Chip Buck at ESPN's Sweetspot asks, "Still, I can’t help but wonder if the fans’ expectations are a tad too high as a result of these improvements. Are they setting themselves up for disappointment?" Come on Chip, are we setting ourselves up for disappointment? Are you seriously asking this question? Let's look at the improvements.
2010 First Base
Even Ty Wiggington, the de facto starter who hit 22 home runs, was a near-replacement level player last year, producing 0.3 fWAR. All-in-all, the production (or lack thereof) the O’s received from their first basemen was about a win below the replacement level.
2010 Third Base
In the three years since Tejada’s departure, Juan Castro, Alex Cintron,Freddie Bynum, Brandon Fehey, Luis Hernandez, Cesar Izturiz, Robert Andino and Julio Lugo have all been given their share of playing time. Yikes! Talk about replacement-level production.
Let's take a look at a list of people who can play first base, third base, and shortstop better than last year's clowns.
So I feel comfortable in predicting more production from Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds. I think Lee is the only real question mark. If his thumb doesn't heal, he could easily offer replacement level production. So far it's not looking good. I wouldn't be surprised if thumbs bothers him all year even though he's healthy enough to "play." But there's a decent chance that he could be a 2 win player.
Furthermore, his signing shifted the defensively challenged Luke Scott from DH to left field, thus weakening the team at that position. Despite all the hoopla surrounding Vlad’s arrival, he projects to provide about 2.0 WAR in value. While that’s admirable production, it neither outpaces Scott’s 2010 production, nor improves the team in a measurable way. [Vlad] addition appears to be purely cosmetic.
First, Luke is quite adequate in the field. At the very least, he won't give up runs with his glove. Second, it's not like LF was a productive position for the O's in 2010. Felix Pie and Corey Patterson both hit in the low 90s OPS+ wise. Neither were stellar UZR wise, but decent DRS wise. I think Luke can replicate them defensively and offer more offensively. While DH might not improve, Luke should offer more production than the 2010 LFers.
I have to wonder if it was worthwhile to invest in short-term stop gaps, especially when the Orioles lack talented young prospects to fill behind those veterans.
I don't quite get this sentence. When a team lacks a young prospect, a veteran stop gap is a good time to fill out a roster spot. We could debate whether a stop gap is even necessary for a non-competing team, but if a team is ever going to use a stop gap, that's the best time. Like 2009, I question the amount of money spent on the 2011 stop gaps (especially Lee and Vlad, I like Hardy and, to lesser degree, Reynolds), but Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds aren't blocking anyone. Perhaps he's referring to the cheap wins that these players provide that will need to be immediately replaced, but I'm not sure.
Really, if the Orioles are going to make any marked improvements, it will need to be on the backs of their young starters. At this point, outside of Brian Matusz, none of their young arms have shown they’re ready to take that next big step forward this year.
Chip, Buck has been showing these inspirational videos to the young pitchers that has them hugging and dancing like the hobbits at the end of the Lord of the Rings. Buck is like the old dad from Cormac McCarthy's The Road telling them to "carrying on the fire" in the current wasteland that is birdland You can't measure the effect of these videos Chip. You just can't. Overall, the fans aren't setting themselves up for disappointment in 2011 by expecting improvement. The team won 66 games and had the fourth worst record in baseball in 2010. Improvement isn't a high bar to reach. At the very least, the fans will get to watch a semi-competent team in 2011.