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Baseball Prospectus’ Pre-season Projection: 75-87, fifth place
Current record: 60-86, fifth place

Hey, at least they caught the guys who stole Cal’s number from outside Camden Yards.


Buster Olney of ESPN.com’s Take

What went wrong: Nothing that a little division realignment couldn’t fix. The Orioles‘ front office knew that this would be a year of growth for the team’s wave of young talent, but the monsters in the AL East in Boston and New York don’t really allow for that kind of thing; Baltimore was swallowed up. Along the way, however, the Orioles introduced their stars of the future-catcher Matt Wieters and pitchers Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman-to the big leagues. “We’re very satisfied with the progress” of that trio, club president Andy MacPhail wrote in an e-mail.

Biggest puzzler on the drawing board: The Orioles have some solid building blocks with their pitching, with Wieters, second baseman Brian Roberts, and outfielder Nick Markakis. But as the Indians of 2007 and the Rays and Brewers of 2008 will testify, the window of opportunity for a team with a mid-level budget opens and closes faster than it used to; the Orioles probably need to be in position to make their move in 2011 or 2012. Their immediate challenge will be to find corner fielders who can lengthen their lineup-and in the big picture, they will need a frontline shortstop. Ownership’s position has been all along that once the Orioles have a core of talented young players in place, Baltimore will spend for free agents.


The Baseball Prospectus Take

Another year, another losing record, and another fifth-place finish. Our early expectation was that the Orioles’ lineup would rock the American League by finishing second in runs scored, while their patchwork pitching staff would get rocked, finishing next to last. The pitching lived down to our expecations; their 775 runs allowed is dead last in the American League, although the Indians (769) have a chance to catch them. The lineup, though, most definitely did not rock. The only hitter we could call a pleasant surprise was Nolan Reimold, who forced his way up by hitting .394 in Norfolk. Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Ty Wigginton were big disappointments, but none so much as the eagerly-awaited Wieters. The catcher produced some of the best minor league numbers in recent memory, including his first two months in Triple-A this year, but upon his big-league debut, he didn’t show much in the way of big-league power.-Clay Davenport, Baseball Prospectus


Key Stat: 86

So far, that’s the number of starts the Orioles have given to pitchers who, prior to this year, had never pitched in the major leagues. Japanese import Koji Uehara (12 starts, 4.05 ERA) was the only one of these neophytes who was actually expected to play a major role this year. When veteran retreads like Adam Eaton, Rich Hill, and Mark Hendrickson combined for 28 starts and a 7.60 ERA, the Birds had little choice but to accelerate the timetable on their young pitching prospects. There were growing pains aplenty, as Jason Berken lost 11 straight decisions while David Hernandez struggled to keep baseballs inside the park, but Brad Bergesen emerged as the team’s best starter while plum prospects Tillman and Matusz made solid auditions for 2010.-Clay Davenport, Baseball Prospectus


Rumor Central

Trades: The Orioles are in a bind. Nobody has a better pile of pitching prospects, but because the group has been given so much notoriety, they can’t make a deal for the middle-of-the-order bat they need without a team naming one of those untouchables as the price in return. So the void at first base, where they produced an AL-worst 13 home runs through September 16? Don’t expect Adrian Gonzalez to fill it. With a tight window, expect the Orioles to at least check the market on free agents Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. A dark horse: How about bringing Carlos Delgado back to the AL for DH/1B duty. Another name that fits: Hank Blalock.

Free Agency: When your entire franchise rests on the talented arms of a bunch of kids, it could help to find a steadying influence. The Orioles could A) go for a cheaper veteran like a Jon Garland, or B) make a splash and take some pressure off the kids with John Lackey. Anything to make sure Bergesen, Matusz, and Tillman don’t become Isringhausen, Wilson, and Pulsipher.


