Last season the O’s finished with a 69-93 record, which marked the franchise’s 14th consecutive losing season.
The O’s did end 2011 on a positive note, winning 11 of their last 18 games and eliminated the Red Sox from the post season by beating Boston on the last day of the regular season.
So, will is another long season at Camden Yard in 2012?
Let’s take a look…
In 2011 the O’s bats were not so bad finishing fourth in homers (191), and 10th in slugging (.413). The line-up has some serious power with Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, who combined for 92 homers in 2011. Reynolds led with 37 bombs, but he struck out 196 times and posted a .221 batting average. Shockingly, last season was Reynolds lowest strikeout number in the last four seasons, as it was 15 less than 2010 and if he can cut off 20 more in 2012 it could do wonders for the line-up.
Skipper Buck Showalter is entering his second full season in Baltimore after taking over mid-2010 and he is perfect for the job. Schowalter no nonsense guy and he is good at getting the most out of young talent. He reminds me of a better version of Rex Ryan and the players respect him. Schowalter holds everyone accountable and he brought a needed sense of urgency for winning to an Orioles clubhouse who gave up way too easily.
The starting pitching has to improve as in 2011 the O’s finished with the worst ERA (4.89) in baseball; gave up the most homers (210), runs (860) and earned runs (786). This explains why hitters had a .277 on average for the season against the O’s pitching staff. This has to improve if Baltimore wants to come out of 2012 alive. The young arms Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta haven’t quite emerged yet and both had their season cut short due to injury in 2011. The O’s front office is banking that Britton and Arrieta emerge as two arms to build a future staff around, and after last season they should start praying. With both youngsters pitching with something to prove in 2012 maybe they will emerge but don’t hold your breath. The O’s also traded innings-eater Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel , which I thought was a bad move because they lose about 30+ innings and an overall better arm. In general the O’s pitchers have to stay healthy this season and pitch better if the team wants win over 70+ games.
The AL East teams feature four of the best teams in baseball, plus the Orioles. The fact that Baltimore is stuck in the toughest division in baseball doesn’t help their cause, and Baltimore fans have grown frustrated. Stick them in any of the other five divisions might not guarantee a playoff berth but at least they would be a .500 team or better team. The competition in the AL East exploits weaknesses quickly.
PLAYER(s)/GAME-CHANGERS TO WATCH:
Out of Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Wei-Yin Chen someone has to emerge to give the team pitching confidence. The Orioles rotation staff killed them last season, as injury and inexperience took over. The O’s desperately need something positive from the rotation if they want to get out of the AL East basement. My bet is on Matusz having a great year after a disastrous 2011. Matusz looked good this spring pitching 25 innings, allowed 10 hits, zero homers and walked only three batters. He also led the O’s with 22 strikeouts. Matusz pitcher his way back into the rotation, as he came into camp headed to Triple-A but the 25-year old looked like he has something to prove and that can be dangerous in a good way.
The Orioles will need a miracle to get out of the AL East cellar in 2012, as the competition only got better.
Any hopes of jumping over the Blue Jays as in the past are out the window. Toronto is heading into the 2012 season looking much better, while the Orioles are just trying to get better.
This season will paint a bigger picture of what is to come in Baltimore, so if things start to fall into place O’s fans have a lot to look forward in 2013 and beyond.
The baseball season is long, and anything can happen but for the Orioles to finish anywhere other than last place just isn’t one of them.
If the O’s, can finish 2012 above .500, that would be huge.