In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
A nightmare season for the 2013 Orioles can be described thusly: instead of playing like they did in 2012, the Orioles play like they did from 1998-2011, when the squad finished higher than fourth in the AL East just once and never topped .500.
But what exactly would go towards that sort of season in 2013 with the crew of players the Orioles have this season? A meltdown from Baltimore's bullpen would start the nightmare train rolling. Jim Johnson, who has been so good over the past two years for the Orioles, might see his low strikeout rate catch up with him, and BABIP hell start to rear its ugly head, like it did in 2010. Maybe Darren O'Day's insane strand rate starts to normalize. Maybe Pedro Strop's ridiculously high walk rate finally starts getting him in trouble. They're all very real possibilities for the Orioles.
When it comes to the starting rotation, health is an issue. Another 20 start (or fewer) season from Jason Hammel would be a disaster for the Orioles rotation, even though they survived through it last year. What if Wei-Yin Chen goes backwards instead of forwards during his second year in the league? As Baltimore's most dependable starter a year ago, that wouldn't be a good sign. You could also make a case that both Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman pitched way over their peripherals last year, and some worse luck could screw them over in a big way.
Offensively, it's not as if the Orioles mashed last year, but there are some red flags in the lineup. What if Adam Jones' power spike disappears like it did in the second half, and he returns to being a solid player rather than a potential franchise cornerstone? Before missing time last year, Nick Markakis had spiraled into a zone of mediocrity…what if that spiral continues? Everyone expects JJ Hardy to rebound after a bit of a down 2012, but maybe that lack of plate discipline and low batting average holds strong, and he's a glove and a boomstick at short? Chris Davis mashed for Baltimore last year, but still struck out at a 30% clip. That's something that can easily turn a season into a mess, especially with a 6% walk rate in tow.
The Orioles benefited from a lot of luck in 2012, and I don't think anyone will debate that. Expecting everything to go their way again in 2013 is a little naive, and you'd expect at least something to go wrong for them. But even with just a little less luck overall, things can get nasty in a hurry in Baltimore.