Who Will Be The X-factor For The Orioles This Season?Posted on March 31, 2013
The countdown to Opening Day is on, and each day until the Orioles' first game on April 2, PressBox baseball writers will share their thoughts and predictions for the season ahead. Today's question: Which player will be the X-factor for the Orioles this season?
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Chris Tillman was not a simple throw-in in the Erik Bedard-for-Adam Jones trade with the Seattle Mariners.
At the time of the trade, Tillman was not yet 20 years old. As serious a prospect as he was, his tall frame and gangly body made it more difficult for him to gain the necessary leg strength that would allow for a repeatable delivery.
But in working with Rick Adair at the big league level and organizational pitching coach Rick Peterson, Tillman was able to simplify his delivery and get the results he was capable of all along. His 2012 call-up produced radically different results -- positive results. During 15 starts, spanning 86 innings, he went 9-3 with an ERA of 2.93 and a WHIP of 1.05.
Before 2012, the Orioles had summoned him for brief look-sees, totaling 180.2 innings from 2009-11. During that span, he went 5-17 while allowing 205 hits and 80 walks, with a 5.58 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP.
So, when I go looking for an Orioles candidate described as being an X factor, I begin and end with Chris Tillman.
The bad news is that this spring, he has been sputtering. He's pitched just 4.1 innings and has been slowed with an abdominal strain that now has him starting the season on the DL (he is still scheduled to pitch the fifth game of the regular season).
The truth is, on a starting staff that has a lot of depth, but little in the way of an ace, Tillman is the X factor for 2013, because of the potential he showed during the second half of 2012.
By Jim Henneman
My guess is that the X-factor player this year is the same as the one last year, which may or may not be a good thing.
This time a year ago, we weren't sure how much, if any, Brian Roberts would contribute. This year, barring something drastic, we at least know that he will open the season at second base, most likely in the leadoff position.
Beyond that, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Based on what we've seen during spring training, it would appear that Roberts' style of play won't change. Although baserunning hasn't been a priority, he has demonstrated a desire to continue stealing bases, though probably at a reduced rate, which could have as much to do with his age as the concussion syndrome he's been battling.
The fact that he hasn't shied away from the head-first slide is encouraging enough, meaning he won't completely abandon his aggressive style of play. To what degree will be determined by the amount of success.
From the outset of spring training, Roberts has shown an aggressive approach at the plate, attacking the ball much more than he did during his limited appearances last year, when the rust from more than two years of inactivity was apparent. For the most part, it was the defensive side of the game where timing seemed to be a factor.
There's little question that a completely healthy and fully effective Roberts would be like adding a premium player to the lineup. There's also little question that that is not a realistic expectation, which is what qualifies Roberts for this discussion.
Second base was a patchwork position for the Orioles throughout 2012, when Rule 5 draft pick Ryan Flaherty ended up being the best option, primarily because of his offensive potential. Flaherty is still in the mix, but a reasonably productive Roberts would be a huge bonus, which from this viewpoint makes him a natural for X-factor consideration.
Posted March 31, 2013