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BSL’s Orioles & MLB Analysts Preview 2018

Baltimore Sports and Life’s (BSL) Orioles and Major League Baseball Analysts have collectively answered some questions to help preview the 2018 MLB Season.

In addition to myself, those that participated in this Q&A are:

Bob Harkins
John Perrotto
Rob Shields
Zach Spedden
Brandon Warne

1) Over the last 15 months, the Orioles have resisted the idea of trading Machado, Brach, Britton and Jones.  When August 1, 2018 comes around, how many of those guys will still be on the Orioles roster?

Harkins – This is a tough one. So much can happen over the course of a season, and with a second Wild Card, more teams remain in playoff contention further into the season. Case in point: On July 31 last season, the O’s were 6.5 games out of the AL East lead and 4.5 out of the playoffs. Two days earlier they had traded for Jeremy Hellickson. Management will resist dealing these guys away if the team is even sniffing the postseason. I think they’ll all still be here except Britton.

Perrotto – While it would defy the logic of the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball, I believe the Orioles will hold onto all of them even if they are out of contention. Peter Angelos has always been of the belief that season ticket holders expect to see the same team all year and it shouldn’t be broken up, regardless of the situation.

Shields – I think they will be here for the entire season.  The Orioles will not bail out on this season unless they are way out of it and I don’t believe they will be at that point in the season.  Even if it doesn’t appear likely that they can contend, if they are within 5 or so games, I think they stand pat.

Spedden – My early prediction is that all four will be in Baltimore on August 1, because the Orioles will not feel far enough out of contention to pull the trigger on a trade. If they do struggle, though, I think Machado is the most likely to be traded. I see Britton as the most likely to spend all of 2018 in Baltimore, because his injury raises a lot of questions about how and when he will recover and get close to full strength.

Warne – I think Manny and Jones will be, but Brach and Britton won’t. I hate to say it, but this is the beginning of the end. The team has enough money, but all their current hard assets past this year are tied up in corner guys who aren’t very good (Davis/Trumbo).

Stoner - I envision they will be within striking distance of the 2nd Wild Card, which means likely all four will still be in an Oriole uniform August 1st.

2) What are your thoughts on the Alex Cobb signing and does it change how you feel about the Orioles chances of being a legit contender in 2018?

Harkins – I just wrote about this in detail here. I like the signing because the O’s get a good mid-rotation starter at a decent price for four years. But while adding Cobb makes them better, the rotation is still probably the worst in the AL East. They need a lot of things to go right, in particular improvement from Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, to be contenders this season.

Perrotto – I’m not ready to say he pushes them into contention, but I do think they signed him at the right time. Last season was more about building arm strength than performance and he was still solid for the Rays. I think he’ll be better this year and could see him winning 13-15 games with an ERA under 4.00 despite his new home being Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Shields – I wrote my thoughts about it here.  I think it helps and if him bringing the changeup back ends up getting him more Ks and swings and misses than the signing likely becomes a steal and he could be a major help.  In all likelihood, he will help them with a few more games but not enough to put them in the playoffs.

Spedden – It makes the Orioles better for 2018, because at the very least Cobb is an improvement over any internal option the club had in place and was one of the better starters in a relatively weak free agent market for pitchers. My thought is that his addition (in conjunction with that of Andrew Cashner) makes the Orioles more likely to compete for a wild card, but the bullpen, the ability of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy to take steps forward, and the lineup are also major factors that will determine how far the Orioles go this season.

Warne – He’s a good pitcher and the deal isn’t egregious, but I don’t really see how it makes a ton of sense to give him that many years and dollars when the Twins signed Lance Lynn — a better, more durable pitcher — for a lot less. Going over $50 million to up the pick ante while also deferring money just rubs me the wrong way, too. You defer money for great players — not Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb.

Stoner - Lynn and Cobb have some similarities – including age, and some of their peripherals.  I don’t see Lynn and Cobb as equals though. I respect that Lynn has been a durable, adequate ML starter, but he looks to me like he would struggle in the AL East. Landing in the AL Central and the large Twins’ park for a year makes good sense for both parties. Cobb’s AL East experience, and now being a another year past his injury are wins imo. He’s not an ace, but he vastly improves the O’s rotation. His addition makes it possible to think about a Wild Card. Not just for his innings of work, but who his innings replace, and the corresponding impact. Him taking the deferred money is also a win. Don’t discount the impact the signing had in the lockerroom either.

3) What is your overall prediction for the Orioles in 2018?  How many wins?  Playoffs or no?

