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2006 Baltimore Orioles Baseball Preview

Baltimore Orioles Predictions – AL EAST

OVERVIEW:

Remember when Baltimore was a powerhouse or at least a perennial spoiler? Eight consecutive seasons of piling up more loses than wins will change people’s perceptions of you. So will the distractions created by the now departed Raphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Sidney Ponson and first-time/last-time manager Lee Mazzilli. There’s an attempt in 2006 to right the boat and create some stability.

PITCHING:

Daniel Cabrea came up from AA Bowie last year and was 10-13 with a 4.52 ERA. He’s got a lot of raw talent, many rough edges, and a killer curve and deadly 98-mph fastball. Bruce Chen (13-10, 3.83) and Rodrigo Lopez (15-15, 4.90 ERA) are the veteran starters and anchors for this young staff.

Jorge Julio serves as the teams new/old closer. He had the job for three seasons and last year was replaced by B.J. Ryan, who is now gone. In those three years, Julio notched 83 saves out of 101 opportunities. Not bad, but he also posted an 8.04 ERA!

This is a staff that was in the bottom half of every major pitching category. Look for them to start out strong and, possibly like last year, slowly wither. If Julio fails as a closer early in the season, the Birds will tryout other guys in that position.

How many question marks can a pitching staff have? Well, there are 13 throwers on the staff.

HITTING:

Last year’s big bats that turned out to be inflated fantasies are gone. That’s okay. Miguel Tejada is back and so too should be his ability to produce runs. Expect him to reprise or better his .304 mark with 26 HRs and 98 RBI. Tejada is a real clutch hitter with men on base.

Javy Lopez tries to extend his career by moving from catcher to DH. His numbers were down last season, and he may not give the team the pop they need in that position. Veteran outfielder/first baseman Jeff Conine brings a 15-year .288 BA and a .304 mark from 2005, which was spent with the Florida Marlins.

Last season Melvin Mora led the Orioles in homers, knocking out 27 while hitting .283 and creating 88 RBI. With him hitting in front of Tejada and Brian Roberts, who had a solid year at the plate, hitting in front of Mora, pitchers will have to be wary. Roberts had 45 doubles, while Tejada was good for 50! However, Roberts had major arm surgery in the off-season, which could be a concern.

DEFENSE:

Free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez inked a big deal with the Birds, and they expect him to be a big deal behind the plate. The former Padre calls a good game and handles pitchers with aplomb. He’s also got a good bat-- .290 BA and 12 HRs last season. He could help turnaround this pitching staff.

Third baseman Mora played 40 straight games without making an error and Tejada proved to have solid range and an ability to make off-balance plays at shortstop. Roberts improved at second last season, while Conine, a former Oriole who’s come back, is average at first.

The outfield of Matos, Patterson, and Gibbons will, quite simply, not win any Gold Gloves.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• New manager Sam Perlozzo is under pressure to show results with a team that’s seen 7 new guys at the helm in 12 years.
• former Atlanta pitching coach, miracle worker, and good friend of Perlozzo, Leo Mazzone, joins the staff; he may be able to reinvigorate Baltimore pitching.
• Mike Flanagan’s the new Executive VP of Baseball Operations, which could be good; especially with former Met front office guy, Jim Duquette, backing him up.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Tejada—is he going to be happy or ask for a trade again?
• Perlozzo replaced Mazzilli as interim manager for the last two months of 2005. Players wanted him back, which means there better be results.
• Owner Peter Angelos needs to show some patience and trust his front office folks and coaches; it’s doubtful that he will.

CONCLUSION:

A lot of people were excited about the Orioles at the start of last season; although when you really studied the team it was clear that they did not possess the depth at pitching to take them all the way. They’ve cleared out the controversy but they still lack the players necessary to make them a contender. That is, unless the new coaches can make a difference.

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For more information on the 2006 Baltimore Orioles visit their official MLB website by clicking here.

 

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