The Baltimore Orioles will begin their 2013 season Tuesday in Tampa Bay. Here are some things to note, and thoughts, as we look at the April schedule.
1) During April, the Orioles will play 27 games (17% of the 162 game schedule).
2) In 2012, Baltimore was 47-34 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In April, the Birds will play 12 of the 27 games at home.
3) In 2012, the O’s were 43-29 against the American League East. In April, the O’s will face their division foes 15 times (21% of their overall division schedule). The first 9 games vs. the division are all on the road.
4) The Month ends with Baltimore taking their first West Coast trip of the year.
5) Chris Tillman is expected to be activated for the 5th game of the year, April 6th. What move is made that day roster wise?
6) After an off-day on the 15th, the O’s end the Month with games on 16 straight days.
7) With the fog cleared, and a Winter spent being able to train; it was a good Spring for Brian Roberts by all accounts. As the season begins, it appears he will be at the bottom of the lineup. How does he hold-up during the Month? How many games does he play? (He played just 17 games in ’12, just 39 in ’11, 59 in ’10.) When he gets on-base, does he run? What does his defense look like? How often is Casilla playing?
8) To the collective joy of O’s fans, it appears that Hardy will not be batting 2nd this year (.282 on-base % last year, .314 for his career). Moved down in the lineup, how productive is he? If the lineup is going to improve, Hardy looking more like his 2011 version (.801 OPS) as opposed to his 2012 version (.671 OPS), is pretty imperative.
9) One of the wildcards going into this year for the O’s is McLouth. In 2010, McLouth had 242 Major League ab’s. In ’11, he had 267. In ’12, he had 266. His 55 games and 209 ab’s with the Birds last year was another of the reasons why the O’s played their best ball in August and September, as he showed some of old All-Star form. A good OF (despite the Johnny Damon-esque arm), with pop, and speed. If you want to feel good about the O’s chances of staying in the race again this year, then I think you want to see McLouth get off to a good start ’13. He doesn’t have to be the McLouth that had 76 xbh’s in ’08, but I do hope we see him end April approximating his career averages (.248/.335/.421).
10) How many starts do Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, and Arrieta make during the Month? Will this be the rotation going into May?
11) Obviously much has been made of the success of the bullpen in ’12, and typical bullpen volatility. Will the O’s quickly be able to again establish the identity of having a lock-down ‘pen? How often are the Orioles able to turn over 7th inning leads to Strop, O’Day, and Johnson? How do the bullpen members respond individually, and collectively, if they have some early adversity? Matusz was a monster to end 2012, do we see more of the version?
12) The bench is Teagarden, Flaherty, Casilla, and Pearce. How are they used? Is Teagarden only the Sunday catcher? Is he used a bit more often early, in an attempt to help keep Wieters fresher for later in the year? The versatile Flaherty is used how? Is Pearce in the lineup vs. all lefties (McLouth has a .649 OPS vs. LHP for his career)?
13) Machado showed a lot in his initial 51 games in the Majors. Most of ’13 for Machado will be about adjustments. Since he was drafted, we’ve always heard he is a guy with an advanced understanding of the strike zone. In those initial 51 games, Machado finished with 9 bb’s, and 38 k’s. Not particularly shocking It’s not particularly surprising that a young hitter had that level of disparity in his walks and k’s during his initial 200 (+/-) ab’s. I’ll be interested to see what that ratio looks like at the end of April.
14) Chris Davis had an .827 OPS in ’12. I don’t know if he repeats that, but I believe a realistic goal is him matching his .775 career level (1,520 ab’s). In ’12, Davis had 3 full months with an OPS over .829, and 3 full months of an OPS below .741. I think it would be good for his confidence, and the team as a whole; if he got off to a good start to ’13.
15) How many wins for the month? It looks to be a challenging opening to the year. I’d be pretty pleased with 14 wins, and a winning month.