Buck Showalter‘s Baltimore Orioles have broken camp, and they’re now back in Baltimore eagerly awaiting Opening Day. But what do we make of this latest version of the Birds? Questions have surrounded this team since their sudden exit from the American League playoffs last October, with Zach Britton waiting in the bullpen. How will 2017 play out?
I can’t tell you that right now. But I’ll start with the team’s one apparent weakness, and that’s starting pitching. That isn’t to say that the Orioles have no pitching whatsoever, because that’s not true. Chris Tillman looks to anchor the rotation, with Kevin Gausman right behind him. However as we know, Tillman is on the DL right now, which means Gausman’s the Opening Day starter.
Beyond those two, there are questions about who’s going to be able to step up. If the Orioles are going to be successful this year, Dylan Bundy is going to have to make strides. And Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t going to have the luxury of being inconsistent. All of that aside, starting pitching is this team’s one glaring weakness. If they can work around that, they’ll win games this year.
At the plate and in the field, the Birds are a-okay. The likes of Machado, Hardy, Schoop, and Davis form one of the best infield defenses in baseball. Not to mention Adam Jones out there patrolling center field. Oh, and they can all hit as well.
The name of the game offensively for the Orioles is going to be power. And we know that they have a lot of that. Nobody expected Mark Trumbo to return, yet the O’s managed to ink him to a new deal. Throw in Davis, Jones, Schoop, and Machado, and the Orioles should be able to keep up with or out-slug anyone.
Their other strength is their bullpen, which is anchored by the likes of Zach Britton at the back. However his supporting cast is going to be pretty strong as well, with guys like Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, et al. However this is also where they need the starting pitching to step up. If that’s inconsistent, the Orioles’ bullpen will end up getting overtaxed. And then they’ll struggle as well. So the key is getting starters to go six plus innings in games. If they can do that, the bullpen will continue to be light’s out.
I haven’t given you anything earth-shattering here. So the question everyone wants answered in these season previews is where will the Orioles finish? And I can’t tell you that – yet. We know that they’re in a very competitive division, and they’re given no respect by any of the pundits. But my personal prediction for this Orioles team is…
…they’ll be in the playoff hunt until the end. Whether that gets the to the post-season or not remains to be seen. But that’s my prediction. Some of you are wondering how this team with lackluster starting pitching is going to get to that point. And the answer is simple…
…Buck Showalter. The biggest competitive advantage the Orioles have sits in the dugout. This is a team that’s defied the odds since 2012. That’s no coincidence. He knows exactly which buttons to push for the most part and when. And there’s no bigger competitve advantage that any team could have than that.