What went wrong in 2017

TAMPA - Let the offseason begin.

There will be a quiet period for the Orioles while the playoffs unfold. Teams are discouraged from making any major announcements or moves. And yes, I just teed up a few of you jokesters. You’re welcome.

Today is a time for reflection unless the images are too disturbing. Images of the No. 1 starter having a sore shoulder, losing his spot in the rotation and posting a 7.84 ERA and 1.892 WHIP. Of the closer going on the disabled list twice and being shut down in the final weeks, his save total dropping from 47 to 15.

zach-britton-black-side.pngIf I told you in spring training that the Orioles would be in wild card contention in September despite the combined issues with Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, you probably would have recommended a long vacation or a change in professions.

The rotation posted a 5.70 ERA, the worst in the majors, but at least Kevin Gausman did it a huge favor yesterday with one run allowed in seven innings. The 1.52 WHIP also ranked last.

No wonder the Orioles now hold the 11th pick in next year’s draft and have made rotation upgrades their top priority.

The offense could carry the club or bury it. Twelve shutouts this season, including four in September and one in October. Seven runs in the last five games.

The 18 strikeouts yesterday tied the franchise record. Trust me when I say hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh doesn’t roam the clubhouse imploring everyone to tee it up high and let it fly. That’s not his slogan. That’s not the approach he endorses.

Coolbaugh can project the number of at-bats for a player and give him an acceptable walk total. The free passes are there if someone is willing to take them. There should be 60 without trying.

Chris Davis led the Orioles with 61 walks, but getting the bat off his shoulder proved a separate challenge. Manny Machado was next with 50. Joey Votto led the majors with 134, followed by Aaron Judge with 127.

The Orioles ranked 29th in the majors with 392 walks, two more than the Royals. The Dodgers led the majors with 649 and the Yankees led the American League with 616,

Coolbaugh can lead a hitter to water ...

Trey Mancini and Austin Hays are promising young hitters, but they also have an aggressive approach. Mancini drew 33 walks, including two Saturday night, in 147 games.

(Mancini probably will finish in the top three in voting for American League Rookie of the Year. The debate seems to be whether he’s ahead of or behind the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi).

More stories will surface this winter detailing the “friction” between executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Same articles, different year. They’re both expected back in 2018 to fulfil the final year on their contracts. Whether they vacation together isn’t really important.

The butting of heads could come regarding the coaching staff. Showalter wants everyone to return. Duquette didn’t offer a vote of confidence yesterday when given the opportunity.

Showalter can’t understand why he’s been listed as a candidate for the Phillies job when he’s under contract with the Orioles. He has no idea what’s in store for him beyond next season. He always references his time in the organization as his last rodeo. We’ll see.

I asked Duquette yesterday what went wrong with the club, the standard opener in media sessions, and his response lasted almost five minutes. Good and bad intertwined. Here it is:

“We got off to a great start,” he said. “I think our fans had high hopes. It didn’t end up the way we wanted it to and we’re all disappointed. If you look at the season, we got back in the playoff hunt in August and usually we do pretty good in September once we get some players to support the roster. In September, we went (7-21). That’s probably the worst month the Orioles have had in a long time and we didn’t have the necessary ingredients.

“Obviously, everybody is disappointed. Next time around, we’re going to have to have better players and do a better job over the course of the season. The thing about the American League, there’s five teams that made the playoffs, and the other teams in the league are under .500, so there’s a lot parity in the league. There’s two teams from the East this year in the playoffs this year, always the toughest division. The margin for error that we have is very small, it’s razor thin, so if you’re going to have a good team, you have to do a lot of things well.

“We did some things well this year, and some things we’ve got to work on and do things better in the future. (Jonathan) Schoop, of course, had a great year. He’s an All-Star player. He had a breakout player. Trey Mancini had a terrific year in terms of production as an Oriole. He ranked up there with Cal (Ripken Jr.) and (Eddie) Murray and ended with a 17-game hitting streak that speaks to the kind of hitter he is. He uses the whole field.

Dylan Bundy had a breakthrough season where came along and he was one of the top starters in the league this year. He showed some leadership on this team. Those are the high notes. We still score plenty of runs to win the games. Our defense is still good. It’s not elite like it has been (with) some of teams that made the playoffs. We made the playoffs in the even years, right? In ‘12, ‘14, ‘16, and we haven’t made them in the odd years - ‘13, ‘15 and ‘17, so if things go like they’ve gone in the first couple of years, we should be in the playoffs again next year, but we’ll have a lot of work to do to get there.

“We’ve got to rebuild our starting rotation. I still think that (Kevin) Gausman can be an elite pitcher in the league. We’ll have to find some starters beyond that. Our bullpen is strong. It’s always been a strength of the club. I’m encouraged by some of the reports I’m getting on our minor league system outside the system. They like our system. They tell us it’s made a comeback with some of the players. (Hunter) Harvey’s healthy, (DJ) Stewart’s healthy and had a good year in Double-A. Hays got to the big leagues and we had an opportunity to see his contribution. Those bats that we had in Double-A, they may come into play next year.

“We’re going to need some left-handed bats to balance out our right-handed offense, Manny (Machado), Schoop, (Tim) Beckham, the three best everyday players that we have, and they’re all right-handed hitters. Some of that balance may come from the farm system. Stewart is a left-handed hitter. (Cedric) Mullins is a switch-hitter, (Chance) Sisco is up here now and is a left-handed hitter, so that’s something that we feel pretty good about. It’s going to come down to what any championship team needs and that’s pitching and pitching and pitching. So that’s the job for next year’s club.

“I know Mr. (Peter) Angelos would like to thank the fans that supported us. They came out again, with 2 million for I think the sixth year, which we appreciate. That allows us to field a team with a robust payroll of $150 million, which gives us plenty of resources to compete and we aim to have a good team here every year and we aim to have another good team next season. Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Let the offseason begin.

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