Who 2 Watch 4: Josh Bell, 3B

The big prize coming over from the Dodgers in the George Sherrill deal, Josh Bell took tremendous steps forward in nearly every aspect of his game in 2009, thanks in part to a much-improved approach. He tapped more into his power, including nine home runs in 114 at-bats with Double-A Bowie, and morphed from a solid defender to a plus at the hot corner. It would be risky to throw him right into the big leagues at this point, but he’s a better solution than picking up the 2010 option of unproductive incumbent Melvin Mora.-Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus


Draft recap

Signed: 29 of 50
Spent: Just over $6 million
Hit: Right-hander Ryan Berry (266th pick overall). He’s a command pitcher out of Rice who seems relatively unscathed by the Owls’ history of overusing their pitchers. He signed for just over $400,000 and projects as an eventual fourth starter.
Miss: Shortstop Mychal Givens (54th overall). Givens was signed as a bat, but more scouts like his mid-90s arm on the mound in a relief role.-Jason A. Churchill, ESPN.com


The Bottom Line

The Orioles are going to get out from under a bunch of bad contracts that expire this year (Jay Gibbons, Jamie Walker, Danys Baez, Mora), and they’ve got the makings of a dirt-cheap pitching rotation that should be a lot better than this year’s. That should mean they’ll have money to spend on offense. The outfield is well set, but apart from Roberts at second their infield is full of holes. A quality shortstop ought to be first on their wish list (the minor league cupboard is completely bare there), and some corner mashers would be nice too; but this being the Orioles, expect them to settle for a second- or third-tier veteran trying to postpone retirement. The best trade they could pull off would be one that gets them into the Central Division, and away from the Yankees and Red Sox.-Clay Davenport, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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royalsnightly
9/18
Glad to see Buster Olney has closed the book on the Rays. Because obviously a team that won the AL East is equal to a team that won the NL wildcard.
mattymatty2000
9/18
I dispute the premise that the Orioles have to be a team with a mid-level budget. Ten years ago the Orioles had more than 340 million patrons at Camden Yards, and they had one of the highest payroll figures in the game. The Orioles had one of the top two highest payrolls in baseball from 1996-1998. Times have changed since then, for sure. The Nationals have come to DC, for one, and payroll figures have doubled since then (at least). But I don't think that means if the Orioles put a competitive team on the field they couldn't get their attendance figures back up to where they were to support an upper echelon payroll.
baserip4
9/18
I'm not sure I agree, Matt. With the turnover in stadiums for virtually every other team in baseball, the Orioles no longer have a Camden Yards advantage that can be used to support a relatively higher payroll. I think they're destined to be a middle of the pack spender, perhaps bumping into the top-10 occassionally if they really break the bank on a player or two.
llewdor
9/18
Peter Angelos may well blame that on the arrival of the Nationals. Remember, his franchise value is guaranteed by MLB (a condition of relocating the Expos). His annual revenue is guaranteed by MLB (a condition of relocating the Expos). Peter Angelos has effectively no incentive to spend money on his team.
dianagramr
9/18
Interestingly, this will be at least the ninth straight season with the O's getting to at least July 1 with at least a .450 win pct, only to collapse (d-day) thereafter. Some of the collapses have been borderline historic. year w l pct d-day w l pct 2001 39 42 .481 7/1 24 56 .300 2002 63 63 .500 8/22 4 32 .111 2003 57 59 .491 8/10 14 32 .304 2004 57 59 .491 8/15 21 25 .457 2005 60 60 .500 8/17 14 28 .333 2006 44 51 .463 7/17 26 41 .388 2007 50 55 .476 7/31 19 38 .333 2008 61 63 .492 8/17 7 30 .189 2009 40 48 .455 7/12 20 38 .345 totals 471 500 .485 149 320 .318
baserip4
9/18
While those numbers are definitely disheartening, I think the unbalanced schedule plays a really big role in them. August and September inevitably involves lots of Yankees and Red Sox match-ups against patchwork Orioles teams.
