Talking plate discipline, walks and splits with Orioles manager Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles manager, signs autographs for fans during spring training at the Orioles' Florida facility. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)

SARASOTA, FLA. — In reporting for the article in today's newspaper about first baseman-outfielder Chris Parmelee, I asked manager Buck Showalter yesterday about plate discipline.

Parmelee arrived in the major leagues with a .395 on-base percentage in Triple-A, partially based on a remarkable 14.1 percent walk rate in the minors. He has struggled to duplicate that in the majors.


The Orioles lineup is known for its aggressiveness at the plate. But when the Orioles aren't hitting home runs, like they often do, the aggressive mindset hurts the team's on-base capabilities. That's one of the reasons why Parmelee is here competing for a major league roster spot.

But just how tough is it to continue putting up solid walk numbers in the major leagues after showing that skill in Triple-A?


"I think the mentality translates," Showalter said. "You can't take until you hit. It's hit until you take. If I said, [do you want] a guy who is hitting .320 with 20 home runs and no walks or a guy who hits .280 with a bunch of walks and six home runs, which one is going to correlate at the next level more?

"The better the stuff, the [more] pitches you should be taking? It gets washed out because the better the hitter, the more comfortable you feel swinging the bat. You can teach the mentality and the philosophy, but the physical skill of it, you're not going to see it fluctuate a lot."

Showalter pointed out that Adam Jones, who has a walk rate of 4.3 percent (the league average is 8 percent), won't be walking 100 times this year after his fourth straight season of at least 25 homers and 80 RBIs.

"We can get him to somewhere else, but would something else suffer?" Showalter said. "I don't know."

Showalter also said Monday that in replacing the void in right field created by Nick Markakis' departure, he sees a "two- or three-headed player" there to replace him, meaning that he believes a combination of players could be playing the position.

Expect the combination of Travis Snider, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young to take up most of those at-bats. Players like Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez and Chris Parmelee also will compete for opportunities there during spring training.

"It also allows us to keep everybody in the flow and create a role for everybody to make contributions and fit their skill set, but if somebody steps out there and takes off with it," it could change, Showalter said. "Is the reason they're having success because of the way they're being used or is the reason they're having success is they're ready to take the full-time mantle?

"I don't know, because all of a sudden, you run them out there every day and a different guy shows up. That's why I think Steve's graduated a little bit from that because he's played every day. Stevie's got a grasp of what he is and what he's got to do to be successful."

But Showalter falls short of saying there will be a typical platoon in right field, because he said most of those players have solid splits.

The left-handed-hitting Snider actually hits lefties (.249) slightly better than right-handers (.245), but he had a solid .381 average in 32 games against lefties last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pearce, a right-handed hitter, has hit left-handers at a .280 average in his career (and just .240 against right-handers), and that trend held during his breakthrough season in 2014, when he batted .327 against lefties and.279 against right-handers.

And Young fares much better against left-handers, hitting .302 against them in his career (.276 against right-handers). But last season, Young actually hit better against right-handers (.312) than left-handers (.282).


So, basically, none of those hitters really hurt you from either side of the plate. It also gives Showalter some flexibility to use them elsewhere on the diamond or as the designated hitter.

Snider and Young can play both corner outfield spots. Pearce can, too, and Showalter is determined to give him more time at first base to spell Chris Davis.

"We don't have a lot of guys who are a huge split," Showalter said. "It's not like Delmon against a right-handed pitcher or Steve against a right-handed pitcher or Travis versus left or Chris Davis versus left. It's not something where you're just like, 'We've got to get him out of here.' That's encouraging. If we stay healthy, we should have a pretty good balance."



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