After perusing over some numbers for last week’s piece on Mark Reynolds, I noticed his career high infield fly ball rate in 2011. Infield fly balls (IFFB) are the least desirable batted ball outcome since they essentially equate to automatic outs. This season in the MLB the average infield fly ball rate is ~10%. This week we’ll look at the five O’s players with the most plate appearances through 05/31/2011 and their infield fly ball rates.

Player Name 2011 IFFB % Career IFFB %
Nick Markakis 18.5 % 7.5 %
Vladimir Guerrero 18.5 % 11.4 %
Adam Jones 15.4 % 11.2 %
Mark Reynolds 16.9 % 11.1 %
Matt Wieters 4.3 % 6.2 %

The results of the table are staggering. Of the five O’s with the most plate appearances, four are experiencing career high infield fly ball rates. While the infield fly ball rate in MLB is up slightly in 2011 (9.7% in 2010 vs. 9.9% in 2011) it does not explain the team’s struggles in this area (9.7% in 2010 vs. 13.4% in 2011). While it is impossible to attribute the increase in infield fly ball rate solely to the hiring of hitting coach Jim Presley (a hire I was not crazy about at the time) it is at least coincidental. It seems Presley has encouraged fly balls by any means necessary. The O’s ground ball rate is down ( 42.6% in 2011 vs. 45.8% in 2010) while their fly ball and line drive rates are up (combined 58.6% in 2011 vs. 54.2% in 2010). While the approach may be having negative affects on Reynolds and Markakis it isn’t necessarily awful. The team is 14th in the MLB in home runs and despite a continued utter lack of plate discipline, Adam Jones is having a decent year offensively (~.775 OPS). Wieters lowered infield fly ball rate is encouraging and is another sign that his improved offensive performance in 2011 is sustainable. Still the infield fly balls are troublesome and will be something to monitor going forward. They equate to automatic outs and the most important offensive skill is the ability to NOT make an out during a plate appearance.