Well, a lot of good things happened in the last two months for the Orioles.
Here is one man’s take, ranking them from five to one, on the biggest developments with the club under Buck Showalter.
5 - Matt Wieters was empowered to become a leader.
Under Buck, you get the impression that Matt Wieters knew he had to, at some point, become a leader on the Orioles. He was at the center of the core group of young talent on the team and plays a position that demands a certain level of leadership.
I think Buck spent some time trying to fill Wieters up with confidence and reminded him how good he can be.
Despite some fan criticism of his play, some certainly justified, Wieters is a huge piece of the O’s future. He is going be the catcher on this team for years and years to come, they hope.
4 - Unselfish team play.
During the dark days of this season the club’s situational hitting was atrocious. The idea of advancing a runner seemed to be rejected nightly by O’s batters.
Suddenly late in the year batters would hit the ball to the right side to get a runner from second to third. When they needed a sac fly, they seemed to get it.
The club came to value the distance of 90 feet. How gaining the extra base helped the offense and denying it helped the pitchers. Solid team play returned to the Baltimore Orioles.
3 - Wins and credibility.
There is no substitute for winning. The O’s record of 34-23 under Buck came vs. a difficult schedule and, at a time when the team usually fades.
The club’s .596 winning percentage under Buck would amount to 96.6 wins over 162 games. This wasn’t just an uptick in play with a new manager. This lasted for two months and was a reversal of stunning proportions.
At the end, it seemed the O’s were poised to make the big play or get the big hit late in a game to win it, rather than wait for a poor play or the other team to take charge and lose.
Showalter’s hiring also brought credibility to the entire organization and uplifted everyone. Fans now have legitimate hope for the future and players on other teams may finally look at Baltimore again as a place where they truly want to play.
2 - Competing with the big boys in the East.
Before Showalter took over the Orioles won just one of 15 series vs. AL East opponents, going 10-35. After Buck they won five of nine series and were 14-13 vs. the division.
The O’s went 3-1 in their last four AL East road series, winning in Boston, Tampa and New York. They were an out away from a three-game sweep in New York.
Beating the big boys of the East didn’t seem insurmountable. Going toe-to-toe with them didn’t seem improbable.
The Orioles still have an uphill climb in this division. But scaling this mountain doesn’t look nearly impossible anymore.
1 - The starting rotation came of age.
The ERA of the starters was 5.61 through 105 games. It was 3.16 and the starters had 36 quality starts in the 57 games with Buck.
Maybe Brian Matusz just turned a corner and Jake Arrieta finally had enough experience to pitch better late in the year and maybe they would have thrown well late in the season whoever was the manager.
Buck said he didn’t say any magic words to get the pitchers to perform better. But they did. A lot better starting August 3rd.
The starting pitching was so good that the O’s won nearly 60 percent of their games with Buck without a single player that ended up hitting .300, 30 homers or driving in 80 runs.
They didn’t have a middle of the order bat.
But they won because of the great-at-times starting pitching. It shows what you can do with good pitching. They scored six runs total in a three-game series at Tampa and won two of those games.
This doesn’t mean the team can go without adding offense. It just shows how important pitching is, to the point that, for at least 57 games, you can win without getting a lot of it.
Pitching like that keeps you in games vs. all teams, even the best ones. The O’s proved you can beat anyone when you pitch like that, because they did.
It was the best development from the last two months in my opinion. The foundation of a possible strong future rotation featuring key young talent has been laid.
What is your take on the biggest developments under Buck?