Baltimore Orioles 2016 season preview

Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

A season preview for the 2016 Baltimore Orioles, led by Buck Showalter.

So here we are, finally one day prior to Opening Day for Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. Tomorrow the O’s will take on Minnesota at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the games will truly count. No more fake baseball, no more scrutinizing over statistics that mean nothing – they all count from here on out!

Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

So what can fans expect from the 2016 O’s? If you listen to certain groups and certain national pundits, they’ll tell you that this team has no chance. And for all we know, perhaps that’s true. Returning the home run king from two of the past three seasons (Chris Davis) with a new long-term contract can’t possibly mean that this team has a shot at doing anything, right? The same might be true of returning one of their most effective relievers over the past few seasons in Darren O’Day. No shot, right?

My point isn’t that this team is going to reach the stars in 2016. It’s that you can’t count them out as some people have done. The big question mark of course is starting pitching. I wouldn’t say that Orioles’ starters were “hammered” last year, however they weren’t as sharp as we would have expected either. That needs to change in 2016 if this team is going to contend.

And the fact that we’ve seen some turnover in the starting rotation indicates that the staff is going to need to be on point this year. Miguel Gonzalez, a fan favorite, is now gone – and Mike Wright, a young guy who had a great sprin, is in. The Orioles will also benefit from the addition of Yovani Gallardo to the staff. And they hope that once he returns, Kevin Gausman will return to form as well.

The bullpen was the Orioles’ big strength the past few seasons, and with the return of O’Day there’s no reason to assume that won’t continue to be the case. He and Zach Britton anchor the back end of a bullpen that was as sure as anything in the game the past two years. With an unsure starting rotation, the importance of the ‘pen is greater than ever.

Offensively of course, the O’s can flat out mash. The return of Davis was both unexpected (by some), and welcome. And the normal cast of characters around him will be the same – along with the likes of Wieters (who also returned, on a qualifying offer), Jones, Machado, Hardy, and Schoop, 2-16 shapes up to be a great year at the plate for the Orioles.

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The O’s also added Pedro Alvarez, formerly of Pittsburgh, very soon after the beginning of spring training. Once he got going, Alvarez had a decent spring and will nicely compliment the Orioles’ offense (which was already in good shape). And one of camp’s biggest surprises was Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard, who dazzled the coaching staff with everything he did. The guy gets on base left and right however he is able, and quite frankly my vote would be for him to be the team’s semi-regular lead off hitter.

However the biggest advantage this team has over it’s competition continues to be in the dugout. Buck Showalter is the master at knowing which buttons to push and when, along with managing the game several hitters (or in some cases innings) down the line. Needless to say, he’s the best manager in the American League East. And that comes as a big advantage for the Orioles and their fans.

So I suppose it’s prediction time. Lots of people and lots of other media outlets have asked me to give a prediction in terms of wins and losses for this team – some even before spring training began! And I’ve always kicked the can down the road a bit. So now, one day before the start of the regular season, it’s put up or shut up time.

People love to say that the AL East isn’t a good division anymore. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The competition is going to be fierce this season, needless to say. There’s a good chance that four or five teams might enter September with a shot at making the playoffs in the AL East. So needless to say they’ll beat up on each other, and there’s a chance that the division winner might not even make it to 90 wins.

So my prediction for the Orioles in 2016 is to finish at 86-76. Mind you that last season the Orioles finished squarely at .500, and that included a few stretches in which they could barely muster base hits in games. Heck, they were no-hit in Seattle. So if they can minimize that (perhaps by having a guy in Rickard who gets on base a lot), they should be good for a few extra wins year-over-year.

It obviously remains to be seen whether or not 86 wins is enough to win the division or qualify for the post-season. But needless to say, they’ll be competitive until the end. The Orioles will hold a team workout at Camden Yards this afternoon, and then they’ll prepare for tomorrow’s Opening Day festivities when Minnesota comes to town for a 3 PM first pitch.

With all of that said, it’s truly an honor to be back serving Orioles fans and the people of Baltimore for another season of Orioles baseball. On behalf of the staff here at Birds Watcher and the FanSided Network, I so very much appreciate the loyal fans that we have who read this site on a daily basis. Here’s to a great 2016, and see you at the yard!