Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Worst Team Ever?

A lot of people are saying that the Orioles are going to be horrible; that they'll lose 1,000 games; that children will cry at the mere sight of them. I say: do you remember 2003? That team - on paper - looks way worse than the 2008 version, and it won 71 games (and should have won 74 based on RS/RA).

(2003 age, stat-line)

C: Ramon Hernandez vs. Brook Fordyce (33, .273/.311/.371) - Winner: 2008; by a fair amount
1B: Kevin Millar vs. Jeff Conine (37, .290/.338/.460) - Winner: I'll give it to 2003; but it's really close.
2B: Brian Roberts vs. Brian Roberts (25, .270/.337/.367) - Winner: 2008; he's come a long way
3B: Melvin Mora vs. Tony Batista (29, .235/.270/.393) - Winner: 2008; man was Tony bad.
SS: Luis Hernandez vs. Deivi Cruz (30, .250/.269 /.378) - Winner: 2003; but it's actually close at the place where 2008 is weakest by far.
LF: Luke Scott vs. Larry Bigbie + BJ Surhoff (25+38, .303/.365/.456 + .295/.353/.404) - Winner: 2008; by a hair via SLG
CF: Adam Jones vs. Luis Matos (24, .303/.353/.458) - Winner: 2003; Matos showed a lot of promise, but Jones has the much better tools - they just might not show up this year.
RF: Nick Markakis vs. Jay Gibbons (26, .277/. 330/.456) - Winner: 2008; bye Jay
DH: Aubrey Huff vs. David Segui + Melvin Mora (36+31, .263/.341/.384 + .317/.418/.503) - Winner: 2003; Huff may meet their SLG average, but will fall short in OBP.

Offense: I think 2008 is a winner here. There is only one black-hole in the line-up, instead of two or three. 2003 hit .268/.323/.405; marks that 2008 should clear pretty easily by about 10 points of OBP and maybe as much as 20-25 in SLG.

SP: Jeremy Guthrie vs. Jason Johnson (29, 4.18 ERA) - Winner: I'll call it a wash, as Johnson had a pretty good year but Guthrie is better.
SP: Daniel Cabrera vs. Rodrigo Lopez (27, 5.82) - Winner: 2008; Cabrera is better at his worst and may even win in a landslide.
SP: Adam Loewen vs. Rick Helling (32, 5.71) - Winner: 2008; even though I think Loewen will struggle, the same idea as for Cabrera applies.
SP: Steve Trachsel vs. Pat Hentgen (34 , 4.09) - Winner: 2003; the former Cy Young winner had a solid year that Trax won't duplicate.
SP: Brian Burres vs. Sidney Ponson (26, 3.77) - Winner: 2003; Sir Sidney showed so much promise - Burres won't get near Ponson's season.

Starting Pitching: It looks pretty even to me, but 2008 has more upside if guys like Olson and Penn come up and contribute.

CL: George Sherrill vs. Jorge Julio (24, 4.38) - Winner: 2008; Sherrill is just way better than Julio and neither was a "proven closer".
SU: Jamie Walker vs. BJ Ryan (27, 3.40) - Winner: 2003; Ryan is just much more dominant, but Walker can still get the job done.
SU: Chad Bradford vs. Kerry Ligtenberg (32, 3.34) - Winner: Wash; their not that different, though Kerry had a lower ERA.
MR: Greg Aquino vs. Buddy Groom (37, 5.36) - Winner: 2008; even if Aquino is bad, he still has much better stuff than Groom did.
MR: Dennis Sarfate vs. Hector Carrasco (32, 4.93) - Winner: I'll call it a wash, but Sarfate has much more upside than Carrasco did.
MR: Randor Bierd vs. Travis Driskill (31, 6.00) - Winner: 2008; even getting acclimated to the big leagues, Bierd should easily be better.
LR: Matt Albers vs. Rick Bauer (26, 4.55) - Winner: Another wash; it could go either way here but it should be close.

Relief Pitching: A slight advantage to 2008 with a lot more upside. The 2003 overall staff ERA was 4.76, which is well within the capabilities of the 2008 pitchers.

Overall: The 2008 club looks better than the 2003 version. Why is it expected by some that they'll be 10-15 games worse?

Going back another year, the 2002 Birds hit .246/.309/.403 and had a 4.46 ERA (based on some lucky low-ERA years from the relievers) and they won 67 games (and should have won 70). In 2001 they hit .248/.319/.380 with a 4.67 ERA and still avoided 100 losses (they should have won 67 instead of their 63). In 2000 the offense was good (beyond what can be expected of the 2008 club) at .272/.341/.435 but the pitching was atrocious at 5.37 - and they still won 74 games (though it should have been 71). Do you see where I'm going with this? The team may be bad, but it's better than some other recent teams who all avoided the 100 losses that people are pinning on the 2008 O's with such certainty.

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