Double Diamond Preview
Apr 22, 2013 07:54PM ● Published by Anonymous
The fans responded enthusiastically to their respective team’s success, filling 4,000 more seats per game in Camden Yards and 5,000 more in Nationals Park than the previous year. That excitement was amplified when the two teams faced off in the illustrious Battle of the Beltways series, which attracted about 11,000 more fans than all other home games in Washington and 18,000 more than all other home games in Baltimore. The Orioles came out on top—taking four games to the Nationals’ two—but the victories weren’t resounding, as all four were decided by only one run.
Against other opponents during the 2012 season, both the Orioles and Nationals proved they were a preeminent force. The Orioles were the most improved team in either league, winning 24 more games in 2012 than they did in 2011.
Buck Showalter was second in the balloting for American League Manager of the Year, and three Orioles players won Gold Glove awards—Matt Wieters (catcher), J.J. Hardy (shortstop), and Adam Jones (center field). Jones also had a very good year at the plate, accumulating 327 total bases, the fourth best in the American League. Closer Jim Johnson was impressive, as well, leading both leagues with 51 saves.
Meanwhile, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was voted National League Manager of the Year. One Nationals player, Adam LaRoche, won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Two others, Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg, won Silver Slugger awards. Bryce Harper was named Rookie of the Year, the youngest position player ever to win the award, and Gio Gonzalez was third in voting for the Cy Young award. He led the major leagues in games won (21) and boasted an ERA under 3.00, as did Ryan Zimmerman.
So what can we expect for the 2013 season? Will it be similar to 2012 or will there be a decline in the fortunes of either or both of our local teams? It is risky to make predictions before a season has started because there are so many variables that can affect pennant races. However, it is possible to make some observations that will have a bearing on the year ahead.
The Orioles should do well in the American League East. Several of the Yankees leading players are showing signs of aging. The Red Sox have improved their roster somewhat but, coming off their worst season since 1965, they have a long way to go. Meanwhile, the Rays will feel the loss of their ace starting pitcher James Shields and center fielder B.J. Upton. The Blue Jays may be the Orioles strongest AL East opponent in 2013. They have acquired several new players—starting pitchers R.A. Dickey (2012 Cy Young award winner), Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson, and everyday all-stars Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera.
Departing from their questionable strategy of years past, the Orioles are now concentrating on keeping their organization intact, rather than looking to acquire established players from other teams. The contracts of General Manager Dan Duquette and Field Manager Buck Showalter have been extended through the 2018 season, and the majority of pitchers and everyday players have been retained, withstanding the notable exception of third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was released because of his disappointing 2012 season. [He signed a $6 million-one-year deal with the Indians.]
If Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold remain healthy this year, the Orioles could improve their record. There is, however, one question mark in Baltimore: their run differential. In 2012, they were 29 and 9 in one-run games—a statistic that hasn’t boded well in the past for teams looking to maintain or surpass their win-loss record the following year.
The Nationals have added three key players to their roster for 2013. Their everyday lineup was bolstered by the acquisition of Denard Span to play center field, and their pitching was strengthened by the addition of Dan Haren, who will be the fifth starter, and Rafael Soriano, who will be the closer. This may make their pitching staff the strongest in baseball.
On paper, the Nationals look even stronger than last season, when they won 98 of 162 games. Thus, bookmaker Bovada made them the early favorite to win the 2013 World Series!
Like all baseball fans in this area, I can hardly wait until I hear the cry “Play Ball” and the 2013 season actually begins. Only then will we begin to see how it all plays out.
All additional photos courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.
Dr. Taylor is the author of The Runmakers: A New Way to Rate Baseball Players, published in 2011 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. He was awarded a doctor of philosophy degree from Georgetown University. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Annapolis. The Runmakers is available in bookstores and online.