Your 2016 American League Wild Card Game losers are back for another season of being complete trash on and off the field! Can the Trash Birds’ powerful lineup and frustratingly elite bullpen make up for their hilariously bad starting rotation? Should Dan Duquette have spent more time putting together a staff that can, ya know, get guys out rather than bad mouthing a player who clowns his team repeatedly? We shall see!
Hooooooly the Orioles starting pitching is bad. Like, not even “I’m massively exaggerating because I hate this goddamn team” level bad, but “I actually feel bad for this complete mess you’ve handed your manager” level bad.
Last season, the Trash Birds scraped their way into the second Wild Card seed despite the fact their starting pitchers got slammed around all over the place on a daily basis, posting a 4.72 earned run average, which was worse than everybody in the American League other than the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins. And rather than improving it over the offseason, they’re hoping and praying for a couple of breakout performances to make their rotation even somewhat respectable.
Chris Tillman, after a down year in 2015, had a very solid season last year, and is easily the best, and only sure thing in Baltimore’s rotation. Unfortunately for them, a shoulder injury has resulted in him going through spring training without throwing a pitch, which, uhhh, isn’t a very nice way to roll into a season. Kevin Gausman will be the team’s opening day starter, and a breakout season from him and fellow former fourth overall pick Dylan Bundy are critical to the Orioles’ success this season. Both have electric stuff, and certainly have the talent to be very effective, but great stuff is one thing, consistently being good at the Major League level is another.
If either Bundy or Gausman is terrible, and Tillman struggles with injury at all, the Orioles are fucked. Because beyond those three? Yiiiiiikes.
Wade Miley is bad and so is Ubaldo Jimenez. There isn’t much depth beyond them in Triple-A, either, as Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson round out the list of potential fill-ins in case of disaster. Last season, the O’s had nine different pitchers make starts for them, and relied heavily on a very strong bullpen to help patch things together. This year, it’ll likely be more of the same.
Speaking of their bullpen, it’s very good. It was very good last season, and it’ll be very good again this season too.
I’m not sure of Zach ‘Didn’t make it into the Wild Card Game’ Britton will be as incredible as he was in 2016, considering all of the emotional trauma he suffered while having to sit out there and watch Ubaldo Jimenez give up the moonshot to Edwin Encarnacion that ended his team’s season. But yeah, Britton allowed four runs last season. Four. Fucking. Runs. All season! Three of them in April, nothing for four months, and then one more in August. But he’s been damn good for three years now, so he’s pretty much a sure thing.
Beyond him, the O’s have Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and Darren O’Day, who missed a good chunk of last season to injury, forming arguably the best back-end of a bullpen in the American League. Buck Showalter is also a strong bullpen manager, so this will definitely be a team strength yet again, and fuck, it’ll have to be, considering how bad their rotation projects to be.
Another thing that’ll help this walking-disaster of a starting rotation is a very strong lineup, loaded with power hitters who play the field quite well.
The Orioles were seventh in the American League in runs scored last year, but they mashed the ball better than anybody else and it wasn’t particularly close. They drilled 253 homers, 30 more than the next best team Seattle (???) which was a major key in them being able to claw out games while their bullpen bailed out their poor starting pitching.
Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo swing at fucking everything, but will probably combine for somewhere between 70 and 80 homers, if healthy. Manny Machado is one of the league’s best hitters and is a damn tough out, while Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Pedro Alvarez, and the newly-acquired Seth Smith can all hit for power, forming a very formidable lineup without many holes in it at all.
Welington Castillo, who was Baltimore’s only big free agent add this winter, is probably an upgrade on Matt Wieters offensively, but it’s unlikely he’s better defensively. It’s difficult to measure a catcher’s impact behind the plate in terms of game calling and pitch framing, but the Orioles pitchers seemed to like throwing to Wieters, for what it’s worth, and chucking it to a new guy usually isn’t an easy thing to do. And the last thing these starters need is another wrench to make getting betters out even more difficult than it already is for them.
Why you should hate them:
Where to begin with why these Trash Birds are complete and total trash?
First are foremost: Their idiot front office, led by Dan Duquette who apparently is still a complete and total Mass-hole despite not working for his hometown Boston Red Sox anymore, spent all winter dragging Jose Bautista publicly for no good reason. Duquette said that the Orioles wouldn’t sign Bautista as a free agent, not just because they’re dumb as rocks and don’t like good players who beat the shit out of them on a regular basis, but because the fans prefer “working-class-type” players who “work hard every day and give their best effort every day.”
You’re going on record and publicly saying that Jose Bautista, this utility guy who bounced around the league for a goddamn decade before reinventing himself and becoming the American League’s home run champ when he was 29 years old ISN’T a working-class type player? This wasn’t some drunk, basement conversation that a team intern recorded and slipped out to a reporter for a wad of cash?
Then you’ve got the perennial-jackass Buck Showalter leading a crew that features: The big-eared-jackass Manny Machado who looks like a high school kid trying to pick fights by his locker, that side-arm-throwing Darren O’Day who gets all pissy at the hitter when he gets lit up, and Chris Davis, who, rather than worrying about his strikeout rate, reached into 2007 for an obnoxiously bad insult to drag Jose Bautista for being a vastly superior player.
You know what your fans would probably like even more than pseudo-working-class-millionaires who swing at everything thrown in their general direction? A starting rotation that can navigate through more than like five innings without getting completely clowned.
Sort of objective prediction:
The Orioles are trash, there’s no doubt about that. That’s why they’re called the Trash Birds, you know.
But are they trash because they’re trash on the field? Or are they trash because they represent a dump like Baltimore and they’re all a bunch of jackasses? Probably more the latter than the former. The starting pitching is awful, but like last season, their loaded lineup and dominant bullpen can probably make up for it to an extent where the Orioles are jockeying for another Wild Card berth.