Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Modest Improvements

I have the O's projected at about 78 wins right now, which seems pretty high (I went back and added a couple of players that I originally missed and gave more plate appearances to the bench (at worse production, though with improved defense to keep them at 0 WAR) at the expense of the starters - I didn't want to be overly optimistic about the run scoring. Plus, it seems like Hendrickson will be a long-reliever/spot starter so his innings and replacement level had to be adjusted accordingly). They only won 68 games last year, but had a Pythagorean record with 73 wins (and about the same number from 45 + team WAR - theoretically it should be more like 50 as the starting point, but I made it lower since the AL East is such a tough division). Where have those extra 6 wins come from?

* Upgrade at catcher. Wieters should at the very least be better than Ramon was behind the plate. I also think that while Razor was below average with the bat last year, Wieters will be a bit above average. Add in a competent back-up/starter for the first month (*cough* Gregg Zaun *cough*) instead of replacement level players like Guillermo Quiroz (who I still like) Omir Santos, and the catcher position should see a one win improvement (at least) for 2009.

* Upgrade at first base. Kevin Millar was a replacement level player in 2008. Oscar Salazar (or whoever) isn't exactly Mark Teixeira, but he should be an above replacement (if below average) player over there. A half win or so.

* Luke Scott not having to split time with a replacement level player in left (so long, Jay Payton) is a plus. I think he'll hit better too. Tack on another half-win.

* Adam Jones' bat becomes only a little below average and he doesn't get injured (hopefully). Half win addition.

* Finally the big one - shortstop. Six Orioles' shortstops combined to be horribly below replacement last year, with Juan Castro being the worst offender (though only because he got the most playing time). It is unbelievable to me that the team could go through that many players and have them all be below replacement. There had to be someone freely available that could have sucked less. Cesar Izturis isn't a world-beater, but his modest 1 WAR talent is actually a 4 WAR improvement from last year's mess.

* Roberts, Mora, and Huff will all likely decline, but improvement with the pitching staff will hopefully make up for all of that. There will be some regression for a couple of guys (mainly Jim Johnson), but regression in the positive direction from Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz, Jamie Walker, and some others should more than counteract that. Call it a half-win loss to be conservative.

Will the Orioles really win 78 games next year? Probably not, but that doesn't mean they can't. Their position players are good enough to repeat their 68 wins from 2008 with even a replacement level pitching staff, so it'll be the pitchers that determine how far they go.

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