For the next 30 weekdays, I’ll be providing you, the Getting Blankership, with team-by-team previews of each and every Major League franchise. I’ll start this week with the AL East and I’ll do each division in alphabetical order. Near the end of each article, I’ll post a link to a detailed depth chart of the team that I have painstakingly prepared myself. At the beginning of each article, I post the team’s 2011 record and the record I predicted them to have from the previews I did last year over at Baseball Canadiana (incidentally, you can find some additional information about the previews on that page). At the very end of the preview, I’ll attempt to predict what I think the team in question will do in 2012. This “prediction” is not rooted in any mathematical formula or complicated algorithm based on odds; it’s simply my personal opinion, and as you’ll discover, I’m often wrong. One last thing: The “top prospect” is according to the five major prospect lists. Enjoy!
2011 Record: 69-93, 5th AL East
2011 Prediction: 72-90, 5th AL East
Impact Player: C Matt Wieters
Impact Pitcher: LHP Zach Britton
Best Reliever: RHP Jim Johnson
Top Prospect: RHP Dylan Bundy
The Orioles are such a bungled mess that we here at Getting Blanked haven’t called them anything other than the OriLOLes for months. I might actually be fired for not calling them that in the opening sentence. Baltimore has two things working against them: an owner that is so meddlesome that the GM cannot properly do his job, and they play in baseball’s toughest and richest division. Things are so bad that GM Andy MacPhail opted not to come back for 2012, which was followed by an exasperating GM search wherein several of the game’s up and coming executives turned down the O’s offer, including Blue Jays assistant Tony LaCava and now-Angels GM Jerry DiPoto. Baltimore settled for Dan Duquette, who had been out of baseball since being fired by the Red Sox following the 2002 season and since then he’s done little but piss off everyone in Korea.
Things were no better for the O’s on the field in 2011. Despite acquiring Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee, and J.J. Hardy to revamp their infield, the team barely improved on their 2010 win total finishing with a 69-93 record, compiling more losses than wins for the 14th straight year. Although they showed some offensive ability, finishing seventh in the AL in runs and sixth in slugging, the pitching staff was woeful, finishing last in runs allowed and gave up more home runs than any other AL team.
The Orioles didn’t improve much on their terrible pitching staff over the offseason and don’t project to be much (if any) better than they were in 2011. Zach Britton (provided he’s healthy) is a promising young pitcher who looked great at times last year, but he ended his season with shoulder troubles. The trading of de-facto number one Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom is probably going to be a positive-sum move, but a rotation that could include two unknown imports from Japan in Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada doesn’t inspire much faith; especially in the AL East. Brain Matusz inexplicably lost a lot of velocity on his fastball last season, but him bouncing back will go a long way.
In the bullpen, former Jay Kevin Gregg is back for the last year of that hilarious two-year contract, but his 6.08 BB/9 rate and general awfulness means he may lose his closing job to either Jim Johnson or Lindstrom. The Orioles also signed obvious regression candidate Luis Ayala who posted a 2.09 ERA with the Yankees last year, but whose peripherals are far less encouraging. Alfredo Simon figures to be the long-man.
The Orioles fared decently on offense last season, but given the hype that surrounding their “impact” acquisitions, their middle-of-the-pack performance was a disappointment, even if it was sort of expected. Hardy led the team with a 4.8 fWAR and was second to only Reynolds in wRC+ at 113. This inspired MacPhail to give Hardy a three-year, $22.25-million contract extension, which could turn out to be their best move in a while, even if regression is in the cards. Matt Wieters emerged as a legitimate first-division starter at catcher finishing with a 4.3 fWAR and a .339 wOBA, finally living up to his lofty potential. Reynolds is expected to move from third base to first after a disastrous defensive showing in 2011 which tanked his overall value. His 116 wRC+ is solid, but will not play as well at first. Brian Roberts is back at second base, but he has been limited to just 98 games over the last two seasons and has lost much of his value. Rule V pickup Ryan Flaherty could end up starting at third base and has some potential, but he’ll be pushed by Chris Davis, Robert Andino and Wilson Betemit.
In the outfield, Nick Markakis is back along with his league-average offense and eroding defense. The 28-year-old looked bound for stardom after a terrific 2008 season, but he seems to have cemented himself as a second-division rightfielder over the past three seasons. Centerfielder Adam Jones, although still only 26, has become one of the more overrated players in the AL. Last year, he posted career highs in fWAR at 2.9 and in wRC+ at 110, but neither mark is overly impressive. He’s also a below-average defender according to most advanced metrics despite the perception that he’s elite with the glove. Leftfielder Nolan Reimold was solid at the plate in his 87 games a year ago, but is 28; don’t expect miracles. He’ll be pushed by the likes of veteran Endy Chavez, Jai Miller and Matt Angle.
Continuing their tradition of picking up spare parts left behind by the Texas Rangers, the Orioles will likely rely on Taylor Teagarden as Wieters’ backup after acquiring him in a trade. Chavez and whomever doesn’t end up starting at third will join him, while the likes of Nick Johnson, Ryan “Heartbreaker” Adams, Matt Antonelli and Blake Davis could be in the mix as well.
I don’t think I’m going to shatter minds by telling you the Orioles will finish last once again in the AL East. There’s a chance they could improve on last year’s win total if some of their young pitchers take big steps forward and players like Wieters and Jones improve upon their career years, but this is still a directionless team with less-than-competent management and a meddling owner. Things may not get better for a long, long time.
2012 Prediction: 60-102, 5th AL East