Putting the Orioles’ improvement in perspective (Showalter note)

On Black Friday, I appreciate that you chose to shop at this blog. It’s still a bargain after all these years.

A combination of tryptophan and NyQuil has me walking around in a fog this morning. Good turkey, bad cold. But I wanted to take a closer look at the gains made by the Orioles in 2012.

Dan Duquette didn’t receive a single vote for The Sporting News Executive of the Year award. That honor went to Oakland’s Billy Beane, who garnered 31 of the 57 votes.

1. Billy Beane (Athletics): 31 votes
2. Mike Rizzo (Nationals): 13 votes
3. Jon Daniels (Rangers): 6 votes
4. Walt Jocketty (Reds): 3 votes
5. John Mozeliak (Cardinals): 2 votes
6. Brian Sabean (Giants)/Ken Williams (White Sox): 1 vote

Buck Showalter won The Sporting News American League Manger of the Year award, but he placed second behind Oakland’s Bob Melvin for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America award.

The Athletics improved by 20 games this season, going from 74-88 in 2011 to 94-68 in 2012. They jumped from third place to first in the American League West, passing the Texas Rangers on the final day of the regular season.

The Orioles went from last place to second in the AL East while posting a 93-69 record and improving by 24 games - the third-biggest increase in franchise history. They improved by 35 games from the strike-shortened 1981 season to 1982, and 33 games from 1988 to the “Why Not?” season of 1989.

The fine folks at Elias passed along the following list of improvements made by the Orioles:

35 1981-1982 59-46 94-68
33 1988-1989 54-107 87-75
24 2011-2012 69-93 93-69
22 1991-1992 67-95 89-73
18 1968-1969 91-71 109-53
17 1972-1973 80-74 97-65
17 1995-1996 71-73 88-74
15 1967-1968 76-85 91-71
15 1959-1960 74-80 89-65
12 1955-1956 57-97 69-85
12 1978-1979 90-71 102-57
11 1963-1964 86-76 97-65
10 1996-1997 88-74 98-64

So where exactly does the 24-game gain in 2012 rank in baseball history? According to the following list, also provided by Elias, most of the big jumps came during the strike-shortened 1981 season. The 1903 New York Giants improved by 36 games, but they only played 139.

42 1981-1982 California Angels 51-59 93-69
41 1981-1982 Toronto Blue Jays 37-69 78-84
40 1981-1982 San Diego Padres 41-69 81-81
40 1981-1982 Kansas City Royals 50-53 90-72
39 1981-1982 Atlanta Braves 50-56 89-73
38 1981-1982 Pittsburgh Pirates 46-56 84-78
36 1902-1903 New York Giants 48-88 84-55
35 1981-1982 Baltimore Orioles 59-46 94-68
35 1981-1982 Chicago Cubs 38-65 73-89
35 1998-1999 Arizona Diamondbacks 65-97 100-62

Yes, that’s Showalter’s Arizona team in 1999, and the only one that played 162 games in back-to-back seasons.

We’ve moved on from the postseason awards, but I had to take another glance back and wonder again how Duquette was shut out this year.

Professional jealousy by executives who did the voting for The Sporting News award? That theory has been floated by a few people. A flawed system? Each organization was sent six ballots, which could have been filled out by anyone.

Former executive Andy MacPhail’s fingerprints are all over the 2012 Orioles. His role in building this team can’t be minimized. However, the voters were supposed to focus only on the most current moves, which included the Jason Hammel trade, the Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez signings, the Nate McLouth acquisition. Ryan Flaherty was a Rule 5 pick at the Winter Meetings.

Maybe the Alexi Casilla signing or the Trayvon Johnson-Robert Andino trade will get Duquette noticed. He’s still got the Winter Meetings and the rest of the days leading up to spring training to state his case.

Note: Showalter has been named Major League Manager of the Year by the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA. He will be among those honored at the chapter’s 74th annual dinner on Jan. 24, 2013 at the Westin Copley Hotel in downtown Boston.

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