Dan Szymborski and FanGraphs released their 2013 ZiPS projections for the Orioles and, much like last season, they aren’t the pretty numbers Baltimore fans were hoping to see. Last season, the O’s fans seemed to band together against the sabremetrics world after constantly being told that their team wasn’t as good as they were playing on the field.
Personally, I definitely think there’s a place for advanced statistics, but recognize that this game isn’t played by robots. While sabremetrics do share more about baseball than we thought we would ever know, there are still some aspects of the game that will never be measures by stats.
With that said, here are a few thoughts on the O’s 2013 projections.
Matt Wieters is in an incredibly difficult spot in Baltimore. He was supposed to be the savior and turn the franchise around with his incredible defense behind the plate and power switch hitting ability. He’s proven to be one of the best — if not the best — defensive catchers in the game, but the power numbers haven’t been consistent.
The ZiPS projections see Wieters hitting .256/.328/.433 with 21 home runs and 78 RBI this season. Very similar to his .249/.329/.435 mark from last season. However, Wieters is fourth overall by WAR with a mark of 9.1 behind only Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Miguel Montero.
It’s hard to not be grateful for his production when he’s a top five catcher in all of baseball. He’s just not that MVP we all were hoping he’d become.
20 year old Manny Machado is no longer a rookie after spending 51 games with the Orioles last season. Coming off a .262/.294/.445 season, many are concerned about a sophomore slump, but FanGraphs seems to think that Machado will pick up right where he left off.
According to the projections, Machado will hit .252/.309/.418 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI. With a little more plate discipline in his first full season, Machado projects to score 66 runs and walk 7.1 percent of his 619 plate appearances.
As the Orioles full-time first baseman, Chris Davis will play a much bigger role in 2013 than he did in 2012. Last season, Davis broke out with 33 home runs and 85 RBI in 562 plate appearances. This season he projects to hit just 25 home runs and drive in 76 over 560 plate appearances.
In 2012, Davis hit .312/.336/.500 with 6 home runs and 16 RBI in 146 plate appearances at first base. As a DH, his average fell to .260, but he belted 15 home runs in 258 plate appearances. Essentially, the Orioles will get a more well rounded hitter in Davis at first base. Last year he hit a home run every 17.2 plate appearances while DH’ing. He homered every 24.3 plate appearances at first.
With the loss of Mark Reynolds, I would like to see more pop in this lineup and am still a little uneasy about Davis’ production while playing in the field.
Like Davis, Adam Jones had a breakout year in 2012 totaling career highs in batting average (.287), on base percentage (.334), slugging percentage (.505), home runs (32), stolen bases (16) and of course plate appearances (697) and at bats (.648) after playing in all 162 games.
The ZiPS projections see Jones returning to his 2011 numbers with a .277/.323/.474 line with 27 home runs and a team leading 83 RBI. Certainly not bad numbers, just not the career year he had in 2012.
The ZiPS projections see Jason Hamel leading Orioles starters in ERA with a 3.27 mark, striking out 20.8 percent (118 strikeouts) of the batters he faces and walking 7.7 percent (44) walks. That’s an improvement on his 3.43 ERA and 113/42 K/BB.
Wei-Yin Chen projects average numbers in his second full season in the big leagues with a 4.10 ERA, 32/84 K/BB over 155 2/3 innings pitched. Last season he threw nearly 40 more innings (192 2/3) with a 4.02 ERA and 57/154 K/BB.
Chris Tillman won’t repeat his 15 game effort in 2012, but will become a serviceable arm in the rotation with a 4.29 ERA and 127/56 K/BB. Last season his ERA dipped to 2.93 over his 86 innings pitched.
Also worth noting, the ZiPS projections predict Dylan Bundy will pitch 104 innings with the Orioles with a 4.33 ERA, Miguel Gonzalez will fall back to earth with a 4.51 ERA over 102 1/3 innings, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz will continue to struggle with a 5.10 ERA over 134 innings and 5.05 ERA over 131 innings respectively.
These numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Orioles weren’t a sexy team on paper last season and they brought back almost the exact same roster in 2013. That means they’ll have to win the same way they did last year.
If the O’s go back to the postseason they’ll have to grab victories in close games and will need to repeat the success of their bullpen. I’m confident in Buck Showalter‘s ability to use that pen and think there’s even more talent in it now with Tommy Hunter as the long man. If the Birds can get average pitching (which they project to) and slightly exceed their offensive projections, I think they’ll be right back in the mix this season.
Of course there’s a long way to go til October. Pitchers and catchers begin their work in Sarasota tomorrow.