From 2012 through 2016, the Baltimore Orioles never once dipped below .500 and boasted the best composite record in the AL. Under Buck Showalter, the team was the perennial overachievers, outperforming both expectations and run differentials.
All of that came to a halt in 2017 as the Orioles finished last in the AL East after a particularly rough final month. The starting pitching—which was always the team’s weakness—was devastatingly bad with a baseball worst 5.70 ERA. If you can’t pitch, you can’t win and the Orioles entered Spring Training with more questions than answers in their rotation. Since then, the O’s have added a few starters, but the rotation still appears to be the weak link.In the final season of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Showalter and GM Dan Duquette, this team is loaded with questions, but appears set to compete despite a mediocre—at best—roster.
2017 Record: 75-87
2017 Moneyline Record: -12.71 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 80-78-4
Current World Series Odds: +12000
Current Odds To Win AL: +6000
Current Odds To Win AL East: +2400
Regular Season Win Total: 72.5
Given the black hole in the starting rotation last season, the Orioles almost should improve in that department in 2018 almost by default. It’s hard to image the team doing worse than a 5.70 ERA from its starters.
The departures of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez alone drops a 5.61 ERA and 6.81 ERA in a combined 300 innings. And, while the Orioles brought Chris Tillman back, he’s healthy now. That alone should mean an improvement on his historically terrible 7.84 ERA in 93 innings last year.
So, the rotation could be better, but that’s certainly faint praise. It’s still the weakness of the team. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are young hurlers with upside, but after an apparent breakout in 2016, Gausman regressed in 2017 with a 4.68 ERA. He was better in the second half than the first, but is hardly a guaranteed to be better than league average.
As for Bundy, the right-hander ended with 13 wins and a 4.24 ERA along with a 102 ERA+. Those are solid numbers for a No.3 starter, but he could very well be the team ace. He’s still just 25-years old and is now another season removed from his injuries so an improvement is likely, but just how much of one?
Assuming Gausman and Bundy can combine to be at least two league average hurlers, that still leaves the team three starters shy of a rotation. They added Andrew Cashner to the mix and his 4.6 rWAR season from 2017 would be welcome. His 3.40 ERA, however, appears to be a bit of a mirage with a 4.61 FIP and strikeout rate dipping down to 4.6 per nine innings, well below his career average.
In an era where strikeouts are rising, the dip is a concern though his velocity remains the same. He took a different approach in 2017, looking for ground balls, but is that approach—and its results—sustainable?
Even if it is, that’s still only three reliable arms. Tillman was great for the O’s for years, but had one of the worst seasons ever last year and the last spot in the rotation is a battle between Rule-5 draft picks and AAAA-type players who are out of options. The Orioles could still add another arm, but unless that happens, this rotation is still short.
Fortunately, the O’s do back up a weak rotation with a strong bullpen. Even with Britton on the disable list for the first two months, the collection of Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier and Donnie Hart gives Showalter several different looks and quality arms to go to for outs. Can the starters do enough not to wear out the pen? That’s the question.
Moving on to the position players, the Orioles have cornered the market in flawed first base/designated hitter types. Chris Davis needs to bounce back from a 95 OPS+ season. Mark Trumbo, meanwhile, was even worse. His average was a bit better, but he had a .397 slugging percentage as a low average, low OBP thumper. That’s nowhere near good enough.
Trey Mancini is really the guy that should be playing first if the position wasn’t log jammed. Instead, the first baseman turned outfielder will be in leftfield following an impressive rookie campaign. In a season filled with disappointment, Mancini was one of few bright spots with a .293/.338/.488 slash line. Jonathan Schoop has a big year, too, batting .293 with a .841 OPS and 32 homers. He was the only Oriole with more than 100 RBIs at 105.
On the other side, Davis, Trumbo and Manny Machado all had down years. Machado ended with a 107 OPS+ which was improved with a strong second half, but nowhere near the number you need from a star like Machado. All three players will need to be more consistent in 2017.
All in all, this is a lineup with a ton of thump, but very little on-base skills.
The team needs to better manufacture runs and pitch a whole lot better. Without another major acquisition or two, the team is just too short to compete with the Yankees or Red Sox and much closer to the cellar of the AL East than the top of it.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: vs Minnesota Twins
April 2-4: at Houston Astros
April 5-8: at New York Yankees
April 9-11: vs Toronto Blue Jays
April 13-16: at Boston Red Sox
April 17-19: at Detroit Tigers
April 20-23: vs Cleveland Indians
April 24-26: vs Tampa Bay Rays
April 27-29: vs Detroit Tigers
The Baltimore Orioles had overachieved for years before a late season tumble in 2017. Now, we’ll get to see if the pitching is improved enough to keep the Orioles competitive and the Birds have a difficult test right out of the gate.
After hosting the Twins in their opening series—a Wild Card team last year and likely competitor again in 2018—the O’s then have back-to-back series against the two favorite teams in the American League: the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. Baltimore will have plenty more matchups against the Bronx Bombers being in the AL East, but the early draw against the Astros is particularly tough for a team desperate to get off to a good start to prove the naysayers wrong.Beyond the first three series, the Orioles also have bouts with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox in the season’s opening month, making it a tough month. The only saving grace is two series against Detroit and a matchup against the Rays in Baltimore. The O’s, however, haven’t traditionally beat up on the teams they’re supposed to beat, instead, they tend to play up—or down—to their competition. We’ll see if that continues in 2018.
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