30 Clubs in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageWith pitchers and catchers reporting across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, there is no better time to kick off SkoodSports’ 30 Clubs in 30 Days segment. Every day (or at least close to it), we’ll be going looking at a new team to see where they went right and wrong this offseason. At the end of March, the segment will culminate with SKOODSPORTS’ MEGA MLB PREDICTIONS POST! I know you are excited to see whether or not this blog’s baseball prognostications can trump its Nostradamus’esque football picks.

The Baltimore Orioles, one of baseball’s great success stories in 2012, rose to the occasion to capture their first playoff berth since 1997. In fact, the O’s had lost 90+ games in all but three seasons since 2000. Manager Buck Showalter showed that, while success was slow coming, he could turn the franchise into a contender. The team utilized a clutch offense and an extraordinary record in one-run games to capture the AL Wild Card after a triumphant battle in the play-in-game against the two-time defending AL champions from Texas. Baltimore’s 37-18 record in August and September was fueled by brilliant pitching from a cast of characters not expected to rise to the occasion as successfully as they did. Will Baltimore’s success be short-lived in a grueling division?

Five Year Review:
2012: *93-69
Lost LDS to Yankees, 3-2
2011: 69-93
2010: 66-96
2009: 64-98
2008: 68-93

2012 Team MVP: CF Adam Jones No one player on Baltimore made as profound an impact as their 27-year old star centerfielder. In his fifth season with the club, Jones finally put it all together. The former Seattle Mariner played in all 162 games for the first time, made his second All-Star team, won his second Gold Glove Award, and finished sixth in AL MVP voting. He reached career highs in BA (.287), 2B (39), HR (32), R (103), SB (16), and OPS (.839). Jones led the Orioles and also set a new career high in WAR with a 3.4 mark. The San Diego, CA native was rewarded with a sparkling new 7 year, $91 million extension that will carry him through his age-32 season.

2012 Team LVP: RHP Jake ArrietaThe hype around Arrieta and the rest of the Baltimore young pitchers has been swirling for a few seasons now. The TCU alum first registered on Baseball America’s top-100 prospects list in 2009, when he ranked 67th in all of baseball. After a full season in AAA Norfolk, Arrieta was once again on the list in 2010 at 99th. It was in that season where he made his MLB debut. Three years later, Arrieta’s penchant for surrendering the long-ball has him on the outside looking in at a crowded rotation. After a 6-6, 4.66 rookie campaign, the 26-year old struggled to a 10-8, 5.05 line in 2011. It all came crashing down in 2012, when despite an improved K:BB ratio, Arrieta was shelled for 122 hits in 114.2 innings on his way to a 3-9, 6.20 record. His minor league numbers are nice. But, until Arrieta can put it all together in the majors, he will continue to toil between AAA and MLB.

Key Acquisitions:
IF Alexi Casilla (Minnesota)
OF Trayvon Robinson (Seattle)
RHP Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta)
RHP Adam Russell (Tampa Bay)
LHP Daniel Schlereth (Detroit)

Key Departures:
2B Robert Andino (Seattle)
3B Mark Reynolds (Cleveland)
OF Endy Chavez (Kansas City)
LHP Joe Saunders (Seattle)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):
LF Nate McLouth (.238-9-32)
SS JJ Hardy (.255-19-63)
RF Nick Markakis (.291-14-72)
CF Adam Jones (.288-26-89)
C Matt Wieters (.264-21-72)
1B Chris Davis (.266-27-73)
DH Wilson Betemit (.256-11-45)
3B Manny Machado (.248-18-65)
2B Brian Roberts (.253-5-27)

RHP Jason Hammel (10-9, 4.11)
LHP Wei-Yin Chen (11-10, 4.31)
RHP Chris Tillman (6-8, 4.69)
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (8-10, 4.76)
RHP Jair Jurrjens (6-6, 5.07)

2013 Outlook:
The Orioles walked the tight-rope in 2012 with their record in one-run games. Mimicking that could be downright impossible. Add to this the fact that Toronto got a lot better and Boston should be less of a mess now that Bobby Valentine and the chicken gang are gone, and Baltimore could see their record dip dramatically. They have a strong lineup, bolstered by multiple power threats throughout and the return of 2B Brian Roberts from injury. 3B Manny Machado, the youngest player in MLB last season, should be a much needed improvement for a whole season over the trash that they threw out there in the first half last year.

Unfortunately for Baltimore, their pitching does not pass the eye-test. Whenever your ace is Jason Hammel, you are going to be the underdogs. Granted, he led them to a playoff berth in 2012 and pitched admirably in the postseason. But, this is a new year. Gone is Joe Saunders and enter Jair Jurrjens in his place. Saunders has proven in the past that he is a clutch pitcher in critical moments. Jurrjens, meanwhile, was once a blossoming young talent for Atlanta. Unfortunately, overuse and injuries ended his career in the Peach State. Will a trip up I-95 to Baltimore be the necessary rehab he needs? Time will tell. Overall, however, I find it hard to believe that Baltimore will be able to rekindle the fire that lit their lamps last season. I foresee a drop off to between 78-84 wins. It will not be enough to make the playoffs again. But, do not expect Baltimore to fall back into the 90+ loss plateau for the foreseeable future.

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