While I wish I could say with confidence that the Baltimore Orioles will be for real in 2013, I just can’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love Showalter and have the utmost respect for what he has accomplished with this franchise, but last year was somewhat of a fluke if you look at the numbers. The Orioles were 16th in the MLB in run differential, but their ridiculous record in 1-run games (29-9) carried them to the playoffs. Can they repeat those kinds of numbers and get to the playoffs again? Here is a look at the 2013 Baltimore Orioles:
OF Trayvon Robinson, OF Chris Dickerson, SP Jair Jurrjens, RP Mark Hendrickson, SP T.J. McFarland, INF Alexi Casilla, and UTIL Conor Jackson
INF Robert Andino, INF Mark Reynolds, SP Joe Saunders, and OF Endy Chavez
Bullpen. This is a bullpen that was pivotal in getting the Orioles to the postseason; by helping them win 29 1-run games. Their relievers combined for the 5th best ERA in the MLB. While this bullpen is returning almost completely intact, I worry about their endurance. Their lack of starting pitching last year led to this bullpen throwing the 3rd most innings in the MLB. Can that group handle that kind of workload with the same kind of success? Well, they will have to if this team wants any kind of chance.
Also, while the bullpen is the biggest strength, this young, powerful lineup should be very solid as well. Wieters, Machado, Jones, and Markakis are proving to be great young pieces to build around.
Rotation. The Orioles rotation, while serviceable enough last year, is the reason why I doubt the Orioles this year. In the offseason, the only piece that they added to the rotation, which was 21st in the MLB in quality starts and ERA, was Jair Juurrjens. Jurrjens is coming off two very poor and injury plagued seasons. While a bounce-back season is possible, it doesn’t seem plausible, especially in this division.
Bottom line is: while the Orioles rotation could once again overachieve and have their deficiencies covered by a solid bullpen, that doesn’t change the fact that—on paper—the Blue Jays, Rays, and Yankees have better starting pitching.
I really really hope that I am wrong. It was refreshing to see the Orioles be a factor again and would love to see them compete for the AL East again. While the bullpen and line-up should do their part, I just haven’t bought in to this rotation yet, and don’t think I ever will. If I was an Orioles fan, I would be ecstatic with a 2nd wild card spot.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson