Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rest of the East: Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles took me, and the rest of the baseball world by surprise in 2012, winning 93 games and making the postseason. However, I do not believe that the Orioles have a good enough team to seriously contend in 2013. They caught lightning in a bottle in 2012. Their starting pitching was not great, with pitchers going up and down in the system, not to mention the injuries the starting staff had. 2012 was a fluky year for the Orioles, and I don't expect their pitching to hold up this season. They won a record number of one run games and were automatic winners in every extra-inning game (unless it was against the Yankees).

The Birds have several great position players, with starting pitching at the helm of making the Major Leagues. This year, star right handed starting pitcher Dylan Bundy is a favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year award. Scouts and baseball folks have him ranked high in terms of his ability to throw missiles. Manny Machado will prove that he can live up to his potential as an everyday third baseman. The converted shortstop did an excellent job for the Orioles last year after getting called up for the stretch run. He hit some meaningful home runs against the Yankees and played stellar defense at a position where he never played before in his baseball career. Machado idolized Alex Rodriguez growing up, and A-Rod mentors Machado when they work together in Miami. The young third baseman has the ability to be a special player but he will have to prove himself in a 162 game season.

There are also key pieces in the field who can be considered veterans. Adam Jones turned out to be a star, hitting 32 home runs and earning a Gold Glove award in the 2012 season. He is a staple of the Orioles team and a key to their success. Matt Wieters can be even more special than Jones because of his ability to work so well behind the plate with pitchers. Wieters threw out 39% of potential base-stealers, a mark that few players today can match. His defense has earned him two consecutive Gold Glove awards in 2011 and in 2012. Wieters is a power hitting catcher who switch hits. He has the ability to eclipse Jorge Posada's offensive numbers and provide the Orioles with more defense than Posada was able to give the Yankees in his career.

The most important piece of the puzzle for the Orioles in 2012 was their manager. Buck Showalter knew how to communicate with his players, and he was very respected in the clubhouse for his experience and knowledge of the game. Showalter has a knack for taking bad teams and turning them into winners. He proved that with the Yankees after managing them until 1995, and did the same thing with the Arizona Diamondbacks until 2000. Both teams won World Series championships a year after Buck left. That shows how much of a difference a good manager can make.

However, I do not believe that the Orioles did enough in the off-season in order to contend with the other teams in the AL East. I predict the Birds settling within the 80-84 win paradigm. They shocked me last year, and I certainly would not be surprised if they proved me wrong again. I just do not think the chances are as good this season for Baltimore.

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