30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles Roundtable

Our guest bloggers are Daniel Moroz from Camden Crazies and Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux.

Question 1 – Can the group of young starters be effective for the whole season (Matusz, Tillman, etc)?

Daniel: They can certainly be effective, but I don’t expect any of them to pitch all that many innings (closer to 150 than 200). I think Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen are already polished enough to be about league average starters or a little bit better, while guys like Chris Tillman and David Hernandez are still working on some things. Tillman has a fair chance to take a sizable step forward, and Hernandez could be decent at the back end of the rotation or out of the pen. Currently, I have those four – plus Jason Berken – projected to pitch a total of about 600 innings as starters with an ERA of around 4.70. It’s not fantastic, but it’s serviceable.

Chad: I think it will be difficult for them to be successful all season. They all have loads of talent but as we all know, it takes more than a great arm to make a great pitcher. I think the fact that they all have great stuff will lend itself to them all having good stretches throughout the year but to have a great year they have to learn how to adjust as batters adjust to them.

Eugene: I think Matusz has the best shot of being successful. The other pitchers have the ability after a couple of years, but it could be a long season in Baltimore if the fans are expecting Cy Young caliber performances.

Question 2 – Can the Orioles compete with the big market teams (NY, BOS)?

Daniel: They can, but I think the best case scenario is being able to knock one of them out of the playoffs every couple of years. The Rays have shown that you can be in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Orioles have the ability to maintain higher payrolls than Tampa Bay so they may be able to sustain some success for a little longer than the Rays can. There’s a lot that can happen in a baseball season, and a good bounce here and there can easily put one team over another. That said, I think in more years than not, New York and Boston will go into the season as the favorites and with the highest expected talent levels. So for a given 10 year period for example, I’d expect (if all goes according to plan) NY to come in first ~3 times, BOS ~3 times, and the other ~4 split between BAL, TBR, and TOR. I don’t know if that is really a good thing, but I think that’s the system we’re in.

Jeff: I’d agree it’s not a good thing, Daniel, but I think you’re being conservative — I think NY/Boston would win more like 8 out of 10 — sad, but true.

Daniel: The way it is now, yeah 8-10. I just meant if every team was hitting on all cylinders (the O’s finish their rebuild, for example, and the young pitchers work out), it would still be weighted fairly heavily towards the big two.

Russ: In the current system, NY/Boston have finished first since 1995, correct? Let’s see how the Orioles pitching grows. 2011 and 2012 may be years for Baltimore to finally compete again.

Daniel: The O’s actually finished first in 1997. The Rays finished first in 2008. Mostly the Yankees otherwise, though.

I’m looking at 2012 as the year to really start making a run for Baltimore.

Trent: Simple answer: no.

Even if they had an outstanding, better than they could dream of season, the Yanks or the Bo Sox would still be too much for them to overcome. They’d need 100 wins, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Given that the Rays are still on the uptick, I would think staying out of the cellar would be a good enough season for the O’s.

Question 3 – Which player will have a breakout year for the Orioles?

Jeff: I’m going with Adam Jones — I think he’s in a great spot in that lineup, just ahead of Markakis, Tejada, and Wieters–He could really see a ton of pitches to hit which should help him cut back on his strikeout ratio. Assuming he stays healthy (no small feat for Jones) I predict 30+ HRs, 15+ SBs and a .900+ OPS

Russ: Agreed. Adam Jones. I saw him against the Yankees all year. He is a player waiting to be a superstar.

Daniel: Matt Wieters. He wasn’t all that great last year, but has the ability to really take a big step forward and become one of the best catchers in the league. I don’t think he’ll be an MVP candidate quite yet, but that’s certainly a possibility in the years ahead.

Warren: my best guess is Brian Roberts, he had a good season last year, and should have a 20HR-200Hit season this year for the Orioles. He also only missed 3 games and is a strong lead-off hitter for them, and a few key hits could be just what Baltimore needs from Roberts.

Daniel: Roberts is a second-baseman on the wrong side of age 30 and has never hit 20 HR or had 200 hits in his career. Expecting either seems a little foolish to me, and expecting even something too close to them (like 15-17 HR and 180-190 H) is probably not the best idea either. (Sorry.)

Matt: Well said, Daniel. Plus, I wouldn’t characterize Brian Roberts as a breakout player, even if he has a career year. He’s already a two-time All-Star who’s led the league in doubles (twice) and stolen bases.

The O’s have several talented young players, but one who’s getting minimal press is Felix Pie. The Cubs rushed Pie through their system and then gave up on him when he didn’t produce immediately at the big-league level, but he just turned 25-years-old and in the last 45 games of the 2009 season Pie seemed to start to figure things out. He hit .300 with 7 HR, 21 RBI, and an .871 OPS. He’ll have to fight for at-bats, but if he wins the job, he could be one of the nicer surprises of 2010.

To his advantage, Pie is a very solid defender. If the O’s choose to move Reimold to first and play Jones, Pie, and Markakis in the outfield, it could be one of the better defensive outfields in the league.

Jeff: I’ve liked Pie’s potential since his days with the Cubs.

Daniel: Agree with this (well, not so much looking at his stats in that small sample of games, but the general idea – especially that last part – is spot on).

Question 4 – Where will the Orioles finish this year?

Russ: Fourth. I just don’t see them overtaking the Yanks, Sox or Rays. Does anyone disagree?

Trent: I think they’ll be happy not to finish bottom of the AL East. They may sniff around third place for a while but I can’t see them finishing better than fourth unless one of the front runners collapses in spectacular form.

If they do finish last, it would have to be a major blow to the psyche of that squad because they know that the Jays don’t have 18-20 automatic wins with Halladay no longer there and that teams rebuilding. Heads would have to roll if that were to be the case.

Daniel: I’ve got them projected for around 77 wins right now, and I think that will be enough to move them passed the Blue Jays and into 4th place. Even 75 might do that. 3rd place is quite unlikely though, and the upper end to shoot for is probably a .500 season.

Jeff: The O’s and Jays will be fighting beak-and-beak for the cellar all year.

For the other 29 teams, click here.

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