Mevs has been adding a paragraph to each one of my posts so far. And although I appreciate the marketing for the sites that I have written for and for my own Twitter account, I’m honestly just here for the LOLZ, the booze and the free finger food (cheese and crackers y’all. Cheese…and…crackers). But, before I get belligerent and filled up on tasty hor dourves, how about we talk about the Baltimore Orioles for a few minutes.
A few players come to mind almost immediately when thinking about the Orioles. No, I am not talking about Brian Matusz and his weird offseason that has included a wart removal and a peanut allergy scare. I’m thinking of players like Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, the latter of which has run into a roadblock in his return from knee surgery.
Machado is a rather big deal for the Orioles. He wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant a substantial raise after last season, but, be real, Manny, even Mike Trout had to settle for contract renewal after his first season. But he is still a big deal, and ZiPS agrees with his importance to the club. The projections put Machado at the top of the list according to Szymborski’s WAR calculations with a projected mark of 4.5. He is most likely not going to be ready for the beginning of the season, which isn’t terrible, but is decidedly less-than-ideal.
After Manny, the Orioles have four offensive players that project to be worth more than three wins in 2014. Those players are Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. After Davis’ power took the American League by storm last year, ZiPS expects him to come back to the pack in 2014 (If you can call 41 home runs coming back to the pack, of course). Personally, I am hoping for the over on Davis’ projection. Chicks dig the long ball, and so do bloggers.
Having a core group of players like that is better than a good start. It is a run of talent that is hard for a pitcher to navigate through without making a mistake. The problem is the considerable drop off in talent after those core players. Nick Markakis has put up three wins over the last three years…total. Nelson Cruz is slated to be the DH on Opening Day, and, oh man, don’t get me started on how that is not going to end up pretty. Not that Cruz will be a malcontent or anything, by most accounts, he’s a good clubhouse guy. But you are asking a player who recently served a suspension for PED use to be a productive middle-of-the-order bat after leaving one of the most homer-happy parks in all of baseball. Good luck with that, Baltimore.
The pitching on the other hand, is neither exceptional or worrisome. It would be more exciting if Dylan Bundy was in camp fighting for a spot on the rotation, it is exciting in that, we don’t know which Ubaldo Jimenez is going to show up this season, but it is more or less vanilla in its structuring. A lot of “meh” in the rotation and even more “meh” in the bullpen. Except in the case of Darren O’Day. ZiPS projects an ERA+ of 125 from the side-armer and currently sits at the top of the list on the Orioles bullpen depth chart. Suk-min Yoon could make this staff more fun to watch, but that would be banking on an unknown quantity who just had his worst season in Korea (the equivalent of AA) after coming off an injury.
None of this is to mean that things can’t break right for the Orioles in 2014. This is still, basically, the same team that outplayed its Pythagorean record by 13 games in 2012 and found itself enjoying a playoff berth for the first time since 1997. They could also just as easily play right to their projections and finish the season in last place in the AL East. Which is no knock against them, its a tough division. But, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them out play their expectations again and find themselves in the thick of the playoff race come September. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.