Harkins - The Orioles got better this offseason, but so did the Yankees and Red Sox. So I’m going to say there will be a modest improvement, but no playoffs. Let’s say 78-84.

Perrotto - I see them finishing in last place again with a 73-89 record. The situation is also ripe for plenty of distractions as not only are the aforementioned players eligible for free agency, but Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are also on expiring contracts. It is going to be a topic of conversation all season.

Shields - I think they are a 500ish team…Somewhere in the 78-83 win area.   I have some concerns about the bullpen, the overall defense and how the lineup is still built.  Gausman and Bundy are the keys to the season.  If you can get 360+ innings of sub 4 ERA baseball from both of them, this team could really surprise.

Spedden - There is enough in place for the Orioles to be better than they were in 2017, and I don’t think much of the other two clubs (Tampa Bay, Toronto) that are likely to occupy the bottom third of the American League East. My strongest guess? They probably get just above .500 (somewhere in the 82-84 win range), but fall short of a wild card spot.

Warne - 79 wins, fourth in the East, and no playoffs. I’d say for a fact the Twins and Red Sox are better, and those are my Wild Card teams. You could even make an argument for Toronto, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles and maybe even Oakland.

Stoner - The O’s have the toughest schedule in the game on paper (as they have several times in the last few years… due to the strength of the East, and the disparity of the Interleague schedules). They will look similar to how they’ve looked since 2012.  From 2012 through ’16, they were a winning team which made the post-season 3 times. Last year they started quick, and struggled for most of the year. They were within reach of the Playoffs as September began, and then fell apart.  The ’18 O’s? I envision them being what they’ve been for years. A team that hits a lot homers. A team that struggles to get on-base. A quality bullpen. Quality infield defense. This O’s team actually has more rotation upside than most of their teams since ’12. At the minimum, they will be improved from last year’s disaster. Overall, I see an 85 win team. Could play-up and be in contention for the 2nd WC, could play down and finish .500.  85 wins and no WC is my official prediction.

4)  Last October, it was announced that MLB was considering expansion, realignment, and shortening the schedule. This was discussed on the BSL Board here. What are your thoughts? 

Harkins - Personally, I like that the baseball season is such a long, torturous grind. It’s something that separates it from the other sports. Spring training is about two weeks too long, however. As far as expansion/realignment go I’m fine with it, provided you keep the major rivals – Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-Cardinals, Dodgers-Giants, Mets-Phillies, etc. – in the same divisions.

Perrotto - I know Rob Manfred would love to add two more teams to have eight four-team divisions, but I really don’t know how many viable markets remain that could support a team for 81 home games a season. Furthermore, there aren’t many cities clamoring for a team beyond Montreal.

As far as realignment, it makes sense on a lot of levels to create more regional rivalries, but I don’t get the sense it’s a high-priority item.

Everybody in baseball would like to shorten the schedule — except the owners. The length of the season border on torturous. However, the owners don’t want to give any home dates and the resultant lost revenue. Thus, the 162-game schedule is here to stay.

Shields - I am not for expansion but it isn’t something I am passionate about either.  If anything, I would like to see some teams contracted.  Better idea would be to move a few of the franchises.  I could get behind some realignment but I don’t think its needed.  I would rather see them get rid of interleague play or make it that you play every team for one series.  I would like to see that aspect of the schedule balance out more.   I think every sport, besides football, should shorten their seasons.  Having the baseball season go back to 154 games would be a good idea.

Spedden – Expansion and subsequent realignment seems years away. The A’s and Rays will likely have to finish their new ballpark searches before any expansion discussions move forward, and both teams still have considerable work to do before in those searches. Expansion also has a large ripple effect in baseball because of the need for new minor league facilities, spring training complexes, .etc. Expansion likely happens at some point–and I could see two 16-team leagues with four divisions being a viable realignment option–but MLB still has some issues to resolve before it gets into serious expansion planning.

Warne – I honestly don’t see a good reason to change the way it is. Teams not only compete against other teams in their geographical areas, but also relatively speaking, in similar markets as well. I’d need a more compelling reason to make some kind of shift than anything I’ve heard to this point.

Stoner – I gave my thoughts in an article here. I’d prefer contraction vs. expansion. I’m in-favor of radical realignment. As I said in the linked article, I’d bet that radical realignment by geography does eventually happen if:
A) Teams would actually save $ on travel…
B) Players believe they would be better off not traveling as much… 
C) If there would be more games for fans to watch at ‘normal’ times for their respective markets.

