Saturday, January 30, 2010

Waiting for Spring, the Winter in review

Snow is falling once again in Charm City and as I stare at the flakes falling, fluttering, slowly down to the pavement below I sit a ponder. Many things wander and weave through my mind; there really isn't much else to do on a day like this. So I am sitting on the couch, with "The Sandlot" playing on the television behind me dreaming of baseball and what the Spring has in store.

The Orioles of course face a daunting task of playing the toughest division in baseball, blah blah blah, we have heard that all before and there is no use into going into all that again. Various projections of course have the Yankees challenging for 100+ wins and the Red Sox close behind them. Surprisingly the Orioles are not the doormats in a lot of these projections, more than a could have us winning between 75-83 games.

So where do I see the Orioles landing in October at this admittedly very early stage of things? Glad you asked internet, lets take a look at the winter's acquisitions.

Kevin Millwood: Arguably the most important acquisition of the winter. I bet no one ever expected to see "most important" and "Kevin Millwood" in the same statement, but in this case it is true. Andy's first real move of the winter sent struggling relief pitcher/ closer Chris Ray to the Rangers for the veteran starter. By default, Millwood becomes the Orioles "ace" but we all know that is not the case. Critics of MacPhail and the move in general will derisively call Millwood our "ace", but even they know that they are using the terminology as an excuse to be needlessly negative. Millwood was brought in here to be one thing and one thing only, a source of stability. Millwood does not need to be a number one starter; don't let his likely opening day start fool you. He is here to take pressure off of the real source of strength in the rotation coming from Bergesen and, hopefully, Matusz and Tillman.

Millwood's 198 innings of sub-4.00 ball would be a welcome force in what reckons to be a volatile young rotation. On top of that Millwood did a very good job in a home stadium that has slightly fewer things flying out of it than the Southwest hub in Dallas. The 2009 Orioles gave up a league-worst 218 home runs so the team needs all the help it can get in that department and Millwood will offer that.

Prediction: 180-200 innings; 4.50 ERA

Garrett Atkins: Atkins was signed as a free agent to a one-year deal and seems destined to man the hot-corner until Josh Bell matured a little more in the minors. But, surprisingly, Atkins will move across the diamond to first base. Atkins had a monster season in Colorado - three years ago - and since has fallen on hard times. His last three seasons have been marked by consistent decline and what seems to be a complete loss of any consistency at the plate. The Orioles hope that Terry Crowley can straighten Atkins out and he can be a viable option at first and a solid bat in the lineup. Personally, color me "meh" about this signing. Atkins is he stop-gappiest of stop-gaps out there. At third he made sense, but at first I guess the Orioles are hoping Brandon Snyder comes a long or maybe Micahel Aubrey proves to be more than organizational filler.

Atkins is a candidate for a rebound year, anything is possible after all and I doubt anyone just "forgets" how to swing a bat. I expect Crowley to help Atkins, and i expect a little bit of a rebound but I doubt that he is anything better than league average at best. The Orioles hole at first base is very much a problem and has been for awhile, Atkins is not the answer but he should provide a better option than another year of Huff or someone of that ilk.

Prediction: .270-.280; 13-15 HR; .720-.790 OPS

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