Baltimore Orioles: 5 Things That Worked but Can't Be Depended on in 2013
Before spring training last season, Baltimore was purely an afterthought in the baseball world, listed by OddsShark.com at a league-worst 75-1 odds to win the AL pennant. While they didn't win the pennant, they did claim a wild-card spot and gave their fans more to cheer about than they had in years.
Unfortunately, many of the things that fell into place for the Orioles during their magical 2012 season can’t be counted on next year. If they want to continue their success they will need to evaluate where they might not be so fortunate next season and plan accordingly.
Click through to see five things the Orioles shouldn't count on repeating in 2013.
Succeeding Without a Competent Backup Catcher
Matt Wieters is one of the best two-way catchers in baseball, hitting for power and playing excellent defense. He played in 134 games and logged 85 percent of Baltimore’s innings behind the plate in 2012, something that shouldn't continue if the Orioles hope to keep him at the top of his game.
A primary reason that Wieters played so much is the lack of viable options behind him on the bench.
Taylor Teagarden, Ronny Paulino and Luis Exposito were the three other catchers who saw playing time in 2012. They faltered mightily, hitting a combined .188, while none of them played especially strong defense.
According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, the Orioles went right down to the wire during last spring training before identifying their backup catching pecking order. The team needs to have better options and a more solid plan in 2013 in order to protect Wieters, who is one of their most irreplaceable players.
Continue Winning While Struggling to Get on Base
The Orioles overcame their struggles to get on base in 2012 by living and dying with the home run.
Baltimore finished 10th in the AL last season with a .247 team batting average, and 11th with a collective .311 OBP. They were able to offset these poor numbers by hitting 214 home runs, putting them behind only the Yankees for the AL team lead.
Home runs are not something that can be counted on, so the Orioles must work on pitch selectivity and manufacturing runs, or add some hitters who can bring those types of skills to the table.
Dominating 1-Run Games
The Orioles were downright historical with their 29-9 record and .763 winning percentage in one-run games in 2012. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that mark was the third best of all time, and the best since the Louisville Colonels had a .760 winning percentage in such games in 1890.
The Orioles are almost certain to experience a regression in one-run games in 2013.
ESPN.com’s final MLB standings show the volatile nature of team records in close games. The putrid Cleveland Indians were the runner-up to the Orioles for the best winning percentage in one-run games, with a 24-12 record. They were 44-82 in all other games. By comparison, the 95-win Yankees had just a 22-25 record in one-run games.
It’s difficult for a team to plan for how they will play in one-run games, but having a strong pitching staff and a little luck are two keys. The Orioles may continue to be successful in tight games in 2013, but they shouldn't expect to be quite as fortunate.
Getting by without a Front-Line Starting Pitcher
A shocking aspect of the Orioles' 2012 success was that rookie Wei-Yin Chen, with 192.2 innings, was the only starter in their rotation to log more than 133.2 on the year. Contending teams are often defined by having a front-line starter, a position that Baltimore lacked last season.
The Orioles' 2012 rotation benefited from pitchers stepping in as needed, but they lacked a shutdown ace. Jason Hammel was the only pitcher to have a complete game, and Chen, with 12 wins, was the only pitcher to post a double-digit total in victories.
While the Orioles will want to explore the free-agent and trade markets for a front-line starter, they may already have some options on their roster. CSNBaltimore’s Rich Dubroff believes that Baltimore has a lot more depth now than they did at the start of last season. Youngsters like Chris Tillman and Dylan Bundy are all capable of one day headlining the Baltimore rotation.
The Bullpen Repeating Their Dominance
The Orioles' bullpen was ridiculously good in 2012. Of the seven pitchers who made at least 34 relief appearances, only Kevin Gregg’s ERA (4.95) was above 2.72. As a team, the bullpen had a 3.00 ERA for the year.
The performance of the Orioles bullpen came as somewhat of a surprise, as it had not been an area of strength the previous year. Their 2012 bullpen ERA was 1.18 less than their 2011 mark, which improved largely because of newcomers Darren O’Day and Luis Ayala, and the emergence of Jim Johnson as one of the best closers in baseball.
It will be asking a lot for the bullpen to continue shouldering a major load, especially if the Orioles don’t get more consistency out of their rotation. While it will likely be an area of strength once again in 2013, there is a good possibility that the bullpen won’t be quite as good as they were last season.
Statistics via BaseballReference