Finally, a national reporter that took a close look at the Orioles. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it does seem many of the national analysts that have panned the club’s quiet offseason didn’t ask the club’s management or players to get it their take.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark did. He wrote this piece on Wednesday.
Here is an excerpt:
Did you know that 32 of those 52 players this team used last season had never played for the Orioles before? Or that this outfit needed to rip through 178 roster moves just to get through the season? Or that (Buck) Showalter wrote out 122 different lineups in 162 games and never used the same nine position players in as many as 10 games all season?
All true, ladies and gentlemen. But as (Dan) Duquette loves to point out, the team they put on the field at the end of last season wasn’t merely a lot different than the team they fielded early on.
It was also a lot better.
Over the final 56 games of last season, guess which team had the best record in baseball? That would be the Orioles (38-18). And not by accident.
They had the second-best run differential in the sport (plus-69) in that span. And they played dramatically better defense after they installed Manny Machado at third base and the now-departed Mark Reynolds at first.
So when the skeptics talk about what the Orioles didn’t do over the offseason, Duquette likes to remind those folks about all the moves his team DID make during the season. So you can make a case - and he’s happy to make it - that the Orioles didn’t have to do as much this winter as a lot of people seem to think.
“It was a good team at the end of the year,” he said. “It was a good defensive team. And it was a team that our fans connected with. They loved it. Work ethic. The determination of the team to compete in the close games and win the extra-inning games. And that’s kind of who we are. That’s kind of who the city is.”
Stark also quoted reliever Darren Day on the club’s offseason.
“I don’t mind that we didn’t make any quote-unquote ‘big’ moves,” O’Day said. “I think we have a good offense. I think we have a great pitching staff. I love the team that we have here. If Babe Ruth was on the waiver wire, maybe we could make a trade. But I don’t think he is.
“This clubhouse has got confidence in management,” O’Day went on. “We all respect what they do. And we know that when they see something they like, they’ll pull the trigger to make this team better. I can tell you for a fact there’s no second-guessing in here.”
Stark makes the point made over and over again by local and national reporters and fans since last season ended that the club’s success in the close games most likely can’t be duplicated in 2013. The Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games last season.
He goes on to conclude that you can’t say the Orioles will not be winners again this year, but you probably can conclude they can’t win the same way.
Here are some other stats I researched on the one-run wins. When the Orioles went 29-22 (.569) in April and May last season, they were going 8-5 (.615) in one-run decisions. Somewhat surprisingly while the Orioles were one game under .500, going a combined 26-27 in June and July, they went 12-1 in one-run games in those two months.
In fact, you can do some easy math to see, as I posted above, that the Orioles suffered five of their nine one-run losses for the season in the first two months. From June 1 through the end of the 2012 regular season, the Orioles went a blistering 21-4 (.840) in one-run games. Four one-run losses over four months of baseball. That is pretty amazing.
The Orioles’ month-by-month one-run records in 2012:
In June, July and August, the Orioles played .550 baseball at 44-36. In those three months, they played .941 ball at 16-1 in the one-run decisions.
Back to the Stark article for a minute. While we can and have debated at length whether the Orioles made the right decisions with an offseason where they brought back most of the roster, at least a few national reporters have taken the time in recent days to hear what the players and management have to say about that. Richard Justice of MLB.com published this column on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Orioles beat the Yankees and Red Sox once each yesterday to go to 5-0 in the Grapefruit League for the first time since 2001. It doesn’t mean anything at this point, but Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh did say that “winning is better than losing.”
For your viewing pleasure: Click here to see a portion of the ESPN Baseball Tonight broadcast from Orioles’ camp with Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian.
What are your thoughts on the Jayson Stark article and Baseball Tonight’s visit to O’s camp?