It’s been a while since I last posted on here; life has gotten far busier than I had really anticipated for the last month or so, but I should be able to write far more now that I have more time on my hands. Since we are through about the first month or so, I figured I would evaluate the Orioles, who I made predictions for over a month ago. So far, I must eat crow and say that I have been pleasantly surprised with the success of this franchise that I predicted to be a bottom-feeder of the division. Here’s my evaluation:
- Lineup: Let’s pick up where the Orioles left off last: middle of the league in offense. There were a lot of question marks starting the season: Will Hardy duplicate his numbers? Will Markakis regress? Will Jones/Wieters progress? What will Chris Davis do at first? Is Nolan Reimold an everyday player? How will our new utility acquisitions fit into our offense? So far, the positive answer to most of these questions has stunned most of us. Wieters, and especially Jones, have shown the league that they will be good players for years to come. These guys both look like they’re on their way to breakout seasons that all of us Orioles fans had hoped they would have. Chris Davis has been absolutely phenomenal at first both defensively and offensively. He has really cut down on strikeouts and is really hitting the cover off the ball (.313 avg., .353 OBP with 6 doubles and 4 HRs). I forsaw Davis as a decent player, but right now, he’s really striking fear in opposing pitchers (he was pitched around today in the 9th inning). I don’t think Davis will keep these numbers for the rest of the year, but so far, he does look as though he should be worthy of consideration for being the 1st baseman of the future. Reimold looks like an everyday player barring his recurring injuries (his hammy and his neck concern me; his body may not hold up to the wear and tear of a 162 game season), and has been even better than Davis offensively (.339 avg., .361 OBP with 5 doubles and 5 homeruns-many of which came in the 9th inning). Markakis was red-hot to begin the season, even hitting a rare opposite field home-run in the first week. He went through a slump but he seems to be coming out now. I look for his average to continue to rise, although I don’t think he’ll ever be a huge power guy, he will definitely continue to be a solid starter. Despite his .247 average, he continues to be excellent at getting on base (.330 OBP in itself isn’t excellent, but it’s pretty damn good with a .247 average). Hardy is about the only player on the Orioles not playing as well as one thought he would. I am hoping last year was not an aberration, but can’t help but think he is one of those guys who is very erratic and can’t be counted on year-to-year. He is still solid defensively though; hopefully he will figure it out and prove me wrong, as many players on this team have.
- Bench Players: The utility acquisitions have fit into the team nice. None of them are really good enough to push to start, but Paulino looks excellent as a backup catcher, Betemit looks decent at 3rd and has come up clutch at times this year (his 3 run home run today comes to mind; maybe I’m being affected by the recency effect, but Betemit has seemed to fit his role nicely). Flaherty was one of the last men to make the roster and although I don’t really think he’s going to win the triple crown anytime soon, he can play a lot of positions and is a much better defensive player than either Betemit or Reynolds at 3rd. I think everyone needs this type of player to keep their team fresh. Chavez has been a disappointment so far; I hope that he can turn it around. I understand it’s hard to build a rhythm only starting sporadically, but he should at least be hitting above the Mendoza line. Overall, I think the offense has performed excellent so far. If Reynolds (who looks like complete crap so far), Hardy and Chavez begin to perform, the offense should be formidable over the space of the season. I’m very glad we didn’t follow my suggestion of signing DeRosa…
- Starting Rotation- The rotation has pitched well above expectations as well. Arrieta hasn’t looked great, but he’s doing alright and I only expect him to perform better as this season goes along. He certainly looks better than last year. Hunter has looked good thus far, and really should have another win to make him 3-1. He needs to learn how to pitch on the road though, as his performances away have left something to be desired (9.26 ERA, 0.69 ERA at home prior to today). Anyway you slice it though, he looks like he will be a solid number 3 for the season. Hammel has really made me look like a moron, as I called the Guthrie deal one of the worst ever made. Now Guthrie is on the Dl, and Hammel is pitching like Greg Maddux in his prime (3-0, 1.73 ERA so far). While I don’t usually like being wrong, I am ecstatic about it right now. Chen has looked almost equally great, and once again, has made me look like an idiot. Prior to the season, I suggested that signing Edwin Jackson and Paul Maholm would have been much better moves than the Wada/Chen signings. Although I don’t completely concede this yet (Wada is not really holding up his end), Chen has looked like a solid number 2 pitcher for years to come. Let’s hope this continues. Matusz has looked pretty bad, but hopefully his last start is a preview of things to come (6 IP, 2 R, 0 ER). Right now, I see nothing that necessitates immediate change in the rotation, although I think 2 more poor starts for Matusz would probably merit a demotion to the minors for Berken or Eveland, who are pitching pretty well thus far in AAA.
- Bullpen- The bullpen, typically our biggest weakness has looked excellent. Johnson has yet to give up a run, Strop looks like he has closer potential, O’Day is looking like one of the best MRP in baseball, and Ayala looks like he might be the best reliever in baseball (can’t get much better than 11.0 IP and no runs given up). Our only weakness is still one that I identified from the beginning (I guess even I could see that Kevin Gregg sucked). We really need to find a way to get him off the roster, he’s taking up a spot from someone who actually deserves to be on there (Berken, Eveland or Philips would all be better options). I still think this could be a viable option, we should give it a try.
Final thoughts: We can see that baseball is a very unpredictable game, and so far, this has worked in our favor. Though it is nice to see us competing, May will really be a test. We have to see whether this team is going to really contend or whether they’re just a reincarnation of this team. I think our team is much better than I originally gave us credit for. We look great thus far, hopefully we can keep this up. Just snagging a low playoff spot would do so much for this city and it’s fans. Here’s to hoping I continue eating crow for the rest of the season.