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So, Orioles... how've you been this year? Haven't checked in with you since the preview I wrote last year. People were expecting a lot from you, maybe even a fourth-place finish in the East, ahead of those overrated Blue Jays.

The Orioles actually did improve a bit from 2010 to 2011. Their win total climbed from 66 to 69, which is almost imperceptible, but they also improved their offense from second-worst in the league to middle-of-the-pack. (Of course, their pitching also went from second-worst to worst, so whatcha gonna do.)

Last year I mentioned a whole list of young players who might develop for the Orioles: Wieters, Pie, Jones, Markakis, Reimold, Matusz, Arrieta, Tillman, Britton, Bergesen. Well, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold did improve, and Nick Markakis remained productive, but none of the pitchers really did much, unless you want to say Zach Britton did.

So really there's less to fear from the Orioles this year. Some stuff they were hoping for happened and it didn't get them to 70 wins. Since then they've lost Vladimir Guerrero, Luke Scott, and Jeremy Guthrie, all of whom helped them last year, and they haven't been replaced by anybody scary. I mean, sure, you can say that Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen might help out on the mound, or Nick Johnson will put it all back together and make the team as a DH or something, but really there haven't been any gamechangers.

Dan Duquette took over as GM of the Orioles this offseason. There was no consensus that this was a brilliant move by Peter Angelos. Duquette has been a successful GM before, but that was a decade or two ago. He may be able to get the job done, or he may be yesterday's man. Or he may be able to get a job done, but not the Orioles job, which is notoriously tougher.

Duquette's got his work cut out for him: Baseball America ranked the Orioles' organizational talent 21st out of 30. 21st is nothing to be proud of, but it's not hopeless... except that the other four teams in the division, the teams Baltimore is chasing, are all well ahead of them (Toronto 5th, Tampa Bay 8th, Boston 9th, New York 13th). The Orioles do have some good prospects, RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado the two biggest names among them, but nobody to be worried about anytime soon.

And then there was the Korea thing. On the one hand you have to give Duquette and his people a bit of credit for trying stuff. They signed Kim Seong-min, a young South Korean pitcher, out of high school, and apparently violated some rules in doing so. As a result, the Korean Baseball Association banned all Orioles scouts from KBA events in South Korea, which in turn got the Commissioner's office ticked off with the Orioles. You know, for embarrassing Bud Selig, and stuff. So the signing was overturned, and the Orioles were fined, but apparently Baltimore is still trying to push it through. Which is a lot of trouble to go to for a guy who may not be all that great in the first place.

I don't point out this amusing chain of events because it affects how the Orioles are going to play in 2012. It doesn't. It does suggest, though, that maybe the Orioles' front-office problems have not yet been completely solved, and that they are not yet back on the road to competitiveness. You don't hear about Friedman or Anthopoulos or Cashman or Cherington doing stuff like this.

The success the Orioles had with their offense is the kind of success that's hard to maintain. With Markakis and Wieters and Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy and Jones, they'll hit for some power. Getting on base will be more of a challenge, though, and most of the players in the O's lineup should be at their peaks right now, or possibly thirty seconds past their peaks. (I except Wieters and Jones.) So: average hitting, maybe a little below average.

There's room for improvement on the pitching side, though. The Orioles pitching last year was so bad that you'd expect it to be better this year even if it's only because of a dead-cat bounce. But that's not even fair to the O's; so many of their starters are young guys that I'd be surprised if one or two of 'em didn't emerge as worthwhile in the next year or two. (That includes Tommy Hunter, acquired midseason 2011, but not Jason Hammel, who might eat innings but is a bit old to fit into this category.)

So, overall, I'd have to say that I expect the Orioles to win about as many games this year as they did last year. Nothing they've done gives me any reason not to think that. This won't be true forever, but I do expect it to be true in the near future. And if it changes, we should have plenty of advance warning.

Of course, no analysis of the Orioles' 2012 outlook would be complete without a mention of the Baltimore bullpen.
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Mike Green - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#253172) #
I was oh so wrong about the Orioles.  They are not as bad as they look, and would probably be an average-ish team in a lesser division. 

The comment about the O's bullpen was full of insight.  Sometimes, less is more.  Speaking of which, mention ought to be made about the O's top prospects Manny Machado (who ought to be very good) and Dylan Bundy (whose family evidently belongs to the Marilyn Manson school of naming).

