-sacker put up a 51:9 ratio in 1963, no Orioles player had ever had a mark that really jumped out as that unaceptable. Even worse for Adair, two of the nine walks he did draw were intentional!
A handful of Orioles deserve honorable mention for their impatient ways. Utilityman Freddie Bynum logged a 30:2 ratio in 2007, and found himself out of the big leagues after one more season with a .275 career OBP. The last 86 at bats of Mike Figga’s career came in 1999, when he K’d 27 times against two walks for the Orioles. Reserve infielders Jackie Gutierrez (1986) and Manny Alexander (1996) each achieved 27:3 ratios, and modern counterpart Brandon Fahey (2008) got as far as 25:3. That trio got one more at bat in a Baltimore uniform between them.
Three more Birds managed to wind up with ratios in the 6:1 to 6 1/2 :1 neighborhood. Shortstop Kiko Garcia sported a 43:7 figure in 1978, similar to the 44:7 rate John Shelby finished with in 1985. Second-baseman Juan Bell was slightly worse with 51:8 in 1991. Those three players all finished their big league careers with on-base percentages between .281 and .286.
Floyd Rayford struck out 69 times versus 10 walks in 1985, but batted .306 with 18 homers in just 359 at bats. Two years later he was out of the league, however, hanging ’em up with a .283 major league OBP.
The most hideously unbalanced K:BB ratios in Birds history came from a pair of right-handed sluggers who’d been home run champions at lower levels before breaking into the big leagues as Orioles. Jim Fuller wallopped 106 minor league homers from 1971-73, but flopped in his best big league opportunity, the following year. In 1974, Fuller walked just eight times (two of those were intentional) versus 68 strikeouts for the Birds. Before the decade was through, Baltimore brought in Mexican home run king Andres Mora, who whiffed 53 times against five free passes (one intentional) in 1977. Neither Fuller or Mora finished with a MLB OBP better than .256, so they didn’t get many chances to demonstrate their power.
Based on this group of peers, Bell’s chances of long-term success might seem slim. He has to learn how to hit left-handed AND right-handed at the major league level, and he did put up a .357 minor league OBP over six seasons. Bell is young with pop in his bat, so he’s got a shot, but for now he’ll have to be content with meeting my favorite First Lady, homering off a former Cy Young winner, and setting a dubious record during his rookie year.