Monday, October 5, 2009

The 2009 Season in Review

This last month has been a microcosm of the 2009 season. The team looked doomed to 100+ losses, showed some fight that gave you hope, lost 13 straight to send them right back to the depths of suckitude and then rally to sweep the Jays in the last series of the season. With Matt Albers getting the win in the final game! An odd season...

Record: 63-98 (Baltimore will pick third in the 2010 Draft.)

The Good

Brian Roberts clouts 56 doubles to set the team, franchise and switch-hitter record for doubles in a season. Add 16 homers and 30 stolen bases and you've got a heck of a year and the MVO award. And before we leave Roberts' remarkable season, one more record of mild interest. No one in the history of baseball has ever hit 55+ doubles and stolen 30 bases in a season until Brian Roberts in 2009. Nobody.

Cesar Izturis would have trouble hitting his way out of a wet paper bag but it's his glove we love. Izturis ranks 4th in baseball among shortstops in terms of UZR and even with the injuries has been a breath of fresh air over the motley crew that was trotted out in 2008. Baltimore fans know good defense at short when we see it and this year Izturis (with an assist from Robert Andino) provided it.

Matt Wieters. This next quote comes from a season wrap-up article for the Orioles on Baseball Prospectus:

Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Ty Wigginton were big disappointments, but none so much as the eagerly-awaited Wieters. The catcher produced some of the best minor league numbers in recent memory, including his first two months in Triple-A this year, but upon his big-league debut, he didn't show much in the way of big-league power.—Clay Davenport, Baseball Prospectus

Possibly the dumbest, most short-sighted comment I've read all year.

Wieters, in fits and starts, has shown steady improvement as the season has gone along, at the plate and behind it. He has a mere 380 plate appearances in the majors. It's just a tad early to call him disappointing isn't it? Chuck Norris-style joking aside?

Wieters posted a .346/.403/.505 line for September/October. That's a nice way to finish the season and gives him something to build upon for next year. But no one could have reasonably expected him to come to Baltimore and start immediately bludgeoning the AL East. But that time may be sooner than we think.

All the debuts were good, even if the results were not. Getting Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, even David Hernandez and Jason Berken up to the bigs for a taste of things (and giving management a chance to evaluate them) was a good thing for the future of this club.

The Bad

Melvin Mora was dreadful. Arguably the worst third baseman in the league (at the plate and in the field) and he got way too much playing time based on his tenure and not his actual skill. He will be remembered fondly but not for 2009.

Aubrey Huff peaked far too early to get any trade value for him. He was pretty bad himself and the thought of him returning to Baltimore in 2010 gives me the tremors.

Jeremy Guthrie righted the ship a bit in September/October but was pretty wretched throughout the 2009 season. Only the complete ineptitude of the rest of the rotation made him look palatable on the mound.

As the ball left Billy Butler's bat and struck Brad Bergesen sharply in the shin, I tried to guard myself against a creeping fatalism as he limped, hopped and ultimately tumbled down the dugout steps and collapsed in the tunnel. You hope he comes back the same pitcher and you wonder what might have been had he pitched the rest of the season.

The Disappointments

Nick Markakis posted a measly .801 OPS after nearly topping .900 last season. Markakis saw drops in power, OBP and average from 2007 and 2008 and now sits back at offensive levels that he had in his rookie season. That means he's merely decent and not great. Perhaps this year was a fluke, perhaps 2008 was the high water mark but Nick dashed my predictions for a breakout season in '09 and all the Enos Slaughter comps I've ever made.

I could probably throw the entire bullpen into my bag of disappointments but I'll personify them through Matt Albers. I think Albers has the talent to be a great reliever in the majors but while he show flashes from time to time, ultimately he fails and leaves you wondering why he can't throw strikes. This is the story with most of the remaining bullpen as we head into 2010. Nobody (save perhaps Mark Hendrickson) stepped up their performance in 2009.

I never got to see the lineup with four switch hitters before they traded Zaun to Tampa Bay.

The Surprises

Nolan Reimold was certainly a prospect before the season but I was quite surprised by how fast he made it to Baltimore this year and even more surprised how he found success from the jump. Even more surprising was the fact that he could post an OBP north of .350 for his rookie campaign. The power was never in doubt and, yes, he showed some plate control skill in the minors but some (including me) doubted if he could translate that skill to the majors and avoid becoming the second coming of Jay Gibbons. He proved me wrong.

Brad Bergesen's poise and effectiveness so early in his career. It's not easy for a finesse pitcher to live in the AL East, especially a rookie. But Brad did.

