That time of year! When we ask: are the Orioles going to finish last in the AL East this year? Yes. The Orioles are going to finish last in the AL East this year. Camden Depot has them projected at 68-94, 11 games out of fourth place. On the other hand, I think the error bars around the O’s 2012 record are pretty wide; so I have a higher estimate than most people of the chance of the Orioles having an OK year. If somebody gives you the chance to bet on the Orioles not to finish last at 10:1 odds, I think you should take it.
Because the 2011 Orioles were a pretty much average team with the bat. They were a bad team overall because they were lousy defensively, and, more importantly, because their young pitchers were uniformly terrible.
What about this year? I don’t think the lineup is likely to get worse. Much of it hasn’t changed. J.J. Hardy isn’t likely to hit as well in 2012, but Wilson Betemit is likely to contribute useful AB. And there’s one area where the team could improve a lot. The Orioles had an absolutely terrible bench last year. The good thing about giving a ton of at-bats to horrible players is that you can get a big improvement just by finding some mediocre players to replace them. Between Jai Miller, Endy Chavez, Betemit, and Nick Johnson, I think those at-bats are not going to be as bad. Overall, I think again you have a team that’ll score runs at or just a little below the league average.
As for the pitching, no one knows. But there are so many pitchers on the 2012 team who could be effective that it’s hard to imagine there won’t be two or three who actually get there. On the other hand, the only pitcher who was reasonably certain to be effective, Jeremy Guthrie, was traded. Thus the large error bars. If Matusz doesn’t recover, if Wada and Chen can’t transition to MLB, if Hammel can’t replace Guthrie’s innings, the pitching could actually get even worse than it was in 2011. But there’s a non-tiny chance it could be a whole lot better.
Update: But why is Jamie Moyer pitching for the Rockies instead of us? It would have been a longshot, I know, but a pitching staff with valuable contributions from both Jamie Moyer and Dontrelle Willis would be a thing of glory and joy.