For this preview, TVF is doing something a little different. We’re having two guest writers, John G aka Shatner and Illformula, offer their unique perspectives. John G brings his AL East knowledge as a Yankee fan, while Illformula gives us his take as a true Orioles fan.
First up, John G:
They’re going to be bad.
Ohkay, fine, I’ll write more.
The Orioles were once a proud franchise, but now they’re a mixture of classic baseball film characters: You have the greedy owner who acts like he has more to gain with his team losing rather than winning (“The Natural”); a flighty, emotional center fielder (Evelyn in “A League Of Their Own”); plus a group of has-beens/never-weres (“Major League”).
How awful must it be to be an Orioles fan. The only positive things I can say about the state of the franchise are that they have a nice stadium, some pretty good prospects and their team should be solid defensively.
In the outfield, the star is still Adam Jones, who in spite of his speed refuses to take a walk. A guy as fast as he should perhaps take some pitches, because with a .275 career batting average his OBP should be higher than .319. He’ll bring his bat, of course, but he’s still a constant headache. He should learn some things from his right fielder, Nick Markakis, who had a solid year outside of low power numbers. Jones should see a different face every night next to him in left since the team has a platoon of Nolan Reimold, Endy Chavez and Jai Miller. Blech.
At least the infield brings some hope, as it has one of the games best young players in Matt Weiters, aka Switch Hitting Jesus. Sadly, some fans and at least one publication have labeled him the “most disappointing prospect ever” because he hasn’t put up the kind of numbers everyone projected him to produce. Saying he hasn’t lived up to his potential is fair, but to basically call him the biggest bust of all time because of two mediocre seasons while he’s only 25? That’s just dumb. Don’t give up on him yet. If I read one more fan comment on how Wieters “isn’t driving in the runs!” on a team that had one of the worst OBP in the league last year, I’m going to internet scream.
The rest of the infield . . . brings out all the “eh” in me. Chris Davis is at first after spending a year in Chicago playing under the alias “Adam Dunn”, and Mark Reynolds gives you homers and walks but little else at third (his fielding was so bad last year that despite his power numbers he had a WAR of 0.3). Brian Roberts hopes to return to at least his 2009 form, when he posted a WAR of 3.9, after missing most of last year with concussion symptoms. However there’s still no word on if he’s truly ready for the opener. If he’s not ready expect so see something called a “Robert Andino” in his place, assuming they don’t move JJ Hardy to second and have a short stop platoon of Wilson Betemit/Ryan Flaherty/Matt Antonelli. Hardy gives the team a solid defensive shortstop who has some pop, as he hit 30 homers last year will still missing a month.
Now for the sad news: this rotation sucks. Last year the team had an ERA of 5.39, which was 1.3 runs over the league average. Shockingly, most of them are now gone, and the Orioles have no idea who’s set in the rotation. Brian Matusz was supposed to be a super star, but last year he didn’t pitch until June 1st, and when he did finally start he posted an ERA over 10 with a WHIP over 2. Granted he only pitched 49 innings, but 49 innings of giving up at least a run an inning is really bad for a starter. Now he’ll be fighting for a spot with guys like Tommy Hunter, Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen. It’s not all lost for Matusz, as he’s only 25 and is a lefty. Plus the Orioles aren’t going anywhere this season anyway. Jason Hammel comes in from Colorado in a trade involving 17-game loser (although it wasn’t all his fault) Jeremy Guthrie, and boy oh boy do I not care. I do know that Hammel had an ERA near five in the NL, and while he did play in Colorado, that’s still awful.
The bullpen? I recognized two names: Luis Ayala and Jim Johnson, and the only reason I recognized Ayala is because last year he was in pinstripes. I have no idea what to make of this unit. Sorry, Buckner and Illformula, but this team blows.
Fun times and winning ways are a few years away in Baltimore. The fans that have remained with the team this long are starting to grow weary, and no one can blame them. It’s one of the few fan bases I’ve seen openly root for their owners demise. Perhaps one day this team will compete again, but don’t expect much while “The Judge” is still in charge.
And here’s Illformula’s take:
Let’s just jump right into this because, to be honest, no one outside Baltimore even knows they still have a professional sports team not named the Ravens. The Orioles have been irrelevant since the Albert Belle trade in 1998 and in 2012, over a decade later, nothing has changed. Peter Angelos continues to battle Dan Snyder as the least likable owner in the area, and my generation (the Orioles/Redskins’ fan – too young for Baltimore Colts, to old for Nationals) continues to suffer.
The biggest move the Orioles made in the offseason was the departure of Andy McPhail as GM and the arrival of Dan Duquette. The former Red Sox GM (FML!), who should be somewhat credited with putting together the 2004 Sawx World Series team, has been removed from MLB for almost a decade. So naturally, he’s the perfect person for the Baltimore rebuilding (if that’s what we’re calling it) job. Duquette stepped in guns-a-blazin’ and swept the NPB market for two players no one really wanted, signed Wilson Betemit to replace Vlad, traded the one sure starting spot in the rotation in Guthrie for Matt Lindstrom and Jason Hammel (two more question marks on a team compiled of question marks!), also added Dana Eveland, and I think there was an Endy Chavez siting at some point. Clearly, Duquette’s strategy was to add as much depth as possible. The one problem with that would be that this Orioles team is not only young and inexperienced, but they have very little star-power anywhere on the roster. Case-in-point: Bruce Chen is expected to be the opening day starter. Hole-leee-**** . . . Somehow this is completely acceptable to our new GM. Jesus man, throw some ridiculous money at Roy Oswalt. I don’t care if he’s basically a corpse now, he’s still 1000x better than Bruce Chen. Chen wasn’t even good enough to stay the last time he was in Baltimore. Ugh…
Ok, ok . . . Let’s look into all that pitching depth. The rotation will be five of Zach Britton, Bruce Chen, Dana Eveland, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Brad Bergesen. Now that’s depth! On a more serious note, Britton, Matusz, Arrieta, and Tillman are young guys who’ve each shown clips of greatness but will all need to improve consistency this year if they want to keep any consideration as starting pitchers moving forward. The bullpen is actually a brighter shade of **** than the rest of the team. Jim Johnson, Alfredo Simon, and Lindstom on the back end should provide some security for the rare times Baltimore actually stays in a game. But, like every other year, they will be burnt out by August. No one watches Orioles games in September anyway (am I right Red Sox fans???!!).
The lineup doesn’t expect to deviate much from what we saw at the end of last year. Adam Jones, Nick Markickass, JJ Jardy, Mark Reynolds, and Matt “switch-hitting Jesus” Wieters are sure things to start the season. While Chris Davis, Robert Andino and Noland Reimold are expected to win jobs at 3rd, 2nd, and LF, respectively. Jones and Wieters are the closest things to stars this team has and should be the only players on this team you’d consider drafting in fantasy. Both have made all-star games, though take that with a grain of kosher salt. Hardy and Reynolds both had pretty impressive years (especially Hardy) and will need to reproduce those numbers if the Orioles are going to win 60 games this year.
Ok, that last sentence hurt to type. I’ll wrap this up by sending off Brian Roberts. My onetime favorite player on the team will likely only play a handful more games due to a degenerative body and recurring concussion symptoms. I knew his contract extension was a bad idea at the time, but I can’t be mad at him. He’s always given this team his all and played the game hard despite the low quality teams and numerous clowns he’s been asked to play beside. Just a class act.
Prediction: 57 – 105
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