2012 in review
Record: 93-69 (82-80 Pythagorean)
712 runs scored (9th in AL)
705 runs allowed (8th in NL)
Big Offseason Moves
No, those don't qualify as big moves. No team had a more disappointing offseason than the Orioles, who failed to capitalize on their surprising playoff run by making any impact moves. With potential holes at left field, second base and DH, the Orioles instead elected to bring back McLouth (who did play well in last 55 games), sign Casilla (.241/.282/.321 in 2012) and entrust the DH spot to Wilson Betemit. Even then, the trouble is the Orioles' true talent level is probably closer to a .500 team than a 93-win team. Even if some of the regulars fare as well as in 2012, they'll need to improve elsewhere, barring another miracle 16-2 record in extra-inning games.
The Orioles hit 214 home runs, second most in the AL, but finished just ninth in runs thanks to a .311 on-base percentage that ranked 11th. Nick Markakis was the only player with an OBP over .350, and you're not going to score enough runs without guys on base. The team let Reynolds go to Cleveland, and, although he hit just .221, he actually had a higher OBP than MVP candidate Adam Jones, Matt Wieters or Chris Davis.
There is some potential for improvement here. J.J. Hardy hit .238 with a .282 OBP. His career mark isn't great at .314, but he's capable of a better season at the plate. Manny Machado was rushed to the big leagues to fill the gaping hole at third base, and, although he eventually will replace Hardy at shortstop, he'll have to improve his .294 OBP to be a quality bat at third.
Still, Buck Showalter once again will have to mix and match and platoon, and this looks like a mediocre offense at best.
The Orioles have seven or eight options for the rotation, including Steve Johnson (not listed, but had 46 K's in 38 innings last year despite a fastball that rarely cracks 90 mph). I actually think the Orioles' rotation could be better than some project. Remember, last year they gave 69 starts to Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Randy Wolf and Dana Eveland, and those guys combined for a 5.70 ERA as starters. Some of those guys will be given another shot at starting in 2013, but no matter who wins, the back of the rotation should be improved.
The question: Can Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez pitch as well as they did in 2012? Tillman is perhaps the key. The longtime prospect finally broke through with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts, but that was helped by a .221 average on balls in play. There appears to be a lot of luck in his numbers -- his line-drive rate was actually higher than his career rate.
The bullpen helped the Orioles to a 29-9 record in one-run games, the best ever. That won't happen again. The bullpen could be just as effective and it won't happen again.
Heat Map to Watch
Davis was a pleasant surprise in his first full season with Orioles, hitting .270 with 33 home runs. No one has ever doubted Davis' power, but his contact issues and poor plate discipline have led to on-base issues in the past. He wasn't great in that department in 2012 -- .326 -- but if he can hit .270 again with 30-plus homers, the Orioles will live with the strikeouts. What makes Davis tough is that when he does make contact, the ball usually goes a long way, as he hit .331 when hitting a fly ball, well above the major league average. And with his opposite-field power -- nine home runs to left or left-center -- he can cover the entire plate.
It doesn't seem as if the Orioles picked up many believers after their 93-win season. To be fair, it's with good reason, considering they barely outscored their opponents. However, after sitting 46-44 on July 17, they did go 47-25 the rest of the way, and it wasn't a fluke as they outscored their opponents 340 to 276.
Basically, to counteract some of the good fortune in one-run games, the Orioles will need better starting pitching from the back of the rotation and need somebody on offense to step up. Maybe this is year Wieters breaks through with a .285/.375/.500 season. Maybe Jones learns to draw a few more walks. Maybe Davis hits 43 home runs instead of 33.
But Josh Hamilton would have looked nice in the middle of this lineup.