The 2012 Orioles were 29 - 9 in one run games, and 16-2 in extra inning games. Let that sink in.
A better representation would be to say the Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and 10-1 in extra-inning games decided by more than one run. Those winning percentages are still unusual, but framing it that way properly reduces the number of "lucky" wins the 2012 Orioles enjoyed from an apparent 45 to the actual 39..
In 2013, the Orioles started out losing their first three one-run games, but have turned that around by winning their last three. The last thing any team wants to do is get into an extra inning affair with the Orioles. Their 10-inning win Thursday night against the Rays was their 17th straight extra-inning victory:
I have zero memory of playing the Orioles during interleague play. The only thing I remember about the Dodgers and Orioles is 1966. It may have shocked Dodger fans but that team simply had some of the best players in history in their prime.
Out of eight starting players, three were HOF, the left side of infield with Luis Aparicio (nine gold gloves) and Brooks Robinson (16 gold gloves) might have been the greatest defensive left side to ever play the game. Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown that year and was probably the best player in the AL for a period of four years. Many consider Paul Blair (seven straight gold gloves) one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all-time. Surrounding the HOF group was Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Paul Blair, and 1965 ROY Curt Blefary. The 22-year-old Blefary would disappear quickly enough but in 1966 he was one of the best young hitters in the AL. That team was loaded and we haven't even begun to talk about the pitching staff that allowed the Dodgers to score only two runs in four games and held them scoreless the last 33 innings of the World Series.
Indeed the 1966 World Champion Orioles were a great team.
The 2013 Orioles are not that team, but they are also no longer the doormats of the AL East. Some astute trading has populated their team to compete while they wait for their draft picks to help pick up the slack. You'd think the Orioles are a home grown team but you'd be wrong. Their two best players came over via trades. The number one pitcher came over via trade. And the great thing is that they didn't give squat for all three of them. Oh sure at one time Erik Bedard was something, but he has hasn't been much since the Orioles traded him at his peak trade value. The number two pitcher was signed out of Japan without much fanfare.
Let's take a look at these steals of deals:
Starting first baseman Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter were acquired from the Rangers for Koji Uehara. Now Uehara is a solid bullpen piece, but Chris Davis is going to hit about 300 home runs before he's done.
For a front office that has been ridiculed from time to time, I'd say that is some good work.
2013 Changes from 2012
Additions: Almost zero changes on the major league roster
Catcher: Matt Wieters is not the great offensive catcher that was envisioned when he was drafted with the fifth pick of the 2007 draft but he is a solid catcher who has made two All-Star teams. He also hit a walk off grand slam Thursday night.
First base: If you don't know who Chris Davis is your head has been in a hole since the start of the season. Davis did something no one in the history of baseball had ever done when he drove in 16 runs in the first four games of the year. In four game. Have the Dodgers even scored 16 runs this year? To drive in those 16 runs he hit a home run in every game. Something only Mark McGwire, Willie Mays, and Nelson Cruz had ever done. Of course the Orioles have now played fifteen games and Mr. Davis has only 20 runs batted in. So if I do the math 16 runs batted in, in four games, four runs batted in in his last 11 games. I guess we can put the HOF plaque on hold. Still this man has enormous power to all fields, and has hit 83 home runs in less then 1,600 at-bats.
Second base: At one time Brian Roberts was an iron man playing over 150 games for three years in a row. He then missed 371 games over the next three years. Roberts was deemed healthy and ready to play in 2013. That lasted for all of three games before a leg injury shut him down once again. Ryan Flaherty is now the starting second baseman and if you think Luis Cruz is having trouble, you haven't met Ryan Flaherty. Ryan has started out 2013, 2 for 27 which might be why we could be seeing Alexis Casilla at second. Casilla is like the Padres' Alexi Amarista. Which means he's not very good, but also means he's they guy who will probably kick our ass.
Shortstop: Hardy better be good with his glove, because he sure can't hit anymore. Once in a while he'll pop a home run, as his 22 in 2012 will attest, but those home runs came with a .238/.282 avg/OBP line.
