The Baltimore Orioles have been mired in the cellar of the American League East for the last four seasons. They have claimed ownership of the fifth place spot. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be—the Rays finished fifth in the division for three straight years before the Orioles, and look at where they are now.
Don’t be fooled, though—this Baltimore squad is a long, long way from making a surge to relevance like Tampa Bay did. They haven’t won more than 70 games since 2005, and they haven’t really underachieved given their talent over that period, either. Are they getting better? Slowly. Are they going to be a threat in their division this year? Almost certainly not.
2012 Baltimore Orioles predictions and MLB futures odds (odds are from BetOnline):
2011 Record: 69-93
2012 Wins Over/Under: 71
Odds to Win 2012 AL East: +5000
Odds to Win 2012 AL Pennant: +5000
Odds to Win 2012 World Series: +10000
You have to say that there is some potential with this rotation. It’s a lot more polite to say that than to tell it like it really is. The sad fact is that this rotation isn’t likely to be very good.
There is a growing collection of young players that the Orioles had a lot of hope for as they rose through the ranks that haven’t exactly worked out as pros—Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen. Arrieta has disappointed, Britton is maturing slowly, Matusz has been terrible, Tillman wasn’t great last year and Bergesen is likely a bullpen guy at this point.
The four starters will be fighting for rotation spots with a mix of guys. Jeremy Guthrie—by far their best pitcher—was traded to Colorado. Jason Hammel came back in that deal and is all but certain to be a starter. Wei-Yin Chen, a free agent out of the Japanese league, is also likely to secure a spot.
Others in the mix are Dana Eveland—a decent starter they picked up for spare parts from the Blue Jays because Toronto has so much pitching depth they didn’t need him—and Tsuyoshi Wada, another Japanese league player.
It’s possible that a strong rotation will emerge from that group, but it’s an uphill battle.
The team hasn’t made a lot of changes offensively. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing—they did score more runs than half the teams in the majors, and their team batting average was 11th best out of the 30 teams. It’s not a great offense, but it isn’t their biggest issue by any means.
There are a few minor changes. The team will hope that Nolan Reimold can step up his game and become an everyday left fielder. He started his career nicely in 2009, but has been disappointing the last two years. They gave up on the Vlad Guerrero experiment at DH and will go with Wilson Betemit this year. Vlad was a shadow of himself last year, so this should be an upgrade.
The player to watch will be catcher Matt Wieters. The fifth overall pick in 2007 is entering his fourth year with the team. He’s their best player, and he is entering the phase of his career where he could really step up his production and become a big-time contributor.
A sad note with this team is the saga of Brian Roberts. He’s the fan’s favorite player, but he’s struggling to deal with the symptoms of a concussion. He’s hoping to be back soon, but it’s a long road and there is a good chance that the 34 year old has played his last major league game.
The last time the Orioles finished at .500 or better was 1997 when they went 98-64 and lost the ALCS to Cleveland. Since then they have made being pathetic an art form.
They are the Pirates of the American League.
In 1997 they hosted 3.7 million fans at Camden Yards. The last two years they have had 1.7 million fans in attendance each year. Can you blame any of those two million people for finding something better to do?
2012 Baltimore Orioles Predictions
We’ve seen this movie before. Their offense will be fine, but entirely devoid of highlights or reasons to really get excited. Their rotation will be frustrating and wildly inconsistent. They may show brief flashes of progress, but if they don’t finish last in the AL East—by a wide margin—it would be a miracle.
2012 Baltimore Orioles MLB Season Win Totals Predictions
They would need to be three wins better than they were last year to go ‘over’ their win total. I just don’t see it. They are the same basic team with the same basic problems, and they play in an absolutely brutal division. I can’t think of a single good reason to gamble on the over.
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