Due to nagging back injuries, Brian Roberts only played in 59 games last season. This season, due mostly to lingering concussion symptoms, Roberts has been limited to 39 games. And judging by the latest news, Roberts will not be returning to the lineup anytime soon, certainly not before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, not only have Roberts’ extended stays on the DL deprived the team of its only true leadoff hitter and a great defensive 2B, they have also raised the possibility of a very dark prospect for the O’s future: the impending end of Roberts’ career.
Such an early and sudden end to Roberts’ career would be highly unpalatable for a couple reasons. First is the most obvious: his tremendous value to the team. As previously stated, his combination of speed and OBP (above .350 for the last 4 years) make him a very ideal leadoff hitter and very valuable to the offense as a whole. He’s not just a punching Judy, singles hitting leadoff hitter either. When healthy, he is a veritable doubles machine, ranking 1st or 2nd in the AL in doubles 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009. What’s more, in addition to leading the AL in doubles in 2009 with 56, he also set the record for doubles by a switch hitter while doing so. So his contributions on offense alone are certainly tangible. And without delving into the complex world of defensive metrics, I think we can also safely say Roberts is an average to slightly above average defender at 2B. The whole package translates into a player most teams would love to have and one whose absence you certainly notice in the team’s performance. Buck Showalter himself has often cited the return of Brian Roberts as one the primary reasons the O’s went 34-23 under him last season after going 32-73 prior to his arrival. (more…)