Third base: 19-year-old Manny Machado helped save the Oriole season last year when he came up and filled a huge hole at third base. He was not spectacular by any means but he was solid. 20-year-old Manny is not lighting the league on fire, but defensively he makes the plays, and it won't be long before he's the best player on this team. If Manny Machado is not the best third baseman in the AL by the time he's 23 it will only because he was moved back to shortstop.
Right field: Amazingly Nick Markakis is now 29 years old and has been the Orioles starting right fielder since 2006. He's their Andre Ethier, a very good player, who at times appears to be great but can never do it long enough to get the distinction. They have eerily had very similar careers. Both become full time right fielders in 2006. Both left handed. Both are right fielders. Both have a career OPS+ within five points of each other. They are eleven home runs in difference. One has 538 RBI's the other has 554.
Center field: Adam Jones finally became the star many expected him to be in 2012, and did it while playing in 162 games. With his OPS improving year by year, will he plateau or keep getting better. At age 27, I think his best is still waiting for him.
Left field:Hard to believe but Nate McLouth is a starting left fielder for the Orioles. The one time Pirate star whose star faded fast in Atlanta has resurfaced with the Orioles. He gets the right hand pitchers, Nolan Reimold gets the left hand pitchers. Neither is hitting much, a slight upgrade in LF could do wonders for the Oriole offense.
DH: Right now this appears to be the gig of Steve Pearce. At least he was the designated hitter on Thursday night. Going into Thursday night he did not have a hit in 2013 but he rectified that with a home run and single. I figure that is good enough for a few games this weekend. Another position where a slight upgrade could do wonders for the Oriole offense.
Bench: Benches are boring in the American League, unless a platoon is happening what are they there for? They have an extra catcher in Taylor Teagarden. An extra infielder depending if Casilla or Flaherty are starting. An extra bat depending if Nolan or McLouth are playing. Chris Dickerson was brought up for some depth. All in all, not an inspiring bench.
Rotation for Series:
Game 1: We get the number one through three guys. Jason Hammel starts it off. Hammel was a huge surprise last year after coming over from the Rockies but those huge peripheral gains in 2012 have disappeared in 2013. He's made three starts and while he's gone six inning in each of them, none have been a work of art. You'd think Adrian, Andre, and Crawford could do just enough damage to get the team four runs.
Game 2: I actually think Wei-Yin Chen is their best and consistent pitcher. Problem for the left handed Chen is that the Orioles don't score many runs when he's pitching. Problem for the Dodger is that he's left handed, crafty, and will give this team fits.
Game 3: Jake Arreita has a good arm but has yet to pitch very well with it. He may never figure it out but the Orioles do appear as though they will give him plenty of starts to try to figure it out. So far in 2013 he's made three starts, gone exactly 5 innings in each start, and has walked 11 in those 15 innings.
Closer - Somehow Jim Johnson keeps getting the job done. The only time he hasn't gotten the job done in the last 13 months was in October against the Yankees when he really needed to get the job done. The Orioles played well enough in the postseason to win last year, but Jim Johnson did not. After getting a league leading 51 saves in 2012, he has six already this year.
Setup: I count three right handers and two left handers - Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop. O'Day was once an Angel property, Hunter came over from Texas, as recently as 2010 he was starting post season games for the Rangers, Pedro was a position player ala Pedro Baez. Troy Patton was once a big time Astros prospect reaching as high as number 58 in 2008 according to BA. Patton along with Brian Matusz are the left handers in the bullpen. Brian was the fourth overall pick in 2008. Amazing how I see that 2008 draft haunting teams considering how bad the 1st round was.
The rest of the rotation we won't see is Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez. Dylan Bundy is talked about as a phenom but ............
he has yet to pitch in 2013 because............surprise, he has a sore arm. Past Bundy is one-time Dodger draft pick Kevin Gausman who might help in 2013 but more likely 2014.
If these trends continue, I pity the week review Eric will have to write.