With baseball season over in Baltimore – once again, five weeks too early – it’s time to spend a few days reviewing what happened and what lies ahead.
I’ll start my 3-part “Orioles review” with the 2010 Report Card.
When your team only wins 66 games, it’s easy to hand out a bunch of C’s and D’s, but I was a little more kind than that given the club’s outstanding play in August and September. They took what MIGHT have been a 50-win-campaign and turned it into just another bad season. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. 20 years from now, folks will look back at 2010 and say to themselves “well, they were bad that year…”. Had they gone 50-112, folks would remember that FOREVER as one of those historically bad seasons for ANY club in baseball history, not just Orioles history.
Winning 66 games was a miracle based on where the team was when Buck took over in early August.
Here are the grades:
Brian Matusz (C+) — Didn’t get off to a great start, but came on strong in Aug/Sept and showed he’s here to stay. Could wind up being next year’s version of this year’s David Price (Tampa Bay). At some point, it’s all going to come together for this kid. He has a bright future, for sure. Let’s hope it’s in Baltimore.
Jeremy Guthrie (B) — Was the team’s best pitcher and, honestly, their best PLAYER all season. Take away the 2009 season when the club cut his salary in pre-season and he’s put together three VERY good campaigns in Baltimore since arriving in 2007.
Brad Bergesen (C) — Another pitcher who responded well to the arrival of Showalter. He still has a propensity to get involved in a big inning on occasion, but his stuff is as good as anyone’s on the staff and he’ll be in the rotation to start 2011.
Chris Tillman (D) — Sprinkled in the occasional good start, but for the most part he remains overmatched with his lack of control and little movement on his fastball. Hopefully not a “AAAA pitcher” but that’s what it’s looking like more and more — hitters can’t touch him at the AAA level but he can’t get hitters out consistently enough at the big league level.
Kevin Millwood (D) — Wasn’t nearly as bad as his final numbers showed, but the bottom line is that he appeared disinterested from the start and that lack of enthusiasm translated into the worst season of his career.
Jake Arrieta (C-) — Control problems continue to plague him (52k/48bb) at the major league level, as they did in the minors, but he occasionally showed flashes of good stuff and should contend for a starting rotation spot in 2011 spring training. WHIP (1.53) and BAA (.271) were way too high, but as a first year contributor, he had some decent moments.
David Hernandez (B-) — Accepted his bullpen role well and turned out to be impressive in his non-starter-work. Could eventually compete for a starter’s spot again, but his lack of durability was an issue in his previous efforts to start.
Jason Berken (B-) — Was arguably the team’s most consistent pitcher – out of the bullpen – before getting hurt. Like Hernandez, might not have been good enough to a consistently good starter, but he seems to have settled into his bullpen role with enthusiasm.
Koji Uehara (B-) — When healthy, he’s good to very good. When not healthy, he’s not helping. The question isn’t whether or not he can pitch and be effective. He can be. The question is “can he stay healthy?”. Had some success as the closer, but also gave up several big home runs in that role.
Jim Johnson (C) — Injury-riddled 2010 didn’t give him a chance to do much. Will be interesting to see what role Showalter gives him. Was at his best as the 8th inning set-up man.
Mark Hendrickson (C-) — The journeyman left hander figures to NOT return in 2011.
Matt Albers (C) — Trade bait, perhaps? He’s been OK in Baltimore, but with Hernandez and Berken (and maybe Koji?) coming back, where does he fit in?
Alfredo Simon (C-) — Too inconsistent to be counted on. Experiment as the closer didn’t work. He can’t start. So what do you do with him? Teach him to pitch left-handed?
Michael Gonzalez (C) — Didn’t really get enough work to justify any grade, but on the whole, he was just OK, at best.
Ty Wigginton (B) — Should have been the team’s MVP, truth be known. Carried the team in April and May when they were horrible. Had an off-month in June, but rebounded nicely under Showalter and looks to be Buck’s kind of player. Get used to seeing him, he’ll be back next year.
Luke Scott (B) – Blossomed into the team’s best – and, maybe, only – real power hitter. If not for that 3-week injury where he hurt himself jogging around the bases, he would have enjoyed, perhaps, a VERY good season. The only knock on him? Where do you play him in the field? He was OK at first base…better than I thought he’d be, but he can’t play left field every day, that’s for sure.
