2009 BALTIMORE ORIOLES PREVIEW
The Orioles struggled through another terrible season in 2008, finishing with a 68-93 record and allowing the most walks in the major leagues. The Orioles have struggled for the better part of the last decade and fans in Baltimore have to be getting anxious.
Luckily, 2009 looks a lot better for the Chesapeake Bay region. The Orioles said goodbye to starters Daniel Cabrera and Garrett Olson, two of the biggest culprits in the walks department, and brought in veterans Mark Hendrickson and Rich Hill to fill the void. They even went overseas to Japan to help improve their rotation. The Orioles also added a couple of bats to their lineup and should improve upon last year’s dismal showing.
The Orioles have some questions in the starting rotation. Jeremy Guthrie (10-12, 3.63 ERA, 30 starts, 190 IP last year) is the only guaranteed holdover from last year’s starting five and he should be solid. Newly acquired Rich Hill (1-0, 4.12 ERA, 5 starts) is healthy and should be a solid starter after coming over from the Cubs. Japanese import Koji Uehara will also open the season in the rotation and hopes are high for him. The final two spots are more of a mystery. Chris Waters (3-5, 5.01 ERA, 11 starts) showed promise as a rookie last year, Radhames Liz (6-6, 6.72 ERA, 17 starts) has a ton of talent but has to improve his control and Matt Albers (3-3, 3.49 ERA, 28 games) will try to carry over his solid numbers in relief to the starting rotation. Don’t forget about Hendrickson either (7-8, 5.45 ERA, 19 starts), as the Orioles will likely use him in both starting and relieving roles. Either way, the Orioles’ starting pitching has the most questions of any staff in the division.
Baltimore’s bullpen is also full of questions. However, the back end seems to be in decent hands. George Sherrill (4.37 ERA, 31 SV) did a very good job last season and he will be supported by former closer Chris Ray, who missed all of last year due to injury. Between Sherrill and Ray, the O’s should have the later innings covered. However, the rest of the bullpen is very unsettled and is a major cause for concern.
The Orioles got very good production from their infield last season despite their poor record. First baseman Aubrey Huff (.304, 32 HR, 108 RBI, .360 OBP) is very solid and should provide plenty of pop from the corner infield positions along with 3B Melvin Mora (.285, 23 HR, 104 RBI, .342 OBP). Up the middle, 2B Brian Roberts (.296, 9 HR, 57 RBI, .378 OBP, 40 SB) is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game and shortstop Cesar Izturis (.263, 1 HR, 24 RBI, .319 OBP) is a defensive whiz. Newly acquired Ty Wigginton (.285, 23 HR, 58 RBI, .350 OBP) will also likely play a fair amount at first and third and could be the Designated hitter as well. The big hole in the infield will be at the catcher position, where Gregg Zaun (.237, 6 HR, 30 RBI, .340 OBP) and Guillermo Quiroz (.187, 2 HR, 14 RBI, .259 OBP) will split time. The O’s will need much better offensive production from both of them. Still, the O’s have an impressive infield.
The Baltimore outfield can be summed up in one word: Potential. After trading for Felix Pie (.241, 1 HR, 10 RBI, .312 OBP), the Cubs’ former top prospect is expected to get a lot of playing time in left field. In center field, Adam Jones (.270, 9 HR, 57 RBI, .311 OBP) will look to improve upon a very good rookie year. Even right fielder Nick Markakis (.306, 20 HR, 87 RBI, .406 OBP) has the potential to be a 30 Home Run, 100 RBI type of player. If they can all come closer to realizing their potential, the Orioles could have a strong outfield this year. Don’t forget about Luke Scott (.257, 23 HR, 65 RBI, .336 OBP) either, who will back up the corner outfield positions and DH. He has a big bat and can drive in runs. There is a lot of talent roaming the outfield at Camden Yards.
The Orioles definitely appear to be a better team than last year. Their pitching still has a lot of question marks but it appears that their starting pitching will at least be better than last year. Their offense should also be stronger, especially as Pie and Jones develop. However, the Orioles still are way behind most of their division rivals and will need to improve their pitching if they want to contend. However, expect Baltimore to improve upon last year’s results, winning 70-75 games and finishing 4 th in the AL East.
By Matt Baxendell
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