Last night’s loss in New York hurt, and in a strange way I enjoyed it.
The losing that this organization has gone through during the ‘98 to ‘10 seasons has not made me any less of a fan. It has not made me pay any less attention. What the losing did do was make it harder to enjoy the highs and lows of a season. Meaning when there was no chance for those ‘98 to ‘10 teams to achieve anything, how invested could anyone be in a tough loss or exhilarating win? What has sustained me as a fan during that time was evaluating the organization as a whole and thinking of the changes required throughout the system that were needed to improve.
There are plenty of things within the organization that I still believe need improvement. There are plenty of reasons to believe that while the 2011 O’s are improved, anything above a 4th place finish in the AL East will remain unlikely.
What there is though, is a sliver of chance. For right now, I’m enjoying that opportunity (even if it is limited) which makes the on-field results matter. The fact that the results do matter right now is what makes the loss last night magnified and hurt that much more.
So, 11 games into a 162 game season, why do I think these O’s are capable? Mainly because of the starting pitching. Here in the middle of April, it seems likely that Matusz will return by the end of the month. A rotation headed by Guthrie, Matusz, Britton, and Arrieta is pretty strong. I also think that as the season progresses, Bergesen, Tillman, and potentially even Duchscherer can team to be a league average 5th starter.
The Orioles' offense has underachieved so far. Baltimore is currently 28th in on-base % and 20th overall in slugging %. I like both of those numbers to markedly increase. Markakis is not going to continue to lead the O’s in OPS with his current .804 mark. Markakis, Roberts, and Reynolds will take more walks. Lee, Jones, Guerrero, and Scott will increase their slugging. Hardy will return. The wild card to the O’s offense will remain Wieters. If he produces as capable (hoped) the O’s offense can be fearsome. If he does not raise his game, the O’s offense will still go from the poor results shown so far to at least league average. A league-average offense combined with four capable starters is going to give the O’s a chance to win plenty of games regardless of opponent.
For right now, I’ll take that and again appreciate living and dying with what happens between the white lines.
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