It is amazing what a difference just a number of days can make. I am referencing the mood of the Baltimore Orioles’ fanbase relative to the rapid-fire signings of Suk-min Yoon, Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it that this really happened. The Yoon signing is not so “out there” for Duquette. But two months ago I would have much sooner bet on A.J. Burnett and Kendrys Morales as possible signings rather than Jimenez and Cruz. The Cruz deal really is just that – a deal too good to pass up due to a variety of factors. Jimenez is a lot more money – trust it does indeed work out reasonably well.
Understand, I am pleased that these deals have happened, as surprising as they are. Even so, I did not understand the near depression that existed prior to this flurry of activity, yet I also do not quite get to a state of near euphoria that seems to have erupted since then.
I agree with Buck Showalter’s earlier comments about “liking the guys we have here now and not coveting other peoples’ players.” I believe there was reason to hope that one or more pitchers would come off the bubble and perform well this year. And even more, with the offense, I liked the prospect of a Delmon Young and Henry Urrutia platoon at DH. Yes, Cruz will probably put up better numbers than would transpire with that pair; but all I am saying is that I’m not sure these signings definitely make the Orioles WAY, WAY better. But yes, yes, it could happen; thoygh it also could still all go very wrong.
Like most people, I too find myself looking at a batting order and projecting it to be representative of the combined better-to-best years of those in it. But it is unusual for everyone to have a very strong year at the same time (though it happened in Boston in 2013).
So … let me to a “Debbie Downer” on you by going position to position through the Orioles lineup…
Matt Wieters has had his average decline in recent years, and though he hits a good number of homers for a catcher, why expect his average to be better this year? Chris Davis is unlikely to repeat 2013, even with a very good year. Ryan Flaherty may well never be better than a .230-.240 hitter. J.J. Hardy does not have a great OBP, and though he is way ahead of average shortstop in power numbers, he often makes for a hole in the lineup. Manny Machado spent the winter rehabbing, and it is imaginable that is will be a difficult year. Left field is a probable platoon between a person who has never been a regular starter and another who is often injured and who does not play well in a platooned role. Adam Jones really can’t be expected to play at a much higher level, and who knows if Nick Markakis will really return to the guy we remember. Unless Cruz plays again at a high level, he may not be that much better than the previously-imagined DH situation. The whole offense is built on power with little speed, and it is a sort of team that good pitching can stop.
I am not predicting all the dire statements of the previous paragraph to come true, as they won’t all have their worst season at the same time. But, on the other hand, don’t assume they are all going to have a good season at the top of their potential … all at the same time.
It is indeed very, very possible that this could be the single most powerful and high-scoring batting order in professional baseball in 2014 … but I am saying that it is not a certainty at all. In all facets of the game, the Orioles need more things to go well than they do things that go wrong, in order to be successful at the top of the league.
Regarding the lineup, lots of people have been commenting with suggestions and probable projections. As compared to other years, these are much more similar to one another – attesting to the quality of the players. At this very early date, I’ll go with …
Flaherty or Lough/Reimold
Flaherty or Lough
Like many fans, I’ve slotted Wieters lower than he is going to hit. Showalter is almost certainly going to bat him sixth. That seems to me to be still based upon what it is hoped he will do, rather than what he has done. To have Flaherty, Lough and Markakis all together is to have consecutive lefties, and Buck is not likely to do that either.
In any event, this is a quantum leap improvement over just a small number of years ago – we can all agree on that; and that is worth a lot.