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Baltimore Orioles 2008 Fantasy Preview
Mar 2, 2008 - 5:04:47 PM

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It is going to be a tough season for the Baltimore Orioles. They’re young and they play arguably two of the best 5 AL teams over 30 times. They’ll be forced to deal with an up-and-coming Blue Jays team and a Devil Rays team that could possibly threaten to outscore everyone in the AL East. But the main problem is that they are young… and that never translates into pitching stability over the course of a season. With the recent trade of last season’s ace, Erik Bedard, their top two starters have a combined 354 innings in the major leagues. But does that mean you should avoid them? Not exactly.

Jeremy Guthrie went from a waiver claim to one of the American League's most productive starting pitchers in a few months last season. Can he put up strong numbers for the O's again this season? (Gail Burton/AP)

There are two main Orioles worth targeting from a starting pitching standpoint this season: Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen. Last season Guthrie finished with an ERA of 3.70 while winning 7 games and striking out 123 in over 175 innings. The thing to look at however, was his second half. After the All-Star break Guthrie’s ERA rose from 2.74 to 5.03 and his WHIP shot up from a miniscule 0.91 to a forgettable 1.62. Hitters also managed a .315 average off him the last two months of the season. Now, one might conclude this happened for one of two reasons: (1) He was tired. His previous high for innings was 157 and that was back in college, so that doesn’t count. He threw about 40 more innings than his previous professional high. So, this is a very reasonable assumption. (2) Hitters began to figure him out. Well, judging by an increase in his walk total, as well as a significant increase in his BAbip, my guess is this was more a fault of his own coupled with some bad luck rather than hitters figuring him out. BAbip measure the batting average on balls put in play. A higher average means that more balls were finding holes in the outfield and falling for base hits than previously before, that’s more of a luck and defense thing than it is a pitching prowess thing. His BAbip shot up almost 100 points between the first half and the second half of the season. So, that being said, I would expect that number to average out over the course of the next season and him find himself with some better second half numbers.

Adam Loewen is a different case. Loewen is 23 years old and was beginning to put up decent numbers last season until a stress fracture shut him down for the year. Loewen only managed 30 innings before being shut down, but was worth owning during that time. He had a great spring and won 2 games with an ERA of 3.56 once the season began. Loewen’s main problem, however, was his inability to throw strikes. He walked 26 batters, compared to 22 K’s over that same time period, which isn’t too incredibly far off from his minor league totals. The good news, though, is he doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, or hits. If he can managed to keep his walks down, he’s going to be good for quite a while.

Daniel Cabrera must learn to control his natural talent in order to be effective. (Don Wright/AP)

The rest of the Orioles staff is filled with question marks, the biggest being Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera has long teased fantasy owners with his 8 K/9 and less than 9 hits/game….but like Loewen, he’s always had problems throwing the ball over the plate….as indicated by his over 5 walks/game. Its long been thought that maybe someday Cabrera will be able to harness this raw talent he has and put it all together to be a dominant starting pitcher….but I’m beginning to think that’s less possible by the day. Troy Patton, one of the prizes of the Miguel Tejada trade, came over with a shoulder injury that significantly hurts his chances of winning a spot in the rotation. Even the closer spot is a question mark for the O’s as they enter the season. Current thoughts are that George Sherrill, the lefty specialist acquired in the Bedard deal, will assume the role of closer, but this is by no means certainty. If he fails, look for Jaime Walker to step forward while Chris Ray recovers from Tommy John. Either way….these Orioles aren’t going to win a lot of games, and thus there won’t be many save opportunities for whoever ends up with the job. But saves are saves…, Sherrill has to be owned.


Baltimore Orioles Rotation

  1. Troy Patton
  2. OPEN

Closer: George Sherrill

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