Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE
The Baltimore Orioles shocked all of baseball in 2012 with a surprise playoff run but can they do it again in 2013?
[Editor's Note: Today we're kicking off our 2013 Team Previews here at Beyond the Box Score. Every weekday, from now until the start of the season, you'll be able to drop in and see a saber-slanted preview of each team in the bigs, written by one of our staff members. Today, we'll be focusing on the Baltimore Orioles.]
.655: This is the Baltimore Orioles' team winning percentage from August through the end of the regular season. Coincidentally, the team truly got themselves back on track -- and then some -- with the surprise arrival of Manny Machado. Machado helped solidify the team’s defense at third base and showed the ability to hit the ball well. The ERA/kwERA of the starting rotation from this period was 3.85/4.02 and the offense averaged 4.76 runs per game, and if they are able to continue this level of performance, then they will be in great shape.
152: This is the total number of double plays that the Orioles hit into during the 2012 season, which was also second most in all of baseball (just four behind the Detroit Tigers). Grounding into double plays is one of the absolute worst things a player or team can do on offense, as it kills rallies and drastically lessens your chances of scoring runs. Those 152 double plays cost the Orioles at least 80 runs, and that translates to roughly eight wins, in a vacuum.
While double plays are going to happen and they won’t necessarily make or break your season, they also don't do your team any favors. It’s just one of the many different ways a team can help themselves by not costing themselves a win here or there through the course of a season, and could very well mean something by season’s end.
2012 Season in Review: The Orioles shocked everyone by going toe-to-toe with the New York Yankees and nearly winning the American League East. Instead of prevailing, they had to settle for a 93-win season and a wild card berth. Not only was it the team's first winning season in 15 years, but they also earned their first postseason victory in that same span of time when they beat the Texas Rangers in the wild card play-in game. After dispatching the heavily-favored Rangers they went on to face the Yankees in the ALDS, and were within a Game 5 victory of moving on to the ALCS.
Key Offseason Moves:
Re-signed Nate McLouth to one-year $2 million contract: This is not a sexy signing (or re-signing rather) and it certainly won’t win the team major points with the fans who clamored for Josh Hamilton or Nick Swisher. What it will do is bring back a player who revived his career while helping carry the Orioles to the playoffs last season. He did that by batting .268/.342/.435 with the team over 55 games, and McLouth then went on to hit .308/.321/.462 in the postseason.
Many jokes were made when the team originally signed McLouth -- and many more were made when they re-signed McLouth -- but he gives the Orioles options at the top of the lineup, provides some much-needed speed, can play a decent left field, and he can do all of that for just a $2 million investment. It’s called investing wisely and the Orioles, behind Dan Duquette, have shown an ability to do it and do it well up to this point.
Extended Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette through 2018: If there’s one thing that this organization has lacked during their 15-year run of futility it was continuity. They now finally have it as team owner Peter Angelos extended both manager Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette through 2018. These two men have worked well together since Duquette was hired and the two have cultivated a winning environment. This is the most important thing the organization has done since extending Adam Jones.
Depth Chart: If there’s one thing that this team has that they lacked last season, it is depth. They finally have depth for the starting rotation, even more depth for the bullpen, and depth in the outfield and corner infield spots. The only position they don’t have a great deal of depth at is second base, but depending on the arrival of second base prospect Jonathan Schoop’s bat that may not be a huge issue come August.
To even further illustrate how much pitching depth they have, there are currently around 11 players fighting for that final spot in the starting rotation and those that don’t make it will make up the most formidable pitching rotation that their Triple-A team has had in a long, long time.
2013 Outlook: The Orioles aren’t predicted to win 90+ games again this season and Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA Playoff Odds system is giving them just a 4.8% chance of even making the playoffs. They’ll be getting key players such as Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Jason Hammel, and Brian Roberts back from injury to begin this new season healthy, which can only be seen as a positive.
While the bullpen is likely to regress somewhat, they are still capable of putting up numbers worthy of a top-10 unit. Add to the fact that manager Buck Showalter is one the best managers in the game in keeping his players focused, no one should be surprised if they make another playoff run.
Bold Prediction: I’m sure any prediction made stating that the 2013 Baltimore Orioles will make the playoffs and win a playoff series would be considered bold by many but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they did just that. What would be a bold statement though is predicting that the Orioles will finish in the top 12 for offense, pitching, and defense ... and that’s exactly what I believe will happen.