85-77, 4th in AL East, 6.5 off Wildcard
46-35 Home, 39-42 Away
The Orioles put together the perfect example of a “rollercoaster season” this year. After a decent first half, the Orioles became a very inconsistent team, having no balance with their offense and pitching. The early hot bats cooled off towards the end of the season and the poor pitching all season finally cost the team to miss out on the play offs following a tight AL East race.
You can look at stats all you want, but Chris Davis (286. 53HR 138RBI) was the only player to consistently play both offense and defense all year. Adam Jones(.285, 33HR 108RBI), Manny Machado(.283, 51 2B, 71 RBI), and J.J Hardy (.263, 25 HR 76 RBI) were All-Stars after strong starts to the season, but did not play as well in the second half. Jones and Wieters were notorious all year for late RBIs and HRs with the team down 5+ runs. Machado hit a very cold streak in November and September both offensively and defensively that cost the team. Hardy was never in full rhythm with the offense and seemed a little uncomfortable batting late in the lineup. Corner outfielders Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth were also very inconsistent at the plate, especially late in season.
The biggest issues with the Orioles were their lack of a power hitting DH and inconsistency at second base. The Orioles production from the DH spot was one of the leagues worst. Using a combination of Nolan Reimold, Danny Valencia, Steve Pearce, and Brian Roberts was a disaster for the O’s. After struggling all season, Michael Morse was brought in from Seattle, clearly something Buck Showalter did not agree with, and got not production out of him.
After Brian Roberts went down with an injury, the Oriole’s used a platoon of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla. This was a major downgrade from a healthy Roberts, and left the 9 hole one of the weakest in the AL. I do like Flaherty as a back up utility player, as he did show some promise and a little power towards the end of the year, but he needs more time to develop into an everyday starter.
The pitching staff struggled all year and was easily the main reason the O’s missed out on the playoffs. Starters Chris Tillman (16-7 3.71 ERA), Miguel Gonzalez (11-8 3.78 ERA), Wei-Yin Chen (7-7 4.07 ERA), Scott Feldman (5-6 4.27 ERA), Bud Norris (4-3 4.80 ERA), Jason Hamel (7-8 4.97 ERA) the 8 other pitchers(“Sweaty” Freddy Garcia) to start for the O’s did not have their best stuff this year. While Hamel won 16 games, it is evident that he was not a true #1 pitcher, and that there is no Ace for the Orioles. Adding Feldmen and Norris were good moves that did not pan out. The Orioles need to go shopping in the off-season for a #1 to solidify this staff. There were obvious locker room issues with players like Francisco Rodriguez, Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Luiz Ayala, ect. that also held back the O’s.
The bullpen, which looked strong to start the season faced problems following Jim Johnson’s melt down. Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day pitched decent but there was always a sense of worry whenever a new reliever was brought on. K-Rod and T.J McFarland struggled at the end of the season. Brian Matusz and Troy Patton never looked comfortable on the mound despite being matchup pitchers. On a positive note, the pen finished in the middle of the MLB in terms of stats and in my opinion, can only get better after giving Tommy Hunter, Matusz, and O’Day more experience.
Looking at next season, the Orioles need to make some Free Agent additions. Jason Hamel and Scott Feldman are free agents and I suspect they will land else where. Brian Roberts Michael Morse, and Nate McLouth are free agents I also expect to not sign in Baltimore. The Orioles will need 2B, LF, DH and SP. Possible SP additions: Matt Garza, AJ Burnett, Josh Johnson, Tim Linceum, Ubaldo Jimiez, Ricky Nolasco, Bartolo Colon, Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren. The question is are the Oriole’s willing to pay 10 Mil for a pitcher? I would hope so, and looking at this list, Ervin Santana could be a perfect fit for the O’s, despite loosing a draft pick. If the Orioles are looking to make a splash, why not 2 and bring in Nolasco or Garza? At second base, Omar Infante is the #1 guy, but may cost too much. Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, and a few others could be options. I just don’t see Brian Roberts returning. OF/DH will be interesting. Will the Oriole’s spend? Players like Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkillis, Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay and James Loney will be available for DH. All have proven power. Carlos Beltran and Marlon Byrd will be a free agent for both spots but will likely cost too much. Rajai Davis could be a good replacement for McLouth, while players like Corey Hart and Tony Gwynn Jr. could be had for a lesser price than Beltran.
Going forward, I see the Orioles rotation looking something like this : Hammel, Gonzalez, Chen, Norris, and Gausman after the Orioles fail to sign a top SP. I like the young Orioles pitchers in Gausman, Bundy, and Britton, but having Gausman start out in the minors would be the best for the rotation. The lineup will change, with the addition of LF, 2B, and DH. My guess would be Rajai Davis/LF will lead off, with Markakis, Machado, Davis, Jones, Hardy, DH, Wieters, 2B. the DH will likely be a righty as Buck loves setting his line up L/R/L/R. The bullpen will likely add 1 or 2 guys for depth but not much should change.
If the Orioles want to spend this year, they can add 1 or 2(more likely 1) quality pitchers for 10 Mil a piece, Omar Infante, Rajai Davis, and their choice of a righty DH. While this most likely will not happen, this team could be very dangerous. Regardless of the free agent additions, there are enough pieces on offense to make the Orioles a contender again. A healthy Chen and Gonzalez should produce better from last year, and Tilman should have confidence after a 16 Win season. Machado will be healthy and hopefully back in his top form.
While the AL East will be just as tough next season as it was this season, I see the Orioles playing as a contender for the wild card in September next season. With a strong FA class for their needs, the Orioles could piece themselves together an October baseball team.