Orioles 2013 Season Preview

| March 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Last season the Orioles shocked everyone, except for Kevin Lynch, when they won 93 games, secured the American League Wild Card spot and took the Yankees to game five in the ALDS. The Orioles improbable run renewed the enthusiasm about baseball in this town and left people wondering if this could be the start of several consecutive winning seasons. The enthusiasm from last season, however, was accompanied with pessimism this winter when the Orioles failed to make a free agent “splash” –something that many people wanted and thought they needed to back up their success from 2012.

It is unlikely the Orioles will duplicate their record in extra inning and one-run games and, given the statistical trends of baseball, it is likely that some players who had their statistically best seasons last year will likely not put up as good of a statistical season. Given those things, and the fact that the both the  Blue Jays and Red Sox both getting better on paper, not many pundits and fans are expecting the Orioles to do well this season.

Luckily the game is not played on paper, so the Orioles success or failures this season will be solely based on their play. Here is my preview for the season.

Who should be the Starting 2nd Baseman?

For the majority of the 2000s there were two constants when it came to the Orioles: losing baseball and Brian Roberts playing every game at 2nd base. Roberts was a great player and one of the best leadoff men in baseball during that time, but every O’s fan knows what has happened to Roberts over the last three years. The Orioles have failed to find anything resembling consistency during this stretch and this season there are several players (Roberts included) who are in the mix to be the starting 2nd baseman.

So who should it be? I never thought I would be saying this, but the starting job should go to Ryan Flaherty. Most of the 2012 season I spent my time criticizing him and wondering why he was on the roster, however Flaherty has made me a believer and I truly think he is the best candidate for the job.  He has more power than both Roberts and Alexi Casilla and he is adequate enough in the field to justify starting him.  Ideally I would like to see Jonathan Schoop start at 2nd, but until then it should be Flaherty’s job to lose.

The Starting 5-Man Rotation?

Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Jair Jurjens.  Do I believe Jurjens is more deserving than Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta or Steve Johnson? No, but he is a veteran and to most managers experience wins out over youth.  Based on their arms and their “stuff,” Britton and Arrieta are the most talented pitchers on the roster, but both have dealt with injuries, demotions and other “issues” that have prohibited them from having the Major League success that their talent suggests they should have.  The fact that Showalter chose Joe Saunders over Chris Tillman to pitch in the one-game playoff last year (obviously that worked out), signs would point to Showalter choosing the experience of Jurjens to start the season in the rotation. However, just because he starts the season as the 5th starter does not mean he will finish the season as that. And in my opinion, the less time Jurjens spends in the rotation, the better.

Will the Bullpen Duplicate their Success from Last Season?

Certainly there is no reason to think differently. It is unlikely Jim Johnson has the career season he had in 2012, but Tommy Hunter has shown this spring the velocity he had at the end of the year last season, Pedro Strop and Brian Matusz have been unhittable (don’t be shocked to see Strop get a lot of save chances), and the every arm the Orioles put in the bullpen seems to produce. A healthy Troy Patton will make the Orioles bullpen the best in baseball.

Nate McClouth or Nolan Reimold?

Hopefully this is a decision that will be a season-long one, because if it is it means that Nolan Reimold is healthy and producing for the whole year.  Each player brings something to the table that the other does not have – in fact, if you could combine their skill sets into one player you would have a five-tool player. The question with Reimold is his health, as he has shown he produces when he is in the lineup. The problem has been that he hasn’t been in the lineup. McClouth is a Gold Glove fielder, a stolen base threat and can set the table at the top of the order.

The Orioles lineup lacks speed, so that makes McClouth even more valuable and is the reason I think he should be the starting left fielder. There is something to have a guy who can steal 30 bases and also play a Gold Glove-caliber left field. McClouth brings more overall than Reimold, however, Reimold’s bat definitely needs to be in the lineup. He should be starting DH and fill in at first for Davis every now and then. A healthy Reimold adds about 30 homeruns to the Orioles lineup. I don’t know who will start, but one thing I know is that Buck will find a way to get both McClouth and Reimold in the lineup as much as possible.

Prediction:

The AL East is wide open with each team capable of finishing first or last – nobody would be surprised with any finish from any team in the division. The Orioles have to have a lot go right for them and it will be hard to repeat their record in one-run games and to hold every lead from the 7th inning on. They will likely take a step back in this area; however, there are areas they should improve on from last year. Remember, the Orioles best pitcher, Jason Hammel, had two DL stints due to a knee injury and Nick Markakis was on pace for his best offensive season, but had his season end abruptly. Manny Machado should improve offensively in his first full season in the majors and Adam Jones and Matt Wieters should turn from stars to superstars. In addition to that, the Orioles might have the best overall pitching in the division and the Rays have shown you can contend every year with pitching and defense.

Ultimately I think this team may take a step back from their 93-win campaign last year, but I still expect them to win between 84-89 games and contend for the division, if not win it outright. There is something to be said about getting that winning taste in your mouth. This team got that last year and, by all accounts, they want to keep it.

O-R-I-O-L-E-S

Follow Marco on Twitter @mromanell and southbmore.com @southbmore1

About the Author:

I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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