As Orioles fans look for a nugget of hope (pun intended) that their team will actually be better next year, consider this: Each stop where Buck Showalter managed before, his clubs made a dramatic improvement between his first and second seasons.
While Buck managed for two months last year, the 2012 season will be his second full season as Orioles’ manager - if he continues in that role, of course.
Showalter’s 1992 Yankees team went 76-86 and then 88-74 a year later. His 1998 Arizona club, an expansion team, went 65-97 and then made a huge improvement to 100-62 and first place in 1999. His 2003 Texas team went 71-91 and then 89-73 the next season.
Those are improvements of 12, 18 and 35 games in the win column.
Showalter recently said there was no magic formula in turning those clubs into winners from one season to the next. No how-to model that he will use to try and improve the Orioles.
“I am not big on, ‘This is exactly some pattern you have to follow,’ ” Showalter said. “Every dynamic is different. Every team, every offseason, every division, every league. Putting a club together in Arizona is different than putting a club together in Texas, Baltimore or New York.
“I do know there are some absolutes though that you do have to do. I consider myself very flexible as the game progresses and changes, but there are some things that don’t change, things you’ve got to be a good at and not just for a day or two.
“There is a lot of headings to those categories and the makeup, the character and want-to mentality and we’ve got some people that have it. You’d be surprised how much that could be magnified if the pitching were better.”
Spend even a few minutes with Showalter talking about trying to improve the Orioles and the performance of the pitching staff will soon come up.
In two of his three previous stops, the teams made dramatic pitching improvement in that second season. That 1999 Arizona squad had a team ERA of 3.77, down from 4.64 the year before. The 2004 Texas team saw its ERA drop from 5.69 to 4.54.
As Showalter said, there is no handbook or secret formula he has for improving a team. But improve the pitching and watch the wins increase.
“It’s not nearly a cloak and dagger, brain surgery magic formula some might make it out to be,” he said. “You have to see how that would play in this division, in the American League. How can it help you win 90 games. That’s what it’s all about. You have to get to 90 to sniff anything.
“I guarantee you, I could probably go back through 25 games this year and if just one or two things were a little better, we might be on the other side of that. I know how it happens, but it doesn’t happen by osmosis.
“It’s about the players and not about some magical hitting or pitching theory. It’s about the players.”
We should also note this: At each of his previous managing stops, Showalter’s clubs added a key free agent pitcher between his first and second seasons.
He added Randy Johnson to the 1999 Diamondbacks, Jimmy Key to the 1993 Yankees and Kenny Rogers to the 2004 Rangers.
Can Showalter make a big improvement with the 2012 Orioles and will a new pitcher be the key to that?