Since this new blog – The Baltimore Wire – only began two weeks ago, this is a first window of opportunity to look back upon the season of 2013 for the Baltimore Orioles. I am reflecting upon the season by a three-part review of predictions and expectations from my earlier writing with the Orioles blog on this sports network.
Yesterday I reviewed some general overall predictions that were a mixed bag of right and wrong prognostications. Tomorrow will be confession day about what I got terribly wrong about certain players. But today is my day to say what I rightly predicted for particular Orioles players.
Chris Davis at first base – It is difficult to remember or imagine that at this time last year there was great concern as to how effectively Chris Davis could handle playing first base, and if he had the offensive talent to repeat what he did in 2012.
In 2012, Davis did not look entirely comfortable at first base. More than a few times he came up empty on throws in the dirt that looked manageable, and grounders ate him up and hand-cuffed him on various occasions. To Davis’ great credit and as testimony to his work ethic, he determined to excel defensively – believing he had the skills. And he had a great season, as I anticipated that he would be a well above average defender.
I am not going to tell you that I predicted he would set an Orioles record for home runs or lead the universe in such with 53. I did write that I expected him to have a year of very significant power and production numbers. It is amazing how the ball jumps off his bat with what appears to be an easy swing; and I was there the day he hit the broken bat home run in 2012. One of these days on one of those mighty swings that go through the ball, he is going to connect perfectly and hit that warehouse.
Chris Tillman as a front-line pitcher – After an all-star season where Tillman really should have had 20 wins on his record, O’s fans may not recall that he was not even a full-season player with the Birds in 2012, only joining the team on July 4th. But with a 9-3 record and 2.93 ERA, I was convinced he had put together a winning combination. He was a new person from the 7-15 / 5.40 guy in 2009-2011. He was much better able to hit his spots with some nasty ball movement, so his success in 2013 was not a surprise to me.
Fears that proved somewhat true…
There were a number of concerns that I had expressed about several players that unfortunately anticipated more than a wee bit of truth.
The concern that Nick Markakis would have lingering health issues – Nick went through so many different health issues in a short period of time in 2012. Though he was back for the beginning of the year, his spring training was not a full experience, and honestly, his season was never quite right. Nick just never seemed to get it going, and though he claimed (and was likely truthful from what he could discern) that he was fully healthy, the results argue differently. I do not expect this to be the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning. I would expect this coming season to feature a Markakis that is much like the guy we remember.
The concern that Matt Wieters’ offensive production was weakening – There is no doubt that Wieters is among the very best defensive catchers in the game of baseball – perhaps he is even the absolute best. Yet there is no doubt that everyone expected a greater offensive production. The man is huge! Every time I’ve ever been in the same room with him, it strikes me again what a human mountain he is.
I don’t understand the approach at the plate he regularly takes – a defensive, easy-swinging, put-the-ball-in-play contact approach that leads to weak ground balls and pop-ups. I’d rather see him aggressively go after it as does Chris Davis. If the Birds are going to continue with him, rather than trade him, I believe he needs to bat no higher than seventh or eighth in the order. He is a rally killer too often.
The concern that Chen would not be a top of the rotation pitcher – I feared that Chen would have the sorts of problems he encountered this year and not repeat the strong season of 2012. It was not that I expected him to deal with his health issues of the 2013 season past, I had concerns that the league would figure out an approach to hit him at a higher level. His numbers really go badly after the second time through the lineup. This concerned me a year ago, and it continues to today.
The concern that Jake Arrieta would not maximize his talent – I have always believed Arrieta to be the most athletic guy on the Orioles – the one with the most natural talent. My concern was that the mental part of the game was the struggle – the confidence and boldness of an aggressive approach to challenging hitters, etc. He seems like such a fine person, and I’d be pleased to see him have success, but we know it is not going to be with the Orioles.
So check back tomorrow for my list of “blown” predictions – sort of like my version of blown saves.