We continue our look into the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles. Last year, Baltimore was the cellar dwellers of the division finishing with just a 69-93 record. However, Buck Showalter’s club did make Yankee fans happy last season when it was the O’s who were the team to help finish off the collapse of the Boston Red Sox. They made some changes internally this offseason with the hiring of a new general manager in Dan Duquette and have gone throwback with their logo as you can see above. They traded starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for another starter (Jason Hammel). The team is still trying to figure out whether they want to keep outfielder Adam Jones for the long-term as well.
So, what do we expect from Baltimore in 2012? I interviewed the editor of Fansided’s Orioles’ blog (http://birdswatcher.com), Domenic Vadala to get some answers about his reaction to the offseason moves and whether the success the O’s had at the end of 2011 can propel them to better results this year.
You can follow Domenic on Twitter: @DomenicVadala
1. How would you grade the Orioles’ offseason? Is there a move you wish the Orioles had made? Why or Why not?
Domenic: I’d grade the offseason as a C+. The Orioles did acquire some pitching depth, some of which will be in the starting rotation and some of which will be in the ‘pen. They also added some outfield depth in the form of some guys that can get on base frequently. Dan Duquette’s objective is to improve the team’s strikeout-to-walk ratio, and based on statistics they should do that with Wilson Betemit and Endy Chavez. All of the signings were underwhelming, however they were probably necessary. I would have liked to see the acquire a front-line starter, and while that’s still possible it hasn’t happened to this point.
2. The big move by Baltimore was in the front office with hiring GM Dan Duquette. Is he the guy that will put Baltimore back to respectability in the AL East?
D: Tough to say at this point. Duquette’s been out of baseball for a decade or so, so one has to wonder how much of the game has passed him by. Thus far he seems to be taking the Moneyball tactic to heart in finding guys that can simply get on base to generate runs. Whether or not that works in the tough AL East is another story, but it’s certainly different from what Oriole fans are used to.
3. The big player news lately has revolved around the future of outfielder Adam Jones. Is he more than likely to get a long-term deal from the O’s or be traded at the July 31st deadline?
D: Gun to my head, I’d say he slightly more likely to be traded. I hate to say that because Jones is such a great player and a fan favorite, however more than anything else I think he wants to be on the west coast. If he’s going to get an extension it’ll probably be prior to the start of league play in April; I’d say that there’s a 55% chance he’s traded, so nothing would surprise me per se.
4. Who is going to be the ace of this Orioles’ staff? With Guthrie out, is there an ace even on the roster?
D: At the moment, there is no staff ace. In fact, there’s really no staff because Duquette and Buck Showalter have said that the best five pitchers in camp will be in the rotation. My prediction is that Brian Matusz has a huge comeback year. Last season he posted the highest ERA of any pitcher in history to start ten games or more in a season. That was due in large part to an injury. In 2009-10 Matusz was a young flame-thrower, and a southpaw at that. If he can rekinddle that status, he’ll be as good as anyone else. In the interim, I’d look for either Tommy Hunter or Jason Hammel to be the “#1 starter.”
5. Do you think Baltimore is going to feed off of the great finish they had to last season after they spoiled the Red Sox’s chances at the postseason?
D: Do I think that the Orioles will feed off of that? YES x1000! I say that more with my head than my heart for the record. The Orioles taught the Red Sox a lesson in humility last year by playing each and every game to it’s fullest. There are 162 games in the season; not 161, not 160, etc. Furthermore, September is as much a part of the regular season as June and July. The O’s thrived in that month while Boston went 9-20. That’s good coaching on the part of Buck Showalter and company. Furthermore, it shows a team coming together at the right time. There’s no question that he’ll try to feed off of the greatest closing act in the history of sports last September in motivating virtually the same group of guys in 2012.
6. I know its February, but what kind of record do you expect out of the O’s this year?
D: That really matters how the starting pitching holds up. I have no doubt that the O’s can score some runs, but if they’re giving up six and seven in a game it’ll be a long season. I’d offer some modest improvement for the team in general and say somewhere between 68-75 wins.