|2007 Postmortem: The Baltimore Orioles|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 19, 2007
AVG: Nick Markakis, .300
HR: Nick Markakis, 23
RBI: Nick Markakis, 112
Runs: Brian Roberts, 103
SB: Brian Roberts, 50
Wins: Erik Bedard, 13
ERA: Erik Bedard, 3.16
Strikeouts: Erik Bedard, 221
IP: Daniel Cabrera, 204.1
Saves: Chris Ray, 16
Best Move of the Season: The team claimed starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in spring training and have been patting themselves on the back ever since. Following the advice of Scott Boras, Guthrie’s agent, the Orioles used him out of the bullpen at the beginning to the season and moved him to the rotation once Guthrie felt comfortable. Their faith paid off, as Guthrie pitched to the tune of a 3.70 ERA in 32 appearances, including 26 starts. That sounds like a legitimate number two starter.
Worst Move of the Season: Speed is important, but not this important. The Orioles gave 461 ABs to Corey Patterson and received 37 stolen bases. They also got a paltry .304 on base percentage that was an albatross when considered with the remainder of the everyday lineup.
Key Player: Erik Bedard, who developed into the team’s ace this year, was the key for the Orioles’ success in 2007. He threw 182 innings over 28 starts with a 3.16 ERA. Bedard may have won the Cy Young Award, but an injury late in the season caused the Orioles to be cautious with their young ace.
Up and Coming Player: Just like with Ryan Zimmerman in Washington, the Orioles are building around outfielder Nick Markakis. Markakis, 23, has the defensive abilities to play all three outfield positions well, but will probably get stuck in a corner spot.
At the plate, however, is where Markakis truly shines. Last season, he hit .300/.362/.485 with 23 homers and 112 RBIs. If he can keep improving upon that, meaning he doesn’t turn into Eric Chavez, Markakis has a chance at being an MVP candidate throughout his prime.
What Went Right: The Orioles received some great performances from second baseman Brian Roberts, who was named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report and later admitted his guilt; starting pitchers Guthrie and Bedard; outfielder Markakis; and relief pitchers Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford. That core of players could be very useful for the Orioles next season or could bring quite a bit in trades.
What Went Wrong: Sadly, Orioles’ fans came to the most beautiful park in the major leagues to see another losing outfit. The team lost 93 games, despite having two top-notch starting pitchers, a couple of good relief arms, and some solid offensive performers.
Perhaps the biggest problem was starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera. It’s been time for him to break out, but he continues to walk too many hitters to be a successful pitcher at the major league level. If he can ever match his control with his stuff, Cabrera would be just as good as Roy Halladay or Carlos Zambrano.
Those guys called upon to provide “relief” should be given some blame, too. Closer Chris Ray is out for the majority, if not entirety, of the 2008 season due to Tommy John surgery. High-cost free agent signee Danys Baez stunk things up to the tune of a 6.44 ERA over 50.1 innings. And whatever other arms the Orioles culled from whatever independent league fared just as badly, if not worse.
Offseason Preview: This offseason will go a long way in determining the future of the Orioles. Either they can do the right thing -- admit their mistakes, blow everything up, and try again -- or try to place a giant band-aid and rebuild their team through free agency.
Miguel Tejada has already been shipped out for five young players, including several pitchers. That is a good first move, and it may hint that Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard should start packing their bags as well. Both players can bring plenty in return, and general manager Jim Beattie should leave no stone unturned.
Also, the team should take a look at moving guys like Melvin Mora, Kevin Millar, and Jay Payton. They will be bench players for contending squads, but perhaps the Orioles can escape from the majority of their salaries and receive a decent prospect in return. There is only one way for this club to start winning, and that is to build their team up through the farm system.