30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles Preview

Baltimore Orioles – American League East

2009 Record: 64-98, Last Place (5th) in American League East, 39 Games Back

2009 Review:
The Orioles had high hopes for the 2009 season, unveiling new uniforms with an updated Oriole on their caps, new patches and new road uniforms. However, sometimes new uniforms do not lead to positive results.

Finishing 40 games out of first place is no place where a franchise wants to finish. However, in a division with the American League Champion Rays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, not too many teams will have a chance to succeed.

There were a few positives for the Orioles in 2009. Center fielder Adam Jones is only 23 years old was named to his first All-Star game and won a Gold Glove. He hit 19 home runs, drove in 70 and had a batting average of .277. “Catcher of the Future” Matt Wieters, also 23 started off slow, but recovered to hit .288. Second baseman Brian Roberts scored 110 runs and Nick Markakis had 188 hits and batted .293.

On the pitching side, Brad Bergesen was 7-5 in his first season in the major leagues. His 3.43 era was also as impressive for the 23 year old. Another young Oriole pitcher, 21 year old Chris Tillman started 12 games and although his record was 2-5, he was getting valuable major league experience as well. 21 year old Brian Matusz started 8 games towards the end of the year and was 5-2 during these starts. Although the future may be showing itself starting in 2009, they still need experience before youth becomes prominence.

The pitching staff was 14th in the American League in ERA, hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs and home runs allowed. There are only 14 teams in the American League. These numbers were severely disappointing, and were the main Achilles heel to the young Orioles team.

Key Transactions since 2009:
Losses:
Danys Baez – Baez declared free agency in November and signed a two-year contract with the Phillies. Baez pitched out of the bullpen in 2009, appearing in 59 games, with a 4-6 record and an era just above 4.00 after sitting out the 2008 season. He did hold opposing batters to a .222 batting average and a WHIP of 1.13. Baez was a set-up man for Closer George Sherill.

Brian Bass – After the 2009 season, Bass was not offered a contract and became a free agent. His 86.1 innings last year was second most for Orioles relievers and he did have a 5-3 record. In 48 appearances, he used up many innings for the bullpen.

Jeff Fiorentino – After refusing minor league assignment, Fiorentino became a free agent. He was a backup outfielder with very little power and limited experience as well. He appeared in only 24 games with 64 at-bats and a .281 batting average. The former third round draft pick has been claimed off of waivers three times in his career and hopes to catch on with another team in 2010.

Sean Henn – Henn was placed on waivers after appearing in only six games in 2009, pitching three innings. Henn would not have a place in the pitching staff in 2010 and will not be missed by the Orioles.

Rich Hill – After parts of four seasons with the Cubs, Hill started 13 games and appeared in 14 for the Orioles in 2009. His 7.80 era and 3-3 record is no comparison to the 2007 season where he was 11-8 with a 3.93 era. He had a shoulder injury during the 2009 season and had lost his spot in the rotation anyway.

Melvin Mora – The starting third baseman was the biggest loss for the Orioles after the 2009 season. In 125 games, he hit only 8 homes runs, drove in 48 and had a batting average of .260. He became a free agent after the Orioles declined their option for 2010. His play was no longer worthy as a starter and as a 38 year old, the Orioles were looking to get younger at this position.

Other Losses from the 2009 team includes; Radhames Liz, Chris Ray

Gains:
Garrett Atkins – Atkins is coming off of an off-year, hitting only .226 in 2009 with 9 home runs and 48 runs batted in, in 126 games. In his four previous seasons in Colorado, he averaged about 23 home runs and 100 runs batted in. Atkins is looking to regain his form and prove that his statistics are because he is a quality player and not because he played at Coors Field.

Mike Gonzalez – Gonzalez, signed as a free agent, should compete for the Closer role and if he does not win it, will become a valuable setup man. He had a 5-4 season for the Braves in 2009, with 10 saves and a 2.42 era in over 74 innings pitched. He struck out 90 and walked 33 in those innings with a WHIP of 1.197. He has experience in closing in 2006, he saved 24 games for the Pirates.

Kevin Millwood – Obtained in a trade from the Rangers, Milwood had a 13-10 record in 2009, pitching almost 200 innings with an era of 3.67. He was coveted by the Orioles for 2010 for his experience and leadership for a young pitching staff. He will be their front of their rotation and a mentor to their young pitchers. With an average age just over 28, Millwood should be a good mentor and positive influence in a clubhouse that has not seen a winner in a long time.

Miguel Tejada – Welcome back Miguel. This All-Star in 2009 hit .313 with 14 home runs and 86 runs batted in. Tejada will compete at third with Atkins may also DH some games. His bat is one that will need to be in the lineup. In his years hitting at Camden Yards, Tejada averaged 25 home runs with 100 runs batted in per season. He will be 36 this season and will be a good influence to the young Orioles. He is the top offemsive addition to the Orioles this season., Armando Gabino, Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Millwood, Craig Tatum, Miguel Tejada

Other Additions to the Orioles: Armando Gabino Chris George, Joel Guzman, Michel Hernandez, Will Ohman, Jeff Salazar, Craig Tatum

2010 Preview:
On paper, the Orioles are improved over the last place finishing team of 2009. They have two new infielders, a new starting pitcher to lead their rotation and help in the bullpen. These veterans should give good leadership to the young players, giving them direction and leadership in all aspects of the team game of baseball.

Specifically, the addition of Millwood will give leadership to what was the worst rotation in the majors. He will move Jeremy Guthrie to the second spot in the rotation and he should improve upon the 10 wins he had in 2009. The other three spots in the rotation; Bergesen, Tillman and Matusz have less than 50 career starts and should continue their improvement.

On the offensive side, Tejada should fit right in, as long as he can pick up third base as opposed to his position to date, short stop. Garrett Atkins is expected to improve upon his 2009 season and the young offensive Orioles should produce as they did in 2009 with the 5th best overall batting average in the American League.

The Orioles had a combined record of 15-39 against the Rays, Sox and Yankees. To improve on 2010, the record against these three teams must improve. The pitching must have some consistency. Look for 70 to 75 wins from the Orioles and the emergence of two or three of their young players as future stars.

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