About once a month, the phrase “they are who we thought they were” pops up in relation to something in sports. That phrase from Dennis Green sums up a lot when it comes to the world of sports and it’s one of the simplest yet greatest statements out there. And for the 2017 Baltimore Orioles, it might just be the perfect explanation of the journey the team has taken.
Despite the hot start in April, there was a general agreed-upon idea that this team wasn’t going to compete for the role of American League favorite. It was the Orioles’ roster after all — and despite the talent that was certainly performing, certain aspects simply couldn’t have been projected to maintain the pace.
As the season rolled along, we saw that play out almost exactly. Whether it was from a player like Wade Miley or big-picture trends that helped win games, the early winning ways were great but not sustainable. It wasn’t a matter of if the Orioles were going to win 100 games, rather how long they could maintain their early hot streak to make up for the inevitable drop down to earth that was bound to take place (statistically speaking, that is).
So, after April, what did we think the Orioles were?
American League favorites? Obvious playoff contenders?
Those might’ve been the labels fans wanted to believe and pin to the team, however almost everyone who follows the Orioles agreed that it was a great start that’d need quite a few wild twists and turns to be sustainable. At that point in the season, it’s fair to say the Orioles were an above-average team that needed a lot of work to stay atop the AL East.
Of course, we know now how the season is going to end (without a playoff spot), but the question remains: did the Orioles live up to expectations this season?
If we’re working off the belief that everyone viewed this team “by the numbers”, then expectations were probably met. The statistics had this team at just about average before the season, and it appears that’s close to how the year will wrap up according to the win-loss record. Hot start aside, this was always a very statistically average roster that needed to jump quite a few hurdles to defy the odds. In that sense, they are who we thought they were.
But, in this wonderful world of sports, expectations aren’t fully rooted in numbers. In fact sometimes numbers and projections have nothing to do with our expectations. To be sure, that’s what makes the question so difficult.
Did the Orioles live up to expectations in 2017? By the numbers, yes. But I don’t think you’ll find a single person around baseball who would say that the year wasn’t somewhat of a disappointment, especially considering the stretches that took place over the course of the season. Realistically, you could make a strong case that based on those non-scientific expectations, this season was indeed disappointing.
And at the end of the day, that’s what makes looking ahead to 2018 so difficult.
It’s something we’re all doing, yet how can we construct a basic idea of how the team will perform without knowing the status of major members of the potential Opening Day lineup? It’s probably not very wise to begin predicting 2018 when we don’t even know who is going to be on the roster when next March rolls around, but we’ll all do it anyway. We’re sports fans — it’s what we do.
Right now, although the future roster makeup is murky, here are at least a few things we know for sure:
- There are a few staples on this team who will continue to be building blocks. Trey Mancini is here to stay and Jonathan Schoop will be locked in at second base. There’s more in this category, but you get the point. There’s a solid core that isn’t going anywhere for 2018.
- Starting pitching must improve. It’s not a new idea, rather one that should be closely examined in the offseason and perhaps seasoned with a different approach. Something must change here, and there’s going to be a window of opportunity to make an impact this winter.
- Austin Hays is ready for a full season in Major League Baseball. It’s not a sentence I thought I’d write at the beginning of this year, but it’s true. He’s going to be fully prepared, and it’s looking more and more like the Orioles are going to give him every opportunity to become the guy that’s been needed in the outfield for years.
- Pitching talent, as a whole, must be carefully examined and sorted out over the offseason. This includes the bullpen arms. It’s not unrealistic that the players taking the mound in 2018 are going to include numerous new faces. It’s up to the organization to take the steps in solidifying both groups.
There are questions — more questions than answers — when looking ahead to next season. We haven’t even touched on other issues that exist; it’s the nature of this great game. There’s change on the horizon everywhere you look.
The 2018 season outlook is full of questions that can’t be answered yet. Because of that, it’s definitely difficult to build expectations on what we think the Orioles will be from next March through October. But for the next few months, building those expectations — slowly but surely — is going to be a blast.
There is no offseason in baseball. And while it might be difficult, we’ll all be happily building those expectations for a brand new season until March 29 rolls around.