Today ends the first calendar month since this new blog – The Baltimore Wire – began on November 13th. Even though this review is a bit late relative to the end of the baseball season, it is a first window of opportunity in this space for me to look back upon the 2013 Baltimore Orioles. This is the final of a three-part review of predictions and expectations from my earlier writing with the Orioles blog on the FanSided Network – Birds Watcher.
Today is a confession session upon what I got wrong, or what surprised me. None of the negatives in the list below were complete disasters, but added together, they probably make the difference between the 93 wins in 2012 and the 85 wins of 2013.
Underestimation of Machado – Beginning here with a positive, I confess to underestimating what a great season Manny Machado would have for the Orioles. Understand, I did not think he was going to be a liability at all, but I did not see an all-star season coming down the pike. And when it was clear even in spring training that Buck Showalter was planning to bat him second in the lineup, I thought this was all wrong. And though Machado will not likely be batting second that often as his career moves forward, it was the perfect place for him to be this past season.
Just how good can Machado be? Presuming he returns from this injury (which I expect he fully shall), one has to wonder what ceiling this fellow has? His defense is already in the “rare” category, with the throws from third being absolutely amazing. As I’ve previously written as one with memories of actually seeing Brook Robinson play, their glove play is similar, but Brooks could never throw like this! Machado has years of upside improvement possibilities with his hitting, and this should be a great treat for Orioles fans in the years ahead.
(The rest of my confessions are in the negative category – where I did not anticipate the downfalls, being too optimistic in my predictions.)
Comeback of Reimold / Failed Comeback of Roberts – As is evidenced from my recent article on Nolan Reimold, I continue to believe he is a great potential asset. I believed he had recovered sufficiently to make a comeback in 2013… perhaps my hopes got ahead of my analysis. With Brian Roberts, I was among the majority who believed he was too damaged to sustain an improbable return. He did indeed play a serviceable second base, even though he was not the player we remembered from a couple of years ago.
Zach Britton would Have a Breakthrough Year – After a horrible 2012 season riddled with injury, there was every hope that Britton would be back and fulfill the expectation that went along with his early career success. It did not happen, and Orioles fans will go into this coming spring hoping that NOW will be the consistent performance that early returns indicated could be anticipated. Glimpses of it were seen here and there, but he became the poster child of the “6th inning demise” that plagued too many Orioles starters of 2013.
Expectation of Pedro Strop to Return to 2012 Form – Orioles fans really turned quickly upon Strop when his season fell apart in the final quarter of the 2012 season. This was very unjust, as his services as a bridge to Jim Johnson were among the top five reasons the Orioles had, at long last, a turn-around season. It appeared he had been used too much, had lost something physically and mentally, and it snowballed on him at the end of the year.
I anticipated that his talent would return with success in 2013. But it was not to be. He pitched in winter league baseball and then in the World Baseball Classic. Neither of these seemed to me to be wise activities, but he looked to be back to form as he returned from the Dominican Republic’s team championship in that “world” event (which I believe to be a foolish display of worthlessness).
But in 22.1 innings, Strop had a 7.25 ERA with a horrific WHIP of 1.701, and he simply could not find the strike zone with any confidence. He was traded on July 2nd to the Cubs with Jake Arrieta and cash for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. In Chicago, he pitched 35 innings with a 2.83 ERA and WHIP of 0.943! I still believe Strop will have a long, successful career … we’re going to hear about him.
Jim Johnson would Repeat the Success of 2012 – Johnson only has a short-term period of blown saves and “hitability” in 2012. Converting 94% of save opportunities was outstanding. And though he recorded 50 saves this past summer – only one short of 51 the year before – the blown saves and losses were as deadly as they were frustrating to watch. I’ll save the details for a full article. Here now, I will simply again say that it was certainly not anticipated that the degree of meltdown that occurred would be item #1 of reflections on the shortcomings of 2013.
The Whole Bullpen would Largely Repeat the Success of 2012 – So many baseball writers at the beginning of 2013 wrote that the high-level performance of the Baltimore bullpen could not be repeated again. And though I did not expect it to be 100% of what had happened – which was rare indeed, I did not believe they would experience the across-the-board decline that was seen. While still successful, Darren O’Day was not the same, nor was Troy Patton. Luis Ayala was also traded to Atlanta.
At the end of it all, the failure of the bullpen became the #1 item accounting for the failures of 2013, even as they were the #1 reason contributing to the success of 2012. This was especially evident in Jim Johnson, and particularly in the three-game series meltdown in Arizona. Three wins were turned into three losses by the bullpen, and the Birds never recovered.
Summary – The good news in all of this is that, though there are more than a couple of pieces to be fixed, a few fixes could go a long way. Even with the problems listed above, the Orioles managed to be contenders almost to the last week of the season. There is reasonable cause for hope and anticipation of good seasons immediately ahead. Winning is difficult, but it can be done – even in Baltimore.