O's make deep imprint Offense: When Davey Johnson's array of fence-busters gets done, it looks as if the '61 Yankees' home run record will be going, going, gone.

September 04, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson loves offense, loves power, big numbers, and he had a hard time hiding his glee after his team walloped five homers Monday, and took the major-league lead with 221 homers.

The Orioles have 24 games to play and with another home run last night they're only 18 shy of the single-season record for homers, 240, set by the 1961 New York Yankees, who had Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The Orioles have hit 16 homers in six games since acquiring Todd Zeile and Pete Incaviglia from Philadelphia, so at the rate of nearly three homers a game, they could approach the Yankees' record in, oh, about a week.

Sure, there is a major difference between the 1961 Yankees and the 1996 Orioles: New York was a great team, finishing 109-53. The Orioles are not; with last night's loss, the Orioles are 62-63 since April 17.

On Monday, Johnson moved Zeile into the second spot in the lineup, between Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar, and Zeile hit two homers off Angels starter Shawn Boskie. "Zeile hitting between Anderson and Alomar -- if another team wants to bring in a left-hander to face [Anderson and] the Phillies' cleanup hitter, go ahead," said Johnson.

And with that, the manager put the power of the Orioles' lineup into perspective. Before Zeile joined the Orioles last week, he hit fourth for the Phillies. Anderson, the Orioles' leadoff hitter, hit his 43rd homer last night and ranks third in the majors. Their No. 7 hitter, Eddie Murray, has 499 career homers. B. J. Surhoff, batting eighth, is hitting .291 with 20 homers. Catcher Chris Hoiles, batting ninth, has a chance to hit 30 homers this year.

The Texas Rangers could have as many as six players with 20 or more homers this season, the most of any team. Other than the Orioles, that is, who have nine players with 20 or more homers and could have another; Incaviglia has 18.

Alomar played with some great offensive teams in Toronto, with Paul Molitor, Joe Carter, John Olerud. The Orioles, he said, have a better offense than those Blue Jays teams (although Alomar says Toronto's pitching was better). "It was a different type of team," Alomar said. "We did little things to score runs."

The Orioles don't do the little things well, like bunting and advancing runners with ground balls. They don't have much speed, ranking among the worst teams in stolen bases.

What they do is hit with power.

Johnson was asked if the Orioles' bats are corked. "It looked like it, didn't it?" Johnson said after Monday's game. "The homers Zeile hit tonight, I might check [his bat]. They were bullets."

Anderson said: "It's by far the best offensive team I've ever played on."

A lot of players around baseball can say that this year. The Orioles' numbers are staggering, and so are those of all the AL teams. There were 2,164 homers hit in 1,010 games in the AL last year, an average of 2.14 homers per game. There already have been 2,382 homers this year, in 967 games, an average of 2.46 per game.Last year, the Orioles averaged 1.2 homers per game. This year, they're averaging 1.6 homers per game -- an increase of 33 percent. Home run totals have skyrocketed, but the Orioles' totals are even better than the overall increase in the AL of 15 percent.

Does the Orioles' offense compare with that of the 1961 Yankees? It depends on how you look at it. They should easily surpass the Yankees' totals in homers, and the Orioles probably have a deeper lineup; New York had six players with more than 20 homers. The '61 Yankees scored 827 runs, an average of 5.1 runs per game. The Orioles have scored 821 runs, an average of 5.9 runs per game (AL teams are averaging 5.43 runs per game).

But the production of the 1961 Yankees dwarfed that of other AL teams. The Los Angeles Angels ranked second in the league in homers that year, with 189, Detroit hit 180 and Minnesota hit 167. Every other team hit 150 or fewer.

This season, Oakland (221) and Seattle (212) already have surpassed 200 homers, and there are a number of teams who should achieve that benchmark -- Boston, with 190 homers, Cleveland (189), Texas (188), California (178), Detroit (177) and Chicago (165).

The Orioles' offense also has been erratic, shut out seven times; only two teams (Detroit and Boston) have been shut out more. The Orioles have hit 88 homers in 53 games since the All-Star break, an incredible rate of 1.66 homers per game, but they've been shut out five times.

The 1961 Yankees won the AL pennant by eight games that year, and beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. The 1996 Orioles may not make the playoffs in an expanded format that includes a wild-card team.

H

But their extraordinary offense is giving them a chance.

Power play

The Orioles are on pace to break the 1961 Yankees'

major-league record for homers in a season, 240. A comparison of the primary players in the lineups:

Pos. '61 Yankees HR .... '96 Orioles Pace

Moose Skowron 28 ......Rafael Palmeiro 36

2B Bobby Richardson 3 ....Roberto Alomar 23

SS Tony Kubek 8 ..... ....Cal Ripken 25

Clete Boyer 11 ..... ..Todd Zeile* 26

Yogi Berra 22 ..... ...B.J. Surhoff 23

Mickey Mantle 54 ..... Brady Anderson 50

Roger Maris 61 ..... ..Bobby Bonilla 28

Elston Howard 21 ..... .Chris Hoiles 28

No DH ......... .......Eddie Murray* 23

Bench Johnny Blanchard 21 Pete Incaviglia* 21

Totals 240 262

* Includes homers hit for former team this season

Rewriting records

The Orioles have broken their season club records for homers, runs and extra-base hits and are threatening several other offensive marks. A closer look, including last night:

Category .. Rec. .. Year .. 1996

Homers .....214 ....1985 ...222

Average ... .273 ...1980 .. .277

Slug. pct. ..438 ...1994 ....476

Runs .......818 ....1985 ...821

Tot. bases .2,370 ..1985 ..2,316

Doubles ....287 ....1993 ...252

Ex.-base hits 478 ..1983 ...499

Sac. flies ..59 '69, '92 .55

Hit by pitch 58 ....1974 ....56

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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