2013 American League Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Rob Carr

Let's Go Tribe's look at the Indians' competition around the American League continues with the Baltimore Orioles, who were one of the most surprising playoff teams in recent history last season.

Baltimore Orioles

2012 Record: 93-69 (2nd in A.L. East), 4-4 vs. Cleveland

712 runs scored (9th of 14 in A.L.), 705 runs allowed (8th of 14 in A.L.)

In the first weekend of May last year, Baltimore swept the Red Sox in Fenway, improving their record to 19-9 and putting them in 1st place in the A.L. East. The Orioles hadn't finished with a .500 record or played in the playoffs since the Indians sent them packing in the '97 ALCS, and so even so early in the year, such success was something for their fans to get excited about. For the rest of the season, every time the team lost a couple games in a row the chorus would start shouting that this was it, the wheels were falling off. When the All-Streak break hit, they were still five games above. 500, but had fallen 7 back of New York after losing 9 of their previous 14 games.

In August they slowly pulled closer and closer again and at month's end they were just 2 behind. With three days left in the regular season, against all odds, they were tied with the Yankees. They couldn't quite win the division, but they did win one of the wildcard spots and then defeated the two-time defending A.L. champion Texas Rangers. Closer Jim Johnson set a team record with 51 saves and finished 7th in the Cy Young balloting, but beyond that the team didn't have any standout players, just a lot of solid ones. A team with a run differential of just +7 doesn't often win 93 games, so what was Baltimore's secret, how did they do it? They did it by going 29-9 in one-run games (the best one-run record ever) and 16-2 in extra-inning affairs, at one point winning 15 such games in a row, the second-longest such streak in history, behind only the '49 Indians. Dramatic stuff.

Following the team's most successful season in fifteen years, Baltimore mostly stood pat during the offseason.

Key off-season additions:

Jair Jurrjens (SP) It doesn't get much bigger than that!

Key off-season departures:

Robert Andino (2B), Mark Reynolds (1B/DH), Joe Saunders (SP), Jim Thome (DH)

Like I said, they mostly stood pat.

2013 Payroll: ~$90 (how did that happen???)

Projected 2013 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Matt Wieters

4

1B

Chris Davis

1

2B

Brian Roberts

1

3B

Manny Machado

3

SS

J.J. Hardy

4

LF

Nate McLouth/ Nolan Reimold

1

CF

Adam Jones

3

RF

Nick Markakis

2

DH

Wilson Betemit/Danny Valencia

1

TOTAL

20

Indian Killer:

Wilson Betemit - 157 PA, .313/.417/.594, 1.010 OPS, 7 HR, 2 SB, 18 R, 23 RBI

Those home run, runs scored, and RBI totals are all the highest for Betemit against any opponent and the OPS is his best among the eight teams he's batted against at least 100 times. Beware of the Betemit.

Projected 2013 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Jason Hammel

3

2

Wei-Yin Chen

3

3

Chris Tillman

3

4

Miguel Gonzalez

1

5

Jair Jurrjens

-1

RP

Bullpen

4

TOTAL

13

The Orioles' incredible records in one-run and extra-inning games last year both made for a ton of excitement, but history shows such success isn't really repeatable. Baltimore's run differential was that of an 82-win team and even that would have been above the expectations of most. In 2013, almost everyone expects the law of averages to catch up with them in a bad way. Most projections and predictions I've seen have Charm City's squad falling back to the basement. But the future has already begun to arrive. Manny Machado was called up at the age of 19 last year and held his own at third base. Dylan Bundy, the top-rated pitching prospect on almost every list is expected to be called up in June. I don't think Baltimore fans will get to see their team in the playoffs again, but they'll have some fun players to watch and pin hopes for tomorrow on.

PECOTA Projection: 74-88 (5th in East), 716 runs scored, 786 runs allowed

Cairo Projection: 76-86 (5th in East), 731 runs scored, 790 runs allowed

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