Corkedbat
9/18
Hey baserip4 The O's did go after Texiera. I say the go after Tulowitzki and Justin Smoak! Yes I am an O's fan... and that is most certainly 2 improbable hopes.
baserip4
9/18
I'm an O's fan as well, and I don't think their pursuit of Teixeira changes the equation. He would have been "only" $20mm in 2009, which would have pushed the O's to 13th in payroll.
mcbmd2
9/18
Quality shortstops are hard to come by, but JJ Hardy seems like a possible fit for the O's.
Oleoay
9/18
An entire Orioles article with no mention of Adam Jones?
fireorlime
9/18
The second half slump followed by a career ending injury really dropped his name off the radar, despite making the all star team as a 23-24 year old. Jonesy will be a significant part of our future especially if he plays like he did May/June/July. Wieters has also stepped up his game lately.
Oleoay
9/18
Career ending injury? I missed that part...
TGisriel
9/19
It was a season ending injury, not a career ending injury. Even at that Jones and the O's could have pushed it and got him back at the very end of the year. Instead, they prudently shut him down for the rest of the year. Also gives them (and the rest of the league)a chance to get a look at Pie in center field. He has significantly stepped up his game after losing his starting position in LF.
Oleoay
9/20
Thanks for the clarification. I too thought it was a season-threatening/season-ending injury but not a career ending one. If it was career ending, it'd make sense that Jones wasn't mentioned.. but if he's supposed to return from it, I figure he would've been mentioned in the article.
fireorlime
9/22
Sorry for the brainfart. I would be suicidal if Jonesy actually had a career ending injury.
billm21
9/18
This "Kiss Em Goodbye" series is great! I'm really enjoying the variety of analysis in each one. I can't wait for the one on the Diamondbacks so I can read the various opinions on the systematic destruction of what just three years ago was the organization of the year.
TGisriel
9/18
I'm somewhat amused that Mychal Givens is listed as a "miss" because the O's signed him as a bat, while many scouts prefer him as a pitcher. A few years ago, the O's signed a young player who was both a bat and a pitcher. The consensus was that he was a better prospect as a pitcher with a 90+ MPH arm, but the O's signed him as an everyday player. That player is now the O's every day right fielder, Nick Markakis. That arm did stay with him. He leads the league in outfield assists.
fireorlime
9/18
Oh damn in yo face Jason Churchill!!!!
smocon
9/18
They could pursue Fielder too. And not have to give up Tillman or Matusz. I bet a deal of Arrieta, Mickolio, Snyder and Britton could get it done.
mcbmd2
9/18
I'm not so sure MacPhail would be willing to part with the two top arms AND one the best bats in the system for a 1B (albeit an amazing one). He's seriously expressed an unwillingness to part with centerpieces of the team, and that means pitching. Also--just my opinion--but Zach Britton could become a really solid starter. He's got a similar repertoire to Brad Bergesen, and also has above average control. Plus, he's generated a lot more Ks than Bergy in the minors. However, Fielder would be a GREAT addition. How many guys who are only 25 hit 40+ HRs every year. I want that on my O's.
oira61
9/20
I'm disappointed that this article didn't notice the strong uptick in intelligence in the Warehouse, instead snidely saying the O's will sign more overpriced, over-the-hill vets. Andy MacPhail really seems to have changed the philosophy. Too bad a bunch of guys who watch baseball every day didn't notice. Or am I imagining the Bedard trade, the Sherrill trade, the Huff trade, and the absence of pursuit of free agents over $2.5 million who weren't any good?
DrDave
9/20
Agreed here. As best I can remember, the Orioles did everything right this year, accepting the 'disappointing' record in order to build a future. The last step, of course, will be to jettison Trembley as soon as the focus shifts from primarily player development to actual winning. He seems to be good at the former, but disastrous at the latter.
Sacramento
9/21
I wonder if it's time for PECOTA to get some adjustments, with the wildly optimistic projections for Matt Wieters and Jay Bruce in back to back years.
baserip4
9/22
Sample size fail.