They usually do more. SQL is not very pretty or friendly IMO, ORMs clean it up a bit (for example allowing arbitrary ordering, sqli, construction of multiple queries from one base). The example I gave was an arel query - very similar to yours if you move the WHERE out into the function name.
Your ORM proposal above looks fine (and very similar to existing ones but with more strings), but personally I find it uglier than the many which are available, and you haven't actually tackled the protection against sqli or explained how that would work. Normally you'd pass that through to the db driver as a $n param, rather than trying to escape a string at the ORM level. If your ORM is going to infer details from the sql, it basically has to parse that sql first and handle all the same things that current ORMs do by using named functions to add SQL - you'd find the same issues with consistency and edge cases I imagine, and of course have to be very careful about parameters and sqli.
So if you don't like ORMs, don't use them, but you do have to be sure that your own ad-hoc home-grown ORM that you're writing instead covers all the bases current ones do. I prefer the syntax of the ones you're denigrating for simple queries, even if for complex queries it might be better to write sql directly (via the functions they provide), but would be interested to see it in action - when are you going to start :)