A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Twenty three: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles got off to a fast start this season thanks to some great defense, but even then there were warning signs about the pitching staff vastly over performing. Those signs turned out to be correct as the Orioles fell off dramatically and ended up around where most people thought they would be, last in the East and among the worst teams in the league.
What was a surprise was an offense far more potent than expected. BaseRuns puts them at 785 runs scored, good for 12th in baseball. Nick Markakis, Melvin More and Brian Roberts all had incrementally better seasons over 2007. Luke Scott and Adam Jones were good enough with the bat to not draw any negative attention, but the big story came from Aubrey Huff, who came almost out of nowhere to post a .304/.360/.552 line.
The run prevention though is an entirely different story with BaseRuns clocking them at 875 runs allowed, the third worst total in all of baseball ahead of only the Pirates and Rangers. Baltimore’s team defensive rankings held about the same overall depending on which measurement you use, but the means to that end changed dramatically. Where as John Dewan’s fielding metrics have Balitmore as around average across all fields in 2007, the addition of Luke Scott and Adam Jones to the outfield in 2008 boosted them to a hearty +38 plays in the outfield this season. However, they suffered a corresponding drop in the infield which suggests I may have been wrong in my assessment of Miguel Tejada’s defense.
Regardless, the pitching was the culprit here as the Orioles boasted one of baseball’s worst rotations. Steve Trachsel was an unmitigated disaster as was Dennis Sarfate and Adam Loewen. Daniel Cabrera managed to get much worse and Radhames Liz and Brian Burres wouldn’t have seen the light of day on any competent squad.
It wasn’t just the rotation though as the bullpen gave up its share of runs. Outside of George Sherrill and Jim Johnson there was little to be excited about and a few like Jamie Walker and Fernando Cabrera to be really upset at. The Orioles have some fantastic young hitting talent, with more on the way in Matt Weiters, but they are severely lacking in pitching talent right now and given the state of the AL East, it looks like it will be awhile before Baltimore is in the discussion.
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