Chris Davis & Chris Tillman Have To Produce For The Orioles To Surprise
In 2017, Chris Davis finished the year with an OPS under .800 for the third time in four seasons.
Chris Tillman had a 7.84 era over the course of 93 miserable innings.
In 2018, this duo has to be productive for the Baltimore Orioles to surprise.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
As CBS Sports illustrated earlier in the week, Vegas (Bovada) has set the over / under for the 2018 Orioles at 73 wins.
It’s fair to say that expectations for the Orange & Black are modest as this season prepares to begin.
Given last year’s last place finish, and the perceived strength of the Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees begin; that’s understandable.
It’s hard to look at the O’s roster and believe they can be a viable contender for the 2018 AL East crown.
What about a Wild Card?
Since the expanded Wild Card format began in 2012, the 2nd Wild Card in the American League has averaged 89 wins (with the O’s capturing that 2nd WC twice in those six years).
There are enough questions facing the Birds to say that a Wild Card birth might be improbable.
There is enough talent on the roster to say a Wild Card birth is at-least plausible.
Even last year with the O’s rotation allowing a seemingly unfathomable league-worse 5.70 era; they entered September 1.5GB of a post-season birth.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the 2018 Orioles got back to the playoffs.
It would be surprising.
It’s hard to figure how the O’s can collectively rebound without significant individual leaps from Davis and Tillman.
One could argue that there are other ways the O’s could surpass current expectations, for instance:
– Gausman and Bundy could take the leap to being true front of the rotation starters.
– Machado could put together a MVP caliber season.
– Trumbo could approximate his career offensive season of ’16, and the O’s could be improved defensively with Rasmus in RF.
– Britton could return sooner than anticipated, and the bullpen could be elite.
Those possibilities are real, but in my opinion you enter this year believing that:
– Gausman and Bundy will be solid starters. Guys that reliably give you a chance to win. If they give you more than that – great. If they give you less than that; then you have no chance.
– That Machado will provide All-Star level production at the minimum. If he gives you more, great. If he gives you less than that; then you have no chance.
– That Trumbo will rebound to his career averages, even if his ’16 numbers are not reached.
– That the bullpen will be a quality unit, and that Britton will produce as soon as he’s ready to be back on a mound.
If you believe those things, than the variables for the roster are limited.
Beckham isn’t going to replicate his play from last August, but he should be a productive regular.
I think the chances are higher that Mancini and Schoop regress a bit from their respective ’17 seasons vs. reaching another higher level; but it would be surprising if either wasn’t ‘good.’
There is some question about how much O’Day has left in the tank; but a bullpen that has Britton, Brach, and Givens in-front of him should be expected to be good.
I’m fine with starting the year with Joseph at C, and Rasmus in RF.
I’m also excited about having Sisco, and Hays waiting in the wings.
You know what to expect from Jones.
I don’t expect Cashner to be particularly inspiring; but I do think it’s reasonable to expect him to be an upgrade over what the O’s got last year from Miley and Jimenez.
So, I come back to Davis and Tillman.
After a monster year in ’15, Davis has put up back-to-back disappointing campaigns in the first years of his massive contract.
My colleague Bob Harkins looked at Davis in detail here, asking what are the appropriate expectations for the slugger in ’18?
Last year he was basically a liability. At the minimum you need him to be a productive regular. Does the ceiling of high-level All-Star still exist?
The lineup looks different depending on which version of Davis shows up.
During 2012 through 2016; Tillman was a productive Major League SP who could have slotted into the middle of any rotation throughout the game.
In ’17, he was a disaster from start-to-finish.
If Tillman has an ’18 at the average level of his ’12-’16 seasons (and you get what you expect from Gausman and Bundy); then the O’s will be a playoff contender.
If Tillman doesn’t rebound from last year, the O’s will spend their Summer competing with Tampa Bay for the basement in the AL East.
Before the O’s officially brought Tillman back, Harkins also took a closer look at the righty.
The O’s and Tillman finding each other again this Winter was expected.
There was a combination of familiarity, trust, and need on behalf of both parties.
My optimism with Tillman is tied to the fact that the O’s got a good look at him in January before resigning him.
Logically they liked what they saw.
They have to believe he isn’t damaged goods, and that with mechanical tweaks – a rebound in performance is not just possible, but likely.
Hopefully the O’s brain trust has that read correctly.
Vegas has made their feelings known.
What do the O’s get from Davis and Tillman this year?
Those are the true X-Factors as 2018 begins.