Friday, April 3, 2009

How Bad Will the Orioles be in 2009?

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the most fascinating franchises in baseball right now. Once a proud and storied club, the Orioles have been terrible over the past decade and have not made the playoffs since 1997.

But behind the leadership of GM Andy McPhail, the Orioles finally appear to be headed in the right direction by building their club around talented, young players.

With that said, most folks are expecting 2009 to be rough for the Orioles, even with their young talent. Michael Blouse, a writer from Lehigh Valley Live, believes that the Orioles will be the worst team in baseball in 2009:
Fans of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, and there are a lot of them in these parts, can claim to root for the best team in Major League Baseball.

I, meanwhile, am a fan of the Baltimore Orioles -- who will prove to be the worst team in baseball this season.

Can anyone out there name the Orioles' No. 3 starter as the season approaches next week? I did not think so. The O's third pitcher is none other than Phillies reject, Adam Thomas Eaton. Yes, that Adam Eaton, the same man who would be the No. 6 starter for Martins Creek of the Blue Mountain League. Eaton's projected stats for the Orioles: 8 starts, 1-7, 7.78 ERA.

I can see Blouse's point here. The Orioles will be playing in the toughest division in baseball that consists of three of the best offenses in all of baseball. Simply put, the Orioles do not have the pitching to counteract the potent attacks of the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees. At least not yet. I can see the Orioles struggling on the pitching front, which will make it very difficult for the Orioles to win

But here is where Blouse's argument breaks down and loses credibility.
The Orioles pitching staff is absolutely awful, and their everyday lineup is almost as bad. Example, Cesar Izturis, who boasts a career sub-.300 on-base percentage, is the opening-day shortstop. Gregg Zaun is the starting catcher and Felix Pie is the left fielder. Right fielder Nick Markakis is the only Oriole who could legitamitely be considered a very good major league player.
Really? Just Nick Markakis? I'm a huge Markakis fan, but anyone who followed the Orioles last season knows that statement is simply not true.

How could Blouse not mention Melvin Mora, who hit .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs last season? Or how about Aubrey Huff, who was an absolute beast in 2008 by hitting 48 doubles, 32 home runs, and a .304 batting average? And finally, what about Brain Roberts? Roberts was the backbone of an Orioles attack last season by posting a .378 OBP with 51 doubles and 40 stolen bases. (And I didn't even mention Adam Jones or Felix Pie, both of whom could put up big numbers this season at the plate)

(Side note: Why is Blouse upset with having Felix Pie as a left fielder? The baseball world knows this guy has talent, so what's the harm in giving him a shot to play this season? It's not like the Orioles expect to compete.)

I dunno about you, but I would say that all three of those guys are legitimately very good baseball players no matter what team they are playing for. The notion that Markakis is the only legitimately good baseball player is unfair and wrong.

I don't think the Orioles will be a very good team in 2009. I think they will be better than they were in 2008 assuming that Rich Hill, Adam Jones, Felix Pie, and Koji Uehara develop as planned and Matt Wieters shows the world just how good he really is. The pitching will prevent the Orioles from coming close to competing in 2009, and that's no surprise.

Even though the Orioles play in the best division in baseball, I don't think they will be the worst team in the majors. Their pitching is terrible and should be a major concern, but their offense will undoubtedly bail them out of games from time to time. This offense is deep and potent even with Cesar Izturis and more importantly, without Matt Wieters (for now).

And don't forget, there is lots of talent on this team. This is not one of those scrub filled Orioles teams of past seasons that consisted of players who had no future in the major leagues. I'd give the Orioles 70-75 wins in 2009, and I'm sure there are many Orioles fans who would be thrilled with that total.

But ultimately, the 2009 Orioles will not be judged by wins and losses. Instead, this season is all about the future and finding pieces to build lasting success in Baltimore.


Jonathan Etkowicz said...

I completely agree. The Orioles won't be very good this season, but by no means will they be the worst team in the whole league. They happen to play in a division where even finishing with a winning record might not get them above 4th place. The top three teams are just that good, as you mentioned.

You're also right, the Orioles are a team with a bright future. They have the bats, they just need the pitching. Besides Wieters, they have three top pitching prospects who should all be in Camden Yards by July 2010: Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman. I see them finishing 4th in the AL East this year but competing by 2011 when the young arms have the hang of the league.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Think the Orioles should have done what the A's and Tigers did and let the young guys pitch now?

Josh said...

I think the Orioles have to strike a balance; they need guys who can give them innings, but at the same time, they need to start infusing their rotation with some younger arms. It's only a matter of time in my eyes.

Bax said...

If they're not the worst team in baseball who is? The Royals?

Josh said...

I gotta go with the Padres on this one. If not the Padres, then the Mariners. Both of those teams have a LONG way to go.

Daniel said...

Any chance the Orioles get good enough quick enough to keep Markakis? Also, how can you say the Orioles will eventually be good if Angelos is still the owner?

Also, great blog. I know it might not count because I'm family, but I think you're doing an excellent job.