Baseball previews get underway today, and first up will be the 2017 Baltimore Orioles.
The 2016 season ended in utter frustration for this team. Buck Showalter did his usual rock solid job for 162 games, but really fouled things up in Game 163. That was a killer as Game 163 happened to be a one and done playoff eliminator and Showalter very possibly cost his team a chance to advance by failing to get his stud closer into the game.
Assuming there’s no lingering hangover, the 2017 Birds should be a okay entry once again but down some from 2016. There are some holes on the team to be sure, but I don’t see anything to suggest Baltimore will fall apart.
The big question will once again be regarding the starting pitching, which is decidedly average. Tillman, Gausman, Bundy, Jimenez and Miley is not exactly a quintet that will generate fear in opposing lineups. But, Game 163 in 2016 notwithstanding, Showalter has shown himself to be very adept at getting the most from his bullpens, and the Orioles have what could be a dominating relief corps.
Wellington Castillo takes over from the departed Matt Wieters behind the plate. I really don’t see a big difference between those two. Wieters the better rep, but if you look at the numbers, it’s not easy to tell the two apart. “Beef” has bounced around the majors to be sure, but he’s a guy widely considered to be a terrific teammate and I think he’ll do just fine for the Orioles.
The rest of the everyday lineup looks mostly the same as what we’ve seen. Manny Machado is a superstar, and there’s still plenty of supporting cast talent. That’s not to say there aren’t some questions. Adam Jones declined last season and the O’s are hoping that’s not the beginning of a career downturn. Chris Davis is going to hit plenty of bombs, but he’s a poor defender who would probably be better served as a DH. Mark Trumbo might have had an outlier 2016, so don’t be surprised if he regresses a bit this season. Jonathan Schoop should be entering his prime about now, so I expect improvement there. JJ Hardy is already having back issues, so shortstop has to be a concern. Hyun Soo Kim won’t ever win a Gold Glove, but I think he moves forward with the stick in his second season, and he reported to 2017 camp in improved shape. Right field looks to be a problem area.
I see the ’17 Orioles as a .500 team, so I don’t expect them to be making a return trip to the post-season. Unfortunately, at least from a wagering standpoint, the oddsmakers have the same opinion. The wins projection total for the Orioles is 81.5 and I see that as an on the money number for what should be an average team.