I guess before the season gets underway I should issue a preliminary judgment. But this year it’s pretty simple. The big projection systems, like PECOTA, have the Orioles finishing a little below .500, at 75-78 wins, with an average offense, but with a pitching staff among the worst in the league. And I don’t find much to argue with there. No real auto-outs in this year’s lineup apart from Cesar Izturis — nobody you mind seeing come to the plate, but at the same time no serious threats; last year nobody hit .300 or made it to 30 HR, and it’s easy to see that happening again. And the pitching? Well, we’re not planning to give 45 starts to Jason Berken, Rich Hill, and Adam Eaton this year, so that’s a plus. The Orioles have promising arms in Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta; but they’re also going to be handing the ball to Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Kevin Millwood, and David Hernandez. You’ve got to guess three of these four are below average in 2010.
The bright spot, I think, is that there’s more swing to this team’s fortunes than most. Lots of young players whose true abilities are uncertain. They could lose 95 games. But they could also go 85-77, if Tillman comes up and excels, if Markakis returns to 2008 form, if Wieters continues to grow as a hitter, if a non-prospect like Hernandez reveals himself to be a good pitcher. Lots of question marks — and when you expect to be bad, that’s good.