* Projected Record is a formula that takes projected team OPS, starters ERA and relievers ERA into account in order to get a projected runs scored and runs allowed per game. Those figures are then inserted into the Pythagorean record formula.
The Orioles dipped into the Mark Teixeira market, but don't have Yankee money and the first few seasons of his $20M+ per season tenure would be in the bottom of the AL East, so it was a homecoming better left undone.
Instead, they signed Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts to extensions and dealt Ramon Hernandez for Ryan Feel, Justin Turner and Brandon Waring, which will clear space for Matt Wieters this season.
They also signed veteran catcher Gregg Zaun, who will serve as a tudor to Wieters.
In a savvy February move, they signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year, $6M contract. He had nice numbers in Houston in 2008 and is still just 31.
No Dumb Questions
1. Will their pitching staff be as disastrous as they were in 2008 and essentially ever year since the late 90's?
2. Can Aubrey Huff sustain his resurgence?
3. Will Adam Jones have a breakout season?
4. When will the Orioles upgrade their starters with Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta?
5. Most importantly, when will Baltimore be taken over by Matt Wieters?
The Orioles should be in the top half in runs scored and OPS, but will need Rich Hill to translate that minor league success on the next level and also get something approaching the high 4.00's from Adam Eaton and Danys Baez. Baltimore also hopes Koji Uehara can translate his Japan success on this side of the world, as he's penciled in as their number two starter.
The middle of their lineup is a lot closer in comparison to the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays than their pitching. They don't have the depth of those three clubs, but in 2008 Aubrey Huff had an OPS of .912, Nick Markakis was at .897, while Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Luke Scott were all over .800. Wigginton should join that .800 club and I like the odds of Adam Jones improving to the high .700's. He has a lot more pop in him and I can see him increase those nine homers, 21 doubles and seven triples.
What Will Likely Happen
Jeremy Guthrie should have an ERA right under 4.00 in almost 200 innings, but they will have at least 13 different starts again this season. Their pitching staff will remain a fluid and frustrating situation until and unless their three big prospect arms are ready.
I like the Orioles to have a better OPS than 2008, but there is some fool's gold in their lineup. Mora was one of the best second half hitters in baseball last season and it is unlikely he will be able to sustain those kind of numbers after trending downwards ever since 2004 when he hit .340/.419/.562 and I think Huff will regress towards his lifetime OPS of .827. But I expect even better 2009s from Markakis and Scott, while the inevitable Wieters addition will energize the club in uncountable ways.
The Orioles were a 61-63 team on August 17th, but lost an unreal 30 out of their final 37 games to finish the season 68-93. This kind of meltdown makes improving their win total by 7-10 wins an incredibly realistic scenario and the over on 73.5 wins looks very appealing; especially if they are right at .500 when Wieters comes up in June.
What Do They Have In The Pipeline
The Orioles have been on the sidelines since their playoff appearances in the late 1990's. While attempting to compete via the free agency route with the Yankees and Red Sox has failed, they now have a hybrid strategy where they can afford to keep their own players (Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis), but they have also built via the draft and the excellent Erik Bedard trade.
It really all begins, ends and begins again with Matt Wieters. He is the best prospect in all of baseball and legitimately has the potential to be one of the best two or three catchers of all-time.
His influence on the development of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta will be incredibly important because unlike the days of four 20-game winners, Baltimore's starting pitching has been atrocious for many seasons.