This past season turned out like every other season for the past decade for the Baltimore Orioles. They finished in last place in the AL East, and for now things aren’t looking up. Their hitting was average but their pitching was absolutely terrible.
Offensively they were pretty brutal. They had three players combing for 12 WAR, the rest of their line-up was filled with league average players. 4.3 of the 12 WAR came from Matt Wieters. The Oriole’s have waited a long time for Wieters to show that he belongs in the pros. This past season he finally did just that. He may never have the power that some people raved about, but he did post a solid .188 ISO. He showed that he can limit strikeouts, while getting on base a good percent of the time. For the first time in his career, he managed to post a wRC+ above average. If Wieters can average 4 WAR throughout his prime, he will be considered a top tier catcher, something the Orioles desperately need.
Another position that the Orioles can feel relatively confident about is shortstop. Hardy has always been regarded as a good player, but his problem has been staying healthy. Last season was Hardy’s best season to date. He posted career highs in ISO and WAR. For the most part it was a repeat of 2008. Besides being a solid contributor on offense, Hardy is also a really good defender, and last year was no exception. He posted 10.7 UZR, which was his second highest for his career. He’s never posted a UZR lower than 4 so that trend should continue this year.
The Orioles outfield isn’t terrible. Adam Jones is coming off a good 3 WAR season, which is a career high for him. He showed that he has decent power, but his achillies heel is that he strikes out a lot, and gets on base at a poor rate. He’s been the topic of occasional trade rumors, so depending on how he starts off, he could see himself in a new jersey come July. Since 2009, Markakis hasn’t been the all-star that he once was. Two things stick out as concerns. One, his ISO numbers have declined every year since 2008. That’s not exactly a trend you want to see. Two, his defense has gotten worse. If he wants to get back to pre-2009, he needs to make some changes. Nolan Reimold has power potential but he isn’t great. If given the at-bats he could be worth some value, but not a ton.
The corner infields spots are pretty pathetic. Mark Reynolds has tremendous power. His problem though is that he is a terrible defender. If he wants to be a positive contributor, he needs to either improve his defense or move to DH. Chris Davis might be worse. His offense hasn’t shown up and he’s equally bad on defense. The Orioles might find themselves in a situation that you don’t want to be in when it comes to their corner infield, especially during the summer months.
Brian Roberts has also struggled. Ever since he got a concussion he has never been himself. He may be of some value if he can get in 100 games or so, but at this point I don’t know what he can do.
Their pitching was really bad. As a team they managed to have a 4.67 FIP, this was the worst in baseball by .3 runs. Zach Britton posted decent numbers, but his main problem was giving up walks. He also struggled with keep runners on base. If he can make some adjustments, he can be a potential third starter. Chris Tillman showed some nice signs in limited action as well. Like Britton, he also struggled with walks though. With Guthrie, what you see is what you get. He’ll give you a FIP in the mid to upper fours, while limiting walks. This was his last year of arbitration, and next season he will most likely be pitching somewhere else. Brian Matusz had a solid 2010 season, 2011 was another story though. The most glaring problem Matusz had was preventing home runs. He gave up over 3 per inning, a significant increase from .9 per 9 in 2010. If Matusz can limit home runs and decrease his walk rate, he can be a solid arm in the Orioles’ rotation.
The AL East is already full with good teams, so the Orioles don’t really have a chance of finishing with a great record. They have shown that they are willing to spend big money on free agents. A few years ago they made a serious run at Mark Teixeira. If they ever want to land those guys they will need to improve though. They have some guys in the minors who could impact the team in the coming years but most likely not in 2012. If the pitching improves though, it could limit the pain.
*Since this was posted the Orioles traded Jeremey Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.*