CHICAGO, September 25, 2013 — Today, the Better Luck Next Year series takes a trip to Baltimore and examines what went well and what went awry in 2013. The Baltimore Orioles made it into the postseason in 2012 with a 93 – 69 record and had every reason to think they would again be playoff contenders.
This has not been the case, however, the Orioles sit 13 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and six games out of the Wild Card with an 81-76 record. The Orioles are currently in a six-game losing streak and were eliminated from playoff contention last night. It is time to say, “Better luck next year,” to the Baltimore Orioles.
What Went Right: Chris Davis had an amazing season. In a world without Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, he would be the likely MVP winner. Davis has a .286/.369/.632 slash line so far, while leading the majors with 52 homeruns and 363 total bases. The Orioles have done what the Rangers never could when they had Davis, penciled Davis’ name into the lineup everyday. There is certainly more miss in Chris Davis’ swing than most major leaguers as he has struck out in 29.7% of his at bats this year. The benefits, however, have far outweighed the drawbacks with Davis owning a 165 OPS+ and 5.4 WAR, according to baseball reference.
Davis is second on the team in WAR, and that is largely due to the defensive prowess of Manny Machado. While Machado has produced at around the league average at the plate with a line of .283/.314/.432 and an OPS+ of 100, he has truly been stellar in the field producing 6.9 WAR, 4.2 of which is defensive which can fluctuate and should be monitored next year. The team will now have to see how severe the knee injury suffered yesterday was and how quickly he can recover.
Adam Jones has also has produced a year very similar to last year, which is great for the Orioles, posting a .285/.319/.492 line producing 4.5 WAR. The pitching staff saw the breakout of Chris Tillman as he built upon his year last year. Tillman has logged 194.1 innings so far this year with an ERA+ of 116 and offering 4.4 WAR.
Finally GM Jim Duquette has proven to be aggressive in his pursuit of making Baltimore a winner. He shipped out Nicky Delmonico, LJ Hoes and Xavier Avery, the number four, number six and number seven prospects according to Baseball America, to bring in Francisco Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Michael Morse this year.
What Went Wrong: The farm system entered the season ranked 17th, according to Baseball America. As mentioned, some players were traded in an attempt to win this year, but Dylan Bundy had Tommy John Surgery and Kevin Gausman struggled as a starter with the big league club, but was more effective down the stretch as a reliever. At this point in his career, it looks unlikely that Matt Wieters is going to develop into the offensive player many projected. Wieters has a line of .233/.286/.412 with an OPS+ of 87. Wieters is considered good defensively and provides plenty of value to the team, but has fallen short of his initial prospect hype.
The Orioles were very lucky in one run games last year going 29-9, but this year have seen that record fall to 17-31. Jim Johnson again leads the AL in saves with 47, but has nine blown saves this year compared to just three last year.
Finally, the Orioles need to sure up the number five spot in the rotation for next year, which they hope Kevin Gausman can do, as Jason Hammel and Freddy Garcia offered little in that role this year. Hammel has logged 135 innings, but with far less success than last year with an 83 ERA+ while Garcia had a 73 ERA+ in his 53 innings.
What to Look for in 2014: The Orioles were probably a better team this year than last year when they made the playoffs, but the breaks did not go their way as shown in their record in one run games. Despite having a lot of free agents, none of them are core players. The Orioles have been in contention the last two years and there is no reason to think that next year will be any different.
Free Agents/Options: Brian Roberts, Jason Hammel, Tsuyoshi Wada (Club Option), Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman, Alexi Casilla (Club Option), Michael Morse and Francisco Rodriguez
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