Friday, March 4, 2011

Five Reasons for Optimism

I'm back! Just one more class to go in my MBA career, and then maybe I'll have a bit more time to devote to the blog on a regular basis.

Matt Vensel today posted "Five reasons for Orioles optimism in 2011". Spring is obviously the season for optimism, but these are some pretty pessimistic optimistic indicators. Running through Matt's reasons:

5. A lineup without holes: This is largely true, in so much as they now have 9 position players absolutely worthy of regular at-bats in the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, it's also a lineup without much upside. Take a look through the Camden Crazies projections for this season; lots of guys with about 2.0 WAR. And now look at the ages of those regulars:

Matt Wieters, 25; Derrek Lee, 35; Brian Roberts, 33; Mark Reynolds, 27; JJ Hardy, 28; Luke Scott, 33; Adam Jones, 25; Nick Markakis, 27; Vlad Guerrero, 36.

Aside from Adam Jones (1800 career plate appearances) and Matt Wieters (900 plate appearances), no one else will play this season at an age where we can reasonably expect an improvement on their established level of performance. While I do think we'll see better numbers from Matt Wieters, Adam Jones has enough plate appearances now that it is difficult to expect big steps forward. Frankly, looking at that lineup is kind of depressing if you want the Orioles to build any sort of sustainable legitimate playoff contender.

4. Vlad the Impaler: Daniel covers this one ably. And as even Matt points out, he only hit 9 homers after the break last year.

3. The relative health of Roberts: I thought this was a post about optimism? Brian has already missed time in camp this spring with a strained neck, and the health of a balky backed 33-year old middle infielder seems much more like it belongs on a "worries" list.

2. The most interesting manager in the world: I like Buck, I really do. But if you're banking on the manager to take your club from 66 wins to the promised land, I hope your down payment on playoff tickets is refundable.

1. The young starting rotation: This is one with which I largely agree. I'm driving the Brian Matusz bandwagon, and I still harbor optimism that Chris Tillman can figure things out if only the organization will leave him alone in the Majors for a few months. I think Arrieta and Bergesen are both the type of arms that good organizations should turn out regularly, and I'm tremendously excited for Zach Britton. Guthrie isn't young, but he's still cheap and has proven to be a very valuable innings muncher.

In conclusion, this is a team that can reasonably be expected to make a run at .500, which, considering the miserableness of the past few years, is certainly a step forward but hardly anything to get excited about. The young pitching, however, really does have some upside. If there are legitimate reasons for optimism, they are on the mound.

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