5) It has been regularly stated that it’s a priority of Commissioner Manfred to improve pace-of-play. There was some discussion of that on the BSL Board here.  Your take? 

Harkins – As a regular viewer of Pedro Baez over the last couple of years, I’m for a pitch clock and limiting mound visits. Watching that guy take 30 seconds to prepare to pitch, only to see him throw to first or have the batter step out was painful. That being said, pace of play doesn’t really bother me that much. NFL games average more than three hours and have about 11 minutes of actual action, and everybody loves the NFL, including me. So I don’t think it’s about pace of play so much as that there isn’t enough violence in baseball. I’m kidding, of course. Just ban Pedro Baez.

Perrotto – They’ve tried to do some things to speed up the game, but I think Manfred has reached the point of obsession with it. The charm — and curse — of baseball is that there is no clock and it is played at a unique pace and there are only so many ways you can change that.

Shields – I think the pace of play discussion is largely terrible.  I don’t have an issue with telling players to get into the batters box, tell pitchers to stop walking around the mound and things like that but at the end of the day, its going to be a minimal impact in terms of time.  Really, the only way to help with the time aspect of things is to reduce commercial times but that means they lose money, so we know that won’t happen.

Spedden -The changes put into place for 2018 are interesting, but I don’t think for a second that the discussion will end there. The pitch clock–which I’m personally ambivalent about–still seems to be at least on the fringe of the discussion, and there will be a lot of debate on the new mound visit rules as the season progresses. Interestingly enough, I think the minors might be intriguing for this coming season, given that some of the drastic measures in place at the lower levels (such as the new extra-innings rules) could be pushed for at the major league level if they’re deemed successful. As an aside, I’ll say that pace of play is not something I’m concerned about when actually attending a game. For me, a slow game can sometimes feel like a drag on television, but I never feel that way for games I attend live.

Warne – My honest take is that they should make games start an hour earlier. If kids go to bed at 9:00, they’re missing about 1/3 of their team’s at-bats and never getting to see the ends of many games. A 6:10 first pitch makes post-game stuff easier for newspaper writers and just makes the news cycle easier to manage. Dialing back an hour is way better than drastically altering the game to shave, at best, maybe 10-15 minutes.

Stoner – I love the game of baseball. It’s my favorite sport. I think MLB’s watchability is low though. I’m all for pitch clocks, keeping hitters in the box, less trips to the mound, and less time on replays. I’m not for stupid gimmicks like putting a runner on 2nd in Extra Innings. (How much time does that save? There are only so many Extra Innings games anyway.) If Manfred wants to increase the pace-of-play, I believe the key is calling the strike-zone as it exists in the rule book. I believe that would change the way the game is currently played (getting away from the current walk, k, homer environment) and putting more balls in play. More balls in play, more action, quicker moving games.

6)  Who makes the Playoffs in each league?

Harkins
AL: Yankees, Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Angels
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cardinals.

Perrotto
AL: Yankees, Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Angels
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cardinals

The Indians beat the Cubs in the World Series and end the longest current championship drought in baseball.

Shields 
AL: Boston, New York, Toronto, Cleveland, Houston
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies

Spedden
AL: Yankees, Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Angels
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, Rockies

Warne
AL: Yankees, Cleveland, Houston, Boston, Minnesota
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, Diamondbacks

Stoner
AL: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Yankees, Angels
NL: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, Diamondbacks

7) Who are your picks for the Major Awards? (AL & NL ROY, AL & NL Cy Young, AL & NL MVP)?

Harkins
AL:  Trout (MVP), Sale (CY), Adames (ROY)
NL: Contreras (MVP), Syndergaard (CY), Brinson (ROY)

Perrotto
AL: Trout (MVP), Sale (CY), Tucker (ROY)
NL: Goldschmidt (MVP), Scherzer (CY), Crawford (ROY)

Shields
AL:  Trout (MVP), Kluber (CY), Othani (ROY)
NL:  Harper (MVP), Kershaw(CY), Acuna (ROY)

Spedden
AL: Trout (MVP), Sale (CY), Torres (ROY)
NL: Arenado (MVP), Kershaw (CY), Acuna (ROY)

Warne
AL: Trout (MVP), Kluber (CY), Ohtani (ROY)
NL: Harper (MVP), Kershaw (CY), Acuna (ROY)

Stoner
AL: Trout (MVP), Sale (CY), Ohtani (ROY)
NL: Goldschmidt (MVP), Kershaw (CY), Acuna (ROY)

 
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Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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