Chuck - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#253175) #

Dan Duquette took over as GM of the Orioles this offseason. There was no consensus that this was a brilliant move by Peter Angelos.

With the widespread lack of interest in the job, there was no way Angelos was going to land anyone other than a yesterday's man, especially given the constraints he was imposing (e.g., not allowing LaCava to clean house).

I am guessing that Mike's heavily tempered enthusiasm for the organization still has him as the most optimistic Oriole watcher in these parts. For my tastes, they generate about as much excitement as the Pirates, though it's only been 15 years since the Orioles were last good, not 20. So at least they've got that going for them.

Matthew E - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 01:31 PM EDT (#253182) #
Speaking of which, mention ought to be made about the O's top prospects Manny Machado (who ought to be very good) and Dylan Bundy (whose family evidently belongs to the Marilyn Manson school of naming).

I mentioned 'em, I mentioned 'em. Paragraph six.
Thomas - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 02:42 PM EDT (#253192) #
There may be cause to be worried about Bundy sooner than you might think for a high school draftee. There are reports he could make the majors as soon as late this season, although I'd probably guess 2013.

Machado and Bundy are very good prospects, but after those two and Jonathan Schoop the system drops off relatively quickly.
John Northey - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 02:45 PM EDT (#253193) #
The Orioles are probably in the worst position in baseball. Stuck in the toughest division, with an owner who won't let the GM do his job, and a weak farm system.

6 years of 90+ losses
14 sub-500 seasons in a row
14 years of 3rd or worse (just one season in 3rd place, 2004)
4 years of last place and not showing signs of getting out of that hole

Phew. Since Davey Johnson & Pat Gillick left the Orioles have had 7 managers with Mike Hargrove lasting the longest at 4 seasons while Juan Samuel lasted the shortest time with just 51 games (17-34). From 2000 on their top winning totals are 78 games once and 74 twice, 71 and 70 once each, then 7 years in the 60's. Ugh. When most years a 10 game improvement won't even get you to 500 you know your in trouble.
Smithers - Monday, March 26 2012 @ 07:52 PM EDT (#253235) #
"Guilty until proven innocent in my books.  Fifth place to the Orioles is the only position in the AL East I feel confident in predicting, it seems like it should be a birthright for the current generation of Baltimore fans.  Deservedly so since last I checked they're still owned by Peter Angelos (I'll refrain from the slimy lawyer comments knowing a little of the demographics of da Box roster).  He's the real reason that the Orioles were driven into the ground, somewhat analogous to Interbrew's years with the the Jays - although Angelos' reign appears to be in perpetuity.  He's earned the Worst Owner In Baseball title the hard way, and only when Cal Ripken can put together an ownership group a la Nolan Ryan will the O's be saved from their torment. 

Although the O's played a lot better under Buck Showalter at the end of last season, I don't expect that was their true talent level and 2011 will deliver yet another crushing blow of disappointment around the increasingly deserted (but still beautiful!) Camden Yards.  I agree that this signing over-the-hill veteran free agents route is not the ideal way to go about building a franchise that can compete in the AL East.  There's a reason that each of the other teams had a winning record in the division - the other four teams are significantly better.  But at least the vets should make them more respectable versus the Clevelands and Kansas Citys of the league, even with the second toughest schedule in all of MLB. 

That being said, being crappy for so long does have its benefits in stockpiling young talent and I would be more than happy to see a number of the young O's in Jays colours.  Namely Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters at the big league level, and Manny Machado does seem like an intriguing prospect worth keeping an eye on.

One last point of note is that the Orioles are myopically trimming back on their minor league system, allowing the Jays to poach the Appy League franchise in Bluefield from Baltimore during this past offseason's affiliate merry-go-round.  Bluefield Blue Jays just has a much nicer ring than Bluefield Orioles."

Pretty much nailed it in my comment on the 2011 edition, so I'm mailing it in on this year's version of the O's.  Oh, and thanks for Bluefield!

hypobole - Tuesday, March 27 2012 @ 12:24 AM EDT (#253255) #
I'm sure many of you have heard this, but it's my favorite Peter Angelos story.
He's watching a game against the Angels in 2004. Vlad had just hit a 3 run homer that ended up as the game winner. But it had been immediately preceded by a young Oriole outfielder misplaying a ball that ended up sailing over his head. Angelos turns to his GM and says "Get rid of him". Thank you Peter Angelos, because tha kid was Jose Bautista.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.