We’ve all heard, and in some cases participated in the criticism that’s been lobbed at the Orioles of late for their offseason moves (or lackthereof I suppose). I’ve maintained that we should wait for the smoke to clear and at the very least allow this team to play some games before passing judgement in full. I also recognize that it’s not necessarily realistic to expect fans to accept that comment, especially fans that have suffered through 14 straight losing seasons. Nevertheless, I honestly think what we’re seeing with the moves Dan Duquette has made thus far in his tenure as GM is just a different way of doing business as opposed to what we were used to with Andy MacPhail.
A couple of days ago I wrote about Duquette using Moneyball/Billy Bean-style tactics in building this Baltimore Oriole team in 2012. (Keep in mind also that the A’s recently extended Beane as their GM through the 2019 season.) Andy MacPhail had a vastly different philosophy about building the franchise in that he wanted to “grow the arms and buy the bats.” Believe it or not, that theory was not a total failure. Certainly you might look at the record of the Orioles under MacPhail and argue that I’m crazy. The arms were in fact grown in the form of Arrieta, Matusz, Bergesen, and Britton. The bats were bought in the form of Jones, Hardy, Reynolds, and even in the likes of Roberts and Markakis (who were “bought” in the sense that MacPhail gave them contract extensions). Add Matt Wieters, a home-grown prospect, to that list, and you have a pretty decent team. What did in those teams was rushing guys like Matusz and Brad Bergesen to the majors, injuries to various players, and ultimately not having the depth that a successful team needs in order to win.
So in addressing the needs of the team in his tenure, Dan Duquette purchased some pitching depth in the form of Dana Eveland, Jason Hammel, Tsuyoshi Wada, etc. He then turned to fielders, and he picked up Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez, and Jai Miller. These are hardly names that will end up in Cooperstown. However what they are is bench and platoon depth. Duquette has also said that his aim was to improve the strikeout-to-walk ratio as a team. So in obtaining guys that can get on base more frequently, he’s changing the dynamic of the team itself. The rule of thumb is that three base runners (three base hits, two hits and a walk, etc) will somehow translate into a run. So if you plug a guy that can get on base and stay there into the lineup, you might suddenly have a situation where a J.J. Hardy or hopefully a Brian Roberts is coming up with guys on base. “Beane-esq,” isn’t it?
Again, this is in stark contrast to what Andy MacPhail wanted to do. MacPhail wanted to build the team and the lineup the traditional way, however he probably didn’t have the resources (or the budget) to do it. So as I’ve said in the past, the Orioles now have a team that might be able to have more of a presence on the base paths. That will at some point equal runs.
I suppose that my point is to reiterate what I’ve said most of the offseason: let’s not pass judgement until we’ve seen some games. This franchise is being crucified in the national media and by the fans right now. I’m not suggesting that what Mr. Duquette is doing is most definitely going to work or fail. However the fact is that many of the players that had been on the team the past few seasons were fairly one-dimensional. As I said in Tuesday’s column, how often did teams employ a shift against Luke Scott or Vladimir Guerrero? Endy Chavez is a guy that can hit to all areas of the park. So certainly Guerrero or Scott pose more of a power threat, it’ll be difficult for teams to employ a shift against Chavez.
Ultimately it’s just a different way of doing things as opposed to what we saw with Andy MacPhail. Regardless of how many runs are batted in, I still submit that the success or failure of the 2012 season hinges on the starting pitching. While the likes of Eveland and Wada don’t necessarily invoke confidence from the outset, don’t forget what they say in Transformers…there’s always more than meets the eye.
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