Even though the Orioles had 93 wins and made the postseason, there are still some things the team could improve on.
Here are five ways the Orioles can improve in 2013:
1) Increase on-base percentage
When Dan Duquette took over nearly a year ago as the team’s top baseball official, he vowed that the Orioles had to boost its on-base percentage. He wasn’t satisfied with a .316 on-base average.
Presumably, he’ll not be satisfied with a .311 on-base percentage, five points lower than the 2011 team that lost 93 games.
Four of the team’s regulars: Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado each had more than three times as many strikeouts as walks.
Mark Reynolds, whose ability to draw walks is often overlooked, batted .221, but had a .335 on-base percentage, a point higher than Jones, who batted .287.
A full season of Nick Markakis will presumably help. Markakis missed 58 games, and his on-base percentage was a robust .363, 65 points higher than his batting average.
2) Get a set starting rotation
The Orioles had just one pitcher with more than 10 wins, Wei-Yin Chen. He had 12. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman had each had nine and Jason Hammel had eight.
Of the remaining postseason teams, the Giants’ five starters each had 10 or more wins, the Cardinals, Tigers and Yankees all had four double-digit winners.
Manager Buck Showalter had a fairly stable starting rotation for the first half of the season, but ineffectiveness and Hammel’s knee injury changed that. Tillman and Gonzalez helped enormously.
Perhaps a rotation of Chen, Hammel, Gonzalez, Tillman and Joe Saunders, if he re-signs could be strong.
If Saunders isn’t big, there will be several in-house candidates for the fifth starter: Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Steve Johnson.
Dylan Bundy’s recall would probably come in June.
3) Steal some bases
The Orioles were last in the major leagues with 58 stolen bases, and it’s not a stat Showalter was concerned with.
Jones led the team with stolen bases. He had 16, but was thrown out seven times. Jones trained with Detroit’s Quintin Berry, who was 21-for-21 in stolen bases during the regular season. Perhaps he’ll make that a point of emphasis this winter.
Nate McLouth had 12 stolen bases in 55 games. He was only thrown out once.
Xavier Avery stole six in 32 games. Those three combined for 34 of the 58 steals.
4) Continue to work on defense
When Machado came up to play third, McLouth moved to left and Reynolds moved to first base, the defense solidified. Errors dropped.
The Orioles knew they couldn’t win with Wilson Betemit playing third. Coincidentally, Betemit was hurt a few days after Machado came to the team.
A return by McLouth to left field would help enormously.
5) Get some youth on the bench
When there were injuries, the Orioles lack of depth in the minors was exposed. The team signed lots of one-time stars to play at Norfolk. Besides McLouth, Miguel Tejada, Bill Hall, Jamie Moyer and Lew Ford were all reclamation projects.
While McLouth was huge, Tejada and Moyer quickly left the organization. Hall played briefly with team and Ford showed only occasional pop.
Avery and L.J. Hoes are the top outfield position prospects, but the Orioles preferred experience last year.
At Duquette’s introductory news conference last year, he emphasized that shoring up the minor leagues was vital. It will take some time before there are enough viable candidates in the minors to augment the major league team.