Pitchers and catchers go to work next week in Sarasota and I guess it’s fair to ask, who are these Orioles? If you believe the stat nerds at Fangraphs this is a team ready to collapse from first to worst. That’s right the analytics guys tell us the O’s will finish in last place in the AL East with a 79-83 record. They say it’ll be Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New York and Baltimore.
I get it, the Orioles had a bad off-season, Nelson Cruz took his 40 homers to Seattle, Nick Markakis headed south to Atlanta, lights out Andrew Miller is a damn Yankee and Executive of the Year Dan Duquette spent the off-season dreaming of Toronto. Last I checked Buck Showalter was still the manager and his lineup should include All-Stars Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado and Adam Jones.
Didn’t Steve Pierce hit 26 dongs in ’14? Jonathan Schoop had an impressive rookie year and Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snyder and Delmon Young can swing the bat. The Orioles pitching fueled their AL East title last season, all 5 starters return plus Ubaldo Jimenez and bullpen leaders Zach Britton and Darren O’Day.
It’s fair to say the pitchers won’t be able to repeat what they did in ’14 but isn’t it possible if 1 or 2 slip and Kevin Gausman’s career takes off the change will be negligible. The Orioles don’t have that elite number 1 starter but who in the division does? Chris Tillman went 20 consecutive starts last season allowing 3 runs or fewer.
The Rays Alex Cobb and Tillman might be the two best starters in the East. Maybe the O’s won’t win the division in 2015 and they may not win 96 games this summer, but last place? The Orioles won the East by 12 games last year and finished 25 games ahead of Boston. Dead last in 2015? C’mon man! From here hon, I expect the O’s to be in the thick of it and Buck has every right to say “I like our guys.”