We wrote about this last season ... oh, about a thousand times, maybe. The Orioles were historically successful in one-run games and (in a related note) extra-innings games. Jayson Stark runs through all the math, and also gets some good quotes from management:
So after perusing those figures, think the Orioles are a good bet to replicate either of those stats again? Even Duquette wouldn't wager on that happening.
"I would concede that," he said. "But I would also say that we won a lot of those one-run games and two-run games and extra-inning games when we had a lesser team. I think we had a better team at the end of the year than we had at the start of the year."
Just suppose, Showalter muses, they can keep Nick Markakis healthy all year. And Brian Roberts. (So far, so good on that front, incidentally.) And Nolan Reimold. And Hammel. Every one of those men missed at least a third of the season last year with injuries.
Now start mulling what a full season of Manny Machado might give them. Or what the potential impact of Bundy or last year’s No. 1 pick, Kevin Gausman, might mean to this rotation at some point this summer.
Before I inject a note or two of optimism, I have to mention that if wishes were fairies, there would be a hell of a lot of fairies flying around. Over the last three seasons, Brian Roberts has played in 115 games, with a 78 OPS+. If he plays often and well this season, it'll be a great story. Over the last three seasons, Nolan Reimold has played in 142 games; he's 29 now, and even if he's reasonably healthy he's not likely to hit a ton. Hammel's 30, and he pitched exceptionally well for the O's last season before he went down. He does have a career ERA+ lower than league-average, and yes some of that's probably because he pitched for the Rockies. He might pitch really well this season; he's not likely to be a Cy Young candidate, win 16 games, etc. Dylan Bundy has thrown 106 professional innings; Kevin Gausman has thrown 15 professional innings. Bundy turned 20 last fall; Gausman just turned 22.
You want to know how many starting pitchers last season were 22 or younger and won at least five games?
Three: Madison Bumgarner, Henderson Alvarez, and Jordan Lyles. And the latter two posted ERA's far worse than league-average. Bumgarner had far more professional experience than Bundy and Gausman. It will be an upset if Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman makes more than a token contribution to the Orioles' success this season; if both do, Buck Showalter deserves some sort of medal.
I do think Markakis is heading for a good season. In 2011 he played a lot, but didn't hit much. In 2012 he didn't play much, but hit a lot. In 2013 he's probably not a star, but he's real solid for 150-some games. As for Manny Machado ... Well, who knows? Yes, the ex-shortstop is a huge asset at third base. But it's not clear that he's ready, at just 20, to hit like a major-league third baseman.
Look, the Orioles were pretty good last season, and their second-half success is a positive marker. But there are reasons why Baseball Prospectus gives the O's a 1-in-10 chance of making the playoffs. Even if you think BP's methods are wildly off the mark, you might push the odds to ... what? One in five? The biggest problem is that there are four other teams in the American League East, and all four might put more talent on the field this season.
This is a good time to be an Orioles fan. There was that magical 2012, and now there's a 2013 featuring young, interesting players. And Adam Jones. But it's not at all likely that October's going to be a good month for the O's.
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