BROKEN WINGS NO MORE? 2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview

Posted: March 1, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Let’s start off with the facts; the Baltimore Orioles have been in some tough times. A mixture of bad signings, both too old and too young teams and the misfortune of being in the toughest division in all of professional sports, the AL East, have doomed them to three consecutive last place finishes. Before that streak started up, they were only slightly “better”, with three straight next to last finishes. All in all, the Orioles haven’t had a winning record since 1997, those are the facts. However, they have also finally received the one thing that comes from all long-term struggles, a high level of young talent that is reaching impact level in the Majors. To speed up these youngsters development, they lured Buck Showalter out of the air conditioned comfort of an ESPN analyst chair for the first time in four years. He responded by pulling the club to a 34-23 record to finish out the season, the best finish of any AL East squad. So there is some promise in B-More that wasn’t seen previously.

In his debut, Showalter worked minor short-term miracles last September, but what does his first full season hold?

THREE UP

1. Time is Now: The primary strength of the Orioles rebuilding effort has been based in their pitching, and now those ex-prospects are at the head of the big league rotation. Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta are all written into the mix here, with some major responsibility to continue their development towards being one of the best young rotations in baseball. They have the talent, but they also have to develop it against the most brutal lineups in baseball featured by the Yankees and Red Sox (and a powerful Blue Jay lineup as well). How they handle and bounce back from the definite setbacks they will catch while facing those teams will determine how good the Orioles can really be.

2. King in Waiting: Of all the young position players in the game, Adam Jones has the most talent overall talent of them all, in my opinion. However, after a 2009 breakout that included an All-Star debut and a Gold Glove, he battled inconsistency for much of last year. Despite their much improved lineup, Jones is still the best player on the O’s and if he takes the next step in realizing his considerable potential this year across the board, it could propel the entire club up the standings.

A leap in production by Jones would tie into a direct jump in the standings as well.

 

3. Slow Money, Smart Money: Baltimore was aggressive in pursuing many of the premier free agents on the market this winter, but lost out on the Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn races. So they let the market sort itself out and instead pursued the short contract veterans with one year deals. In the end, the landed both Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee to add much-needed experience to their talented, but young lineup. With 11 All-Star births between them, the impact they make with their presence and knowledge in the long-term will be just as useful as what they contribute with their bats on the short-term.

THREE DOWN

1. Steady Goes It: For all the talent they have with their young pitchers, there are still are big questions about the durability and consistency of the vets of their rotation. Justin Duchscherer was signed as veteran arm to balance out the rotation, but he has only pitched 28 innings over the past two years due to mixture of injuries and depression based time on the DL. Not exactly the pillar of strength that young pitchers can see throwing and learn from. Jeremy Guthrie rebounded nicely from a terrible 2009, and dropped his ERA by over a run in 2010, but still took 14 losses last year.

2. Trouble at the Top: No matter how bad they got over the past few years, second baseman Brian Roberts was always there putting in his work regardless. Well, the O’s even lost that last year, when Roberts could only stay healthy enough to play in 59 games after averaging 157 from 2007-09. When healthy, the two-time All-Star is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, and if the Orioles are to continue their climb up the ladder from Afterthoughtville, he has to be back on the field and at the top of the lineup consistently.

Roberts has to be up and moving fro Opening Day on for Baltimore to pull of any surprises this year.

 

3. Where is the Real Wieters? Coming into the 2009 season, catcher Matt Wieters was being hailed as being a surefire next Johnny Bench. Well after two years that have shown a total of 20 home runs and a .328 on-base percentage, it’s safe to say those comparisons have been put to bed. However, it’s too early to write him off to Alex Gordon status either. The guy is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball already, and with a lowered responsibility in the lineup due to all of the new additions, he may be able to find his swing now as well. Regardless of who is on board currently, Wieters is as big of a part of the long-term picture as anybody and they need him to come into his own.

LINEUP/PITCHING: 2010 stats/info (Biggest Difference Maker in BOLD)

  1. Brian Roberts-2B: .278 avg/4 HR/15 RBI/12 steals in 59 games
  2. Adam Jones-CF: .284 avg/19 HR/69 RBI/ 7 steals
  3. Nick Markakis-RF: .297 avg/12 HR/60 RBI/45 doubles
  4. Vladimir Guerrero-DH: .300 avg/29 HR/115 RBI
  5. Derrek Lee-1B: .260 avg/19 HR/80 RBI/35 doubles
  6. Luke Scott-LF: .284 avg/27 HR/72 RBI
  7. 7. Mark Reynolds-3B: An underrated addition from Arizona, who will be much lower risk using his all or nothing (.198 average & 211 strikeouts, but 32 home runs) approach at the bottom of the lineup.
  8. Matt Wieters-C: .249 avg/11 HR/55 RBI/only 5 errors & 2 passed balls in 2010
  9. J.J. Hardy-SS: .268 avg/ 6 HR/38 RBI
  1. Jeremy Guthrie-RH: 11-14, 3.83 ERA, 119 K’s, 209.1 innings
  2. Brian Matsuz-RH: 10-12, 4.30 ERA, 143 K’s
  3. Justin Duchscherer-RH: 2-1, 2.86 ERA, 18 K’s in 5 games
  4. Brad Bergesen-RH: 8-12, 4.98 ERA, 81 K’s
  5. Jake Arrieta-RH: 6-6, 4.66 ERA, 52 K’s

Closer: Koji Uehara-RH: 13 Saves, 2.86 ERA, 55 K’s

Closer: Kevin Gregg-RH: 37 Saves, 3.51 ERA, 58 K’s

Rundown: Are they getting better? Definitely they are. Although they have been bad in result over the last few years, many of those losses have come at the hands of being greatly overmatched by the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays not only in talent, but in experience as well. With their approach to better their roster this winter, they helped narrow the gap in the experience department. Despite some quality veteran additions, this is still at its core a very young team at many crucial areas. However, the impact of having Showalter on board for a full offseason and spring training should not be underestimated in being able to continue the development of the Baltimore youth, and while I don’t expect them to repeat what they did for him at the end of 2010 for a full season, they will be a much better team, even if not on par with the usual standard bearers of the East.

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Comments
  1. sven black says:

    Rays…Yanks…Sox….the Orioles got it bad man. They remind me of the Cleveland Cavs. Im just saying…

    • Cavs? Man, that’s pretty bad. I could only reserve that level of bad for the Pirates. The Orioles got a tough road no doubt, but they should win more games than they have in a while this year. .500 shouldn’t be out of reach.

  2. Ryan Gaydos says:

    The Orioles definitely have some scary potential, but I still think their rotation needs to get a tad bit better for them to compete against lineups that the Yankees and Red Sox have put together.

    • It’s going to take a while. I think they did the right think by adding the bats now, because you gotta hit in the East, and it’s their opportunity to try to stick with the Blue Jays and maybe out do the depleted Rays. Next year, they definitely need to address at least one veteran starter of some greater achievement/reliability than Duchscherer.

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