by Tommy Gimler
The last few seasons have shown us that good pitching will defeat good hitting most of the time. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles have no pitching.
The Birds imported two pitching prospects from Japan to fill the back end of a starting rotation whose lowest ERA was 4.61 a year ago. Zach Britton and Jake Arietta are two young pitchers who have shown some promise, but they are the worst 1-2 starting pitching combo in baseball.
Their bullpen isn’t much better. Jim Johnson will most likely start the season as the closer unless Matt Lindstrom beats him out this spring. The rest of the bullpen’s ERA will make you question if they are even throwing overhand.
The Orioles have no pitching, and their corner infielders can’t hit it. Mark Reynolds has 963 strikeouts over the last 4 1/2 seasons. In that same span, he has a combined total of 933 hits and walks. He’s also the worst defensive player in baseball. Chris Davis has a career strikout percentage of 31.5%. Put those two together in the lineup, and you’ll have a 15-7 victory followed by three shutout losses.
It’s not all bad in Baltimore, though. The Baltimore lineup does have a few solid everyday players. Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit 30 home runs last season. Catcher Matt Wieters saw his offensive numbers finally reach expected levels, and he is poised for a big season. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are both going to give you .280, 20 HR, 70 RBI, and 15 SB. If Brian Roberts can stay healthy (and that is a big if), the Orioles just might have somebody on base when the big boys go yard.
With those big bats come the big power numbers. In 2011, Baltimore ranked 4th in home runs, 8th in total bases, and 9th in slugging percentage. But the Orioles ranked 19th in OBP, and that resulted in a middle-of-the-pack finish in regards to scoring runs. And when your pitching staff ranks dead last with a 4.89 ERA, you simply have to score more runs than that.
The DUD Says: Last year’s squad found a way to win 69 games even with the worst pitching staff in the bigs. Some of that can be attributed to the leadership of Buck Showalter. Some of it can be attributed to the long ball. But when you lose 69 games, you have to make adjustments and improvements. The Orioles did none of that this offseason. In fact, they might have gotten worse. I don’t see them winning one more game than last year. Somebody in the AL East has to lose games, and this is the squad. 69 is a sexy number, but not when you play 162 games.
2012 record: 69-93 (5th place, AL East)
Vegas Says: 71 wins (5th place, AL East)
Donnie Warts Says: Look for them to be bottom feeders again this year. The only thing they have going for them is that the oriole is one kick-ass looking bird. They’ll be lucky to win 65 games. Their division is just too stacked like my wife.