Adam Jones (C+) – He is, without question, the club’s most mysterious player. One week he’s red hot and has that big-player swagger and the next week he’s swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, grounding into double play-after-double play, and watching fly balls sail over his head. Personally, I think he’s the player with the most potential on the roster. But his 2010 was just “eh”…some good, some bad…mostly “eh”.
Nick Markakis (C) — Hard to give Nick much better than a “C” when a lot of his numbers were down across the board. That said, I really believe the power drop-off can be attributed more to where he hit in the lineup than anything else. Still remains one of the game’s best defensive outfielders and with solid additions to the lineup, he could once again be a .300, 24 HR, 100 RBI guy without question.
Felix Pie (C) — An incredibly gifted athlete who certainly improved over his injury-riddled 2009, but he’s still not nearly the 5-tool player that everyone imagined he’d be when he came up through the Cubs system. His blemishes are obvious — not patient enough at the plate, not enough power and prone to the mental mistake more than you’d like. But there’s plenty of good with him as well. Improved defensively, for sure, and looks to be more comfortable against left handers. It wouldn’t hurt the club to make him part of trade talks in the off-season, but if nothing else, he’s a valuable role player going forward.
Corey Patterson (B) – For what he was – a minor leaguer out of a job in the spring – Patterson turned out to be a more-than-adequate 4th outfielder in 2010. He probably won’t be back in 2011, but it wouldn’t be a bad decision to bring him back if he’s willing to settle for the part-time role again. He is what he is — a decent professional player. Nothing more, nothing less. But he had a good year in 2010.
Cesar Izturis (C-) – Outstanding defensive year was tempered by the expected offensive fizzle. He’s better at the plate than given credit for — but the numbers don’t lie. The Orioles need to do better at the shortstop position, that’s for certain. Will they? I’m not so sure. I have a weird feeling Buck likes him…and that he might be back on a 1-year deal while the team figures out what they’re going to do at the position long-term.
Brian Roberts (C) — Tough to assess him based on the fact he missed 100 games. As expected, the team benefitted greatly when he returned, but it wasn’t “the old” B-Rob for the most part. 15 RBI in 59 games? Wow. 4 HR in 59 games? Ugh. 14 doubles in 59 games? Eye opening. But let’s assume his early season injury contributed to his lack of production. At this point, though, you would figure the Orioles are starting to think about “life after B-Rob”. It’s coming sometime soon.
Josh Bell (D) — Wasn’t ready. Period. Overmatched. Period. 53 strikeouts in 53 games. 2 walks. A .214 batting average. Was OK in the field, and that’s being kind. Just not big-league caliber yet. But it also means the Orioles will be in the market for a 3B this off-season.
Matt Wieters (C-) — Seemed to pick it up when Showalter arrived, but it wasn’t a good sophomore season from “Mauer with Power”. His defense was questionable at times and his long, loopy swing was victimized throughout the early part of the season by fastball pitchers. A .249 batting average clearly isn’t good enough, but the more eye opening stat was 11 HR in 130 games. Not time to panic yet, because he’s a year and a half into his career — but we all probably expected more at this point. Patience, young grasshopper, patience .
Julio Lugo (D) – Not much there. Nothing memorable stands out, which is why he won’t be back next year.
Craig Tatum (C) — He’s the back-up catcher, but an adequate enough one. Was actually decent defensively. Not dangerous at the plate, but back-up catchers rarely are.
Andy MacPhail (C-) — Rescued from a “D” or even “E” grade with Showalter’s August-September impact. All four of his off-season acquisitions were basically either non-contributors (Atkins, Gonzalez), not motivated to succeed (Millwood) or not good enough (Lugo).
Buck Showalter (A) — Nothing else to say. Easiest grade to give. Gives everyone hope for 2011.
Dave Trembley (D) — Game after game, there were always “next-morning-questions” about his strategies and in-game decisions. Was never given a decent roster to work with, but he turned out to be overmatched as the head honcho.
Juan Samuel (B-) — I thought he was better than Trembley, for sure, and the questions about strategies and what not weren’t as prevalent as those involving Trembley.