Michael Aubrey was acquired from the Cleveland Indians for the ubiquitous player-to-be-named-later and after Bad Aubrey was traded to the Tigers, Michael got a shot to play and has shown himself to be Good Aubrey indeed. Aubrey has posted a .289/.326/.500 line in 90 plate appearances and flashed a (dare I say it?) a Teixeira-like glove. He makes me feel like he's a good in-house stopgap at first base, a guy to give Brandon Snyder more time to come along in Norfolk next year. I've been beating the drum for guys like this to get a chance on this team and with a nice Spring Training, Aubrey may force management's hand.

Dave Trembley coming back? I wouldn't have guessed that two weeks ago. But I am happy he's back for one more year. He was given little to work with in '09 and did a decent job of putting the rookies in places to succeed, at least as much as could be expected.

The Failures

The Warehouse started the season with a rotation of Guthrie, Hendrickson, Adam Eaton, Alfredo Simon and Koji Uehara. Only Guthrie was left by season's end. Uehara had injuries, not really management's fault but the assembly of the rotation before the 2009 season was a monumental failure by Andy MacPhail and company.

Baltimore kind of had to take Ryan Freel to unload Ramon Hernandez to the Reds but he did nothing and whined about wanting to hurt the team more with more playing time. He was unloaded for Joey Gathright early in the season.

I still don't like the Oscar Salazar/Cla Meredith trade and, so far, the Trade Monitor bears that out.

The Successes

The George Sherrill trade netted a legitimate prospect at third (Josh Bell) and perhaps an under the radar starting pitching prospect (Steve Johnson) from the Dodgers. Great, great trade.

The Michael Aubrey pickup was another low risk move that has borne fruit early in the transaction.

Even with Felix Pie's growing pains, that trade has turned out very well for the Orioles. Pie was nearly a league average hitter before he injured his leg late in the year and was playing great defense in left and center. Mental lapses aside, he has shown value as at least a fourth outfielder for this team.

The Jekyll and Hyde Awards

Adam Jones before All-Star Break: .303/.357/.480
Adam Jones after All -Star Break: .222/.290/.405

Luke Scott before All-Star Break: .305/.384/.592
Luke Scott after All -Star Break: .208/.292/.375


Some of my pre-season predictions:

So my first prediction is that Penn turns out to be way more useful to the Marlins than Robert Andino will be to Baltimore. - Actually, they turned out to be equally bad in terms of WAR but honestly, I was wrong about this one.

Alfredo Simon is out of the rotation by the end of May. He won't be with the big club by July. - Check

Matt Wieters is here in May. - Check.

Brad Bergeson is here in July. - He made it much earlier.

Brian Matusz is here is September. - As Andy MacPhail has admitted, he was rushed and got here in July.

The Orioles win 72 games. - Yeah, not exactly.

Lou Montanez won't OPS better than .750 at any level...unless he goes back to Bowie. - Except for a 10 game stint in Norfolk, correct.

Nick Markakis OPS's .900+ - Way, way off base.

Felix Pie gets better in the second half. - Admittedly, it would have been hard for him to get worse but after putting up .234/.299/.355 in the first half he came through with .290/.346/.497 in the second. More plate appearances in the second half too. Correct.

Adam Jones hits 20+ home runs. - In May, it looked like I had underestimated him. But he only reached 19 due to injury and slumps. Wrong.

Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton provide the best Oriole platoon since...well, in a very long time. - I forgot about that whole "Trembley doesn't do platoons"rule. Dead wrong but oh, what could have been.

And as Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave. Blues was happy to point out, I predicted an 81-81 record for his New York Yankees in a preseason chat. Yeah, the juggernaut that won 100+ games. What can I say? A lot of old guys had career years where I thought they would start to show their age.

But in that same chat, I was lambasted for stating that while I thought Evan Longoria was a fearsome hitter, I did not find B.J. Upton fearful at all. We'll call those chat predictions a wash.

So, that the season folks and here!

OK, not really. What's in store for the offseason at Dempsey's Army? Coverage of the AFL and the Hawaiian league as O's prospects take the field. Transaction coverage as usual. I think I'll be working on some interviews and honing my chops at that. Some non-Oriole baseball posts and at least a couple posts that are completely off-topic, just to keep the juices flowing. Oh, I'll probably finish the History of the Oriole Closer series and post some mini book reviews if they strike me.

OK, now time for a beer...

How about some "Downpressor Man" to finish the season off? I think so.

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