Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 Orioles Preview

So it's almost here. Opening Day. The hope. The optimism. Everyone is 0-0 in the standings. Anything can happen.

I think that's a good motto for the 2010 season: Anything can happen.

While it would surprise me to see the O's embark on a historic 2008 Rays thriller of a season and make the playoffs, I do think the talent on the roster is capable of playing above their heads and wowing Orioles fans as well as the rest of the MLB.

I still think, however, it's more likely that the Orioles show some limited improvement and finish 4th in the standings with a record around 78-82 wins.

The spring gave us a few surprises. David Hernandez made the team over blue chip prospect Chris Tillman. Back up catcher Craig Tatum made the roster over pitching whisperer Chad Moeller. And the Orioles traded for Julio Lugo to replace Robert Andino.

None of those moves are the difference maker to make the playoffs, but I do think it helps the depth of this team over the course of a 162 game season.

The starting rotation is not without question marks, but I think there is real potential for it to be one of the team's strengths. Brian Matusz should establish himself as one of the league's best young pitchers. Brad Bergesen should build off a fantastic rookie season. And David Hernandez hopes to become the strikeout pitcher he was in the minors after whiffing 20 batters in spring training, while only walking 3.

That of course leaves Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie. On paper, they are the veterans -- the workhorses. But Millwood has had ERA's above 5 in 2007 and 2008 before having himself a great 2009 season. Guthrie is pretty much the opposite. He was stellar in 2007 and 2008, but faltered in 2009. So which Millwood and Guthrie will show up in 2010?

The bullpen is largely determined by the success of the rotation. No bullpen can absorb the workload the 2009 bullpen had to deal with, and if the starters can go deeper in games, the bullpen will improve by default. It will also help to have Koji Uehara healthy. His success during the first and second time through the line-up last year translates well to the bullpen. And Mike Gonzalez, the O's new closer, is handling the full-time closer role for the first time in his career. Hopefully it will be as successful as George Sherrill's run as closer in Baltimore.

Offensively, there isn't much to be said. Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters should carry this offense with Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, and Miguel Tejada as a solid supporting cast. It's not an offense that is going to scare opposing pitchers, but I think it could be a very silent but deadly line-up.

The bench is also pretty good: Felix Pie, Ty Wigginton, Julio Lugo and Craig Tatum. There is good flexibility there. Good pinch-hitters and late-inning defensive replacements.

As always, injuries will play a big part in 2010. The less of them the O's have, the better they will be. There is some depth to account for injuries, but overall, the Orioles will need to stay very healthy in order to crack .500 for the first time in 12 years.

I think they can do it. It's a day away from opening day....I'd be crazy to think they couldn't on a day like today.

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