March Madness- 30 teams in 30 days. 2012 MLB Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Team: Baltimore Orioles

Manager: Buck Showalter

2011 Record: 69-93

Playoff Result: No playoffs

Top Player: Matt Wieters (5.0 WAR)

What happened last season: The Baltimore Orioles came right out of the gate at the beginning of the month of April, winning six of their first seven, including a series opening sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays. However, after facing the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees, they immediately came back to earth and became the same old Orioles, finishing 69-93, last in the East and third worst record in the AL.

The offense did manage to improve a lot in 2011, especially All-stars Matt Wieters, Adam Jones. However, the new additions to the left side of the in-field led the charge, as all-or-nothing slugging third baseman Mark Reynolds contributed thirty-seven home runs and eighty-six runs batted in. Shortstop J.J. Hardy had thirty and eighty, respectively. The dreadful pitching staff is what led to the Orioles demise, despite boasting several young talents like Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Brian Matusz.

The ultimate highlight of the Orioles’ season would come on that fateful final day, facing off against the train-wreck Boston Red Sox. After a long rain delay, the O’s staged a ninth inning comeback against closer Jonathan Papelbon, stunning the Sox and ending their season a few minutes later when Rays third baseman Evan Longoria walked off to clinch the wild card.

What they did in the offseason: The Orioles were indeed active during the offseason. The team let team president Andy MacPhail go and replaced him with former Red Sox Dan Duquette as head of baseball operations. The team also unveiled new uniforms, reintroducing the famous cartoon bird on the cap logo. They also went international in the free agent market, signing lefties Wei-Yin Chen of Taiwan and Tsuyoshi Wada of Japan, both of whom are expected to be apart of the starting rotation in 2012.

Projected starting lineup and rotation:

Lineup:

Catcher: Matt Wieters

First Base: Chris Davis

Second Base: Brian Roberts

Third Base: Mark Reynolds

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy

Left Field: Nolan Reimold

Center Field: Adam Jones

Right Field: Nick Markakis

Designated Hitter: Wilson Betemit

Rotation:

LHP Brian Matusz (when healthy

LHP Zach Britton

RHP Jake Arrieta

RHP Jason Hammel

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

Closer Jim Johnson

Oulook for 2012: The Baltimore Orioles are a young and talented team that would be very competitive in other divisions. Unfortunately, they play in the brutal American League East and they are much too inexperienced to beat the Yankees, the Rays, Blue Jays, or Red Sox. Expect improvements for the O’s, but right now it won’t be enough to run with the big dogs. Give them another year to continue to grow and they will eventually thrive.

Regular Season Prediction: 73-89, 5th in AL East

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