Orioles 2010 Preview: Hope Springs Eternal

(Image Courtesy of Orioles.com)

Tonight symbolizes a fresh start for the Baltimore Orioles. All the opening days of the past 12 years have been fresh starts in a sense. But they way those last 12 seasons have ended up…yikes!

My favorite team has been hard to watch for the past decade. It has been frustrating, embarrassing, and sad to see sub par baseball year in and year out.

But there is plenty of optimism this year amongst players and fans alike. When I look at the 2010 Orioles I see serious potential for growth. That growth is what will hopefully translate into contention with the big boys in the A.L. East in the years to come

So here is my brief outlook of this year’s team:

The starting pitching staff is young (Brian Matusz, David Hernandez, and Brad Bergesen are 23, 24, and 24 respectively) but the they are anchored by veterans Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie. One would hope there is some improvement from 2009 in which Baltimore’s starters tied for the worst ERA in baseball at 5.37

Brian Roberts once again will lead things off and play second base. He was limited to 19 at-bats during spring training due to a herniated disk in his back. Despite this he is set to go and will play in tonight’s game.  batting second is Center fielder Adam Jones. Jones was named an All Star and won his first career Gold Glove award in 2009. He has improved vastly since joining the team 2 seasons ago. He has tremendous range in the outfield and has become more patient as a hitter. I still feel he has another season or two before he really blossoms at the plate. Right fielder Nick Markakis’ stats dipped a bit in ’09. He is entering his fifth full season as a pro and I’m looking for him to be firing on all cylinders this year. An average of over .300, 25+ home runs, and 100+ RBI’s are very realistic numbers for him.

A familiar face in Miguel Tejada is back on the squad. He will play third and bat cleanup this year. DH Luke Scott and catcher Matt Wieters fill the 5 and 6 spots respectively. This will be Wieters’ first full season in the major leagues and he’d like to pick up where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign. He had a very solid September last year, finishing the month hitting .362, knocking in 14 runs, and having an on base percentage of .425.

Also entering his first full season is Nolan Reimold. He will bat seventh and occupy left field. But he will miss tonight’s opener with a sore Achilles tendon. Felix Pie will fill in. Garrett Atkins joins the O’s after seven seasons with the Rockies. He will play first and bat eighth. He is a career .290 hitter who like Markakis, is capable hitting 25+ HR’s driving in 100+ RBI’s in a good year. His numbers dropped off considerably in 2009, it will be interesting to see if he can rebound in 2010. And batting ninth is shortstop Cesar Izturis. Last year the Orioles needed major help defensively at short and they got it in Izturis. In 2009 he had a .984 fielding percentage and committed only eight errors.

There you have it. I assume it would be appropriate to make a prediction here. I’m going to say the O’s finish 4th in the American League East and just barely miss reaching the .500 mark with a record of 80-82. Just some perspective: the birds have not had more than 79 wins since 1997, when they won the division with 98! I’ll refer back to this post in October when all the dust has settled. Hopefully I’m not too off. Enjoy the season!!!

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