Monday, February 9, 2009

Is there any hope?

Sometimes I find myself wondering if it is even worth following the O's. I mean, in all likelihood, they will start out strong, maybe even be in first place by April. Then there will be an injury or two, the young starting pitchers will begin to struggle, and the bullpen will be overused and collapse. Most of you are probably asking the same thing. Well, the truth is that the O's will finish in last place again, unless several of the following things happen:

1. The AL East comes back down to Earth. Last year, Tampa Bay, Boston, New York, and Toronto all had winning records. The Devil Rays made it to the World Series. The Red Sox made it to the AL Championship Series. Unless some of these teams regress at least a little, the O's won't be able to compete with them, even if they did somehow manage to win 81+ games. Probability of happening: 25%

2. Repeat seasons from Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora. Huff and Mora appeared to be declining and nearing the end of their careers until both broke out last year and became RBI machines. They need to again drive in runs from the middle of the lineup. Probability: 30%

3. Run support for Jeremy Guthrie. Last year's ace was 10-12 with a 3.63 ERA. Batters hit .249 against him. On 10 occasions when he gave up 2 runs or less, he did not get the win. That's a third of his starts. The O's scored only 128 runs in his 30 starts. Mike Mussina had a 3.37 ERA. Batters hit . 278 against him. But the Yankees scored 174 in his 34 starts. His record? 20-9. Guthrie should (and needs to) win 15-20 games if he continues to pitch effectively. Probability: 50%

4. Progression of young hitters. Nick Markakis needs to keep improving, as he has in his first three seasons. He needs to hit .300 with 25 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 RBI's. Adam Jones needs to do the same. Felix Pie and Matt Wieters need to have solid first full seasons. All four of these hitters must prove themselves to be capable starters if the O's want to compete. Probability: 60%

5. Starting pitchers that can pitch 6 innings every 5th day. Last year's staff was liable to pitch anywhere from 1-5 innings, apart from Guthrie. That forced the bullpen to pitch way too often and ruined their effectiveness. This is the only reason worth considering Hendrickson for a rotation spot. Probability: 40%

Last year, the O's were 68-94. If they are successful in doing all 5 of these things, they could end up winning 20-30 more games. Probability: 0.9%


ali said...

One of SI's analysts says that the Orioles are the fourth most likely team to be the "Rays of 2009" -- haha... Right...

Maybe they could be, but not in the AL East...

Matt said...

There's a slight possibility that you can bump up the Os in hopes that the Yankees have an epic (and expensive) collapse. The Yanks lack team chemistry, Arod is a mess, and some of their core is aging/overpaid. I would love for the Os to come in 3rd over the Yanks and Jays - that's really the best possible spot they could feasibly come in.