If you’re wondering how the Baltimore Orioles’ upcoming season will turn out, you may not need to look further than their 2016 campaign.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Chris Johnson makes a diving stop on a ground ball by Tampa Bay Rays’ Curt Casali during the third inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in Sarasota, Fla. Casili was out at first. Looking on is umpire John Bacon. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Just a year ago, Orioles entered the season with little to no expectation of success, yet miraculously spent most of the year in first place of the American League East before eventually finishing in second place with an 89-73 record. Baltimore’s roster was filled with power batters on offense, solid fielders both infield and outfield, and a bullpen made up of the league’s top set-up man and closer. That was good enough to get Baltimore a berth in the American League Wild Card game, in which they were eliminated from playoff contention by the Toronto Blue Jays.
After a long winter of self-evaluation, the Orioles’ decision-makers have decided to stand pat. Perhaps the old cliché of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was behind their decision to keep last year’s roster nearly fully intact. After all, that recipe did lead to a playoff appearance. So why not use it again?
Well, there’s another old cliché that may beg to differ: “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” And that may end up the reality of Baltimore’s 2017 season.
Sure, the Orioles still have their awesome array of power hitters, including two home run champs in Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. They still have a solid defense with Gold Glove winners Manny Machado and Adam Jones, and they still have arguably the best setup pitcher and closer pitcher in baseball in Brad Brach and Zach Britton.
But the team still hasn’t addressed its most glaring weakness: an inconsistent starting rotation. Bad starting pitching has haunted the Orioles for many years, and it appears as if it will continue to haunt the team this year. Baltimore’ most consistent starter, Chris Tillman, won’t be available to start the season due to a nagging shoulder injury. The rest of the rotation consists of Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, Dylan Bundy, and Ubaldo Jimenez. While Bundy offers the most potential to improve into a formidable starter, the rest of the guys are average at best.
That means Baltimore will once again have to rely on a high-scoring offense and strong relief pitching to win games. They may be able to pull it off and reach the playoffs for the second straight year, but don’t expect them to advance any further in the postseason than they did in 2016.
The Orioles will start their regular season on April 3 with a two-game home series against the team that bounced them from the playoffs last year, the Toronto Blue Jays.