2011 Ends with a Whimper

2011 is coming to an end. Mercifully.

The Orioles are quiet. Maddeningly.

Of course the Orioles have made some decent depth-building moves. Wada, Endy Chavez, Antonelli; all of them soild moves. But there has been nothing done for Orioles fans to sink their teeth into. There has been nothing done to generate any sort of excitement. Of course, for some, anything short of signing Prince Fielder will mean this offseason will be a crushing failure.

I would love to have Prince Fielder on this team, love it. I don’t think there is a fan who would noit want Fielder in orange and black in 2012 but I am not going to fool myself and say that anything less is a “bad” offseason. Far from it, the Orioles offense has the cahnce to be fairly competitive as it stands.

It’s true! Believe it or not the Orioles were fourth in the American League in homers. The O’s hit 191 homers last year just behind the power-happy Rangers (201) and Red Sox (210). In fact the Orioles had an offense that was rated at 100 OPS+ putting it right in the middle of the AL, what would have made it much more above average was a higher OBP. The O’s had a well-below average OBP last year, and that short-circuited the run-scoring ability of a suprising strong, if not potent, power attack. The Orioles reached base at a .316 clip last year, league average was .326 and the Red Sox led the league with .349. All of this adds up to a team that was able to put together a competitive offense even with bad years from Markakis, Vlad, Lee; slow starts from Wieters and Reynolds and virtually no contribution from Brian Roberts.

What the Orioles need is pitching, and a lot of it. Though I have not given up on Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zack Britton. Matusz’ year was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to him – but I think he bounces back. At this time last year everyone in Birdland was giddy with the thought of those three in the rotation. Matusz was the early pick to be the Rookie of the Year this time last year, the talent is still there. The question is can he harness it? Britton should get better, I expect Arrieta to at least maintain. Then you have Jeremy Guthrie and Tommy Hunter. There is no reason to think that these guys shouldn’t be at least what they were last year.

it still won’t be enough – so I am going on the record advocating for the signing of Edwin Jackson. Seven teams in nine years may turn some away from Jackson but he is a solid option. He isn’t CJ Wilson, but he is also not the ancient shoulder of Roy Oswalt. Jackson would be a solid, affordable arm in a rotation full of question marks. Jackson has been moved around a lot because he is a good pitcher, but not great. He has flashes of brilliance and is attractive enough to teams, but never solid enough to be locked up by anyone. He is AJ Burnett without the contract; he is Jeremy Guthrie with more frequent flyer miles. He would be a good fit here.

I know what you are thinking: “WOOOO! Edwin Jackson! Print the playoff tickets!” and let me be the first to say: shut up. I hate reading that after every little move. You know why? Because even if the Orioles do sign Prince Fielder they will have to put forth a herculean effort to make the post-season so please try to keep some perspective. The Orioles need to upgrade their pitching and Jackson would be a viable option for them.

As the calendar turns the Orioles do need to show more activity. Their name has been linked to a couple of Japanese players, one pitcher the Taiwanese Wei-Yen Chen is particularly intriguing, but that has pretty much been it. Right now the Ravens are in the middle of a playoff run and no one really cares about what the Orioles are doing in town. The problem is, unless moves are made – no one will care in April either.