Pitching and defense. Two Orioles staples from way back. They both improved in the second half of the season and they helped each other get better.
At the end of the 2012 season, the Orioles were one of the best defensive teams in baseball and from where they had come from, that was a huge improvement.
The Orioles were the only team in baseball to win three Gold Glove awards. Who saw that coming in April or May, when the O's were probably baseball's worst defensive team?
J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones took home the hardware last night, giving the Orioles 64 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, second-most in the American League, one fewer than the New York Yankees (65) and 22 more than the next-closest AL team, the Minnesota Twins (42).
Hardy's award was long overdue. He's been playing at a very high level at short for a long time and he's finally got the gold. In years past, there was a sense that Hardy was not flashy enough to get the honor, but to me, shortstop is a position where consistency and the ability to make all the routine plays is big. Hardy makes all the plays - routine and tougher than routine - look easy.
Not everyone agreed with Hardy getting the award. ESPN's Jim Bowden said this via his Twitter account: "Brendan Ryan should have won Gold Gliove for AL SS and range should matter... But congrats to all 3 O's who won! Wieters, Jones & Hardy #GG"
ESPN's Keith Law wrote: "AL Gold Glove winner at short: Hardy. I would have had him second behind Ryan, but Hardy is very good, and Ryan didn't hit enough to win."
The Orioles' defense at the end of the year featured players at the corners, in Manny Machado and Mark Reynolds, who played Gold Glove-caliber defense. They also had a right fielder in Nick Markakis, until he got hurt, who had won a Gold Glove and a left fielder, in Nate McLouth, who ran down plenty of balls in the gaps.
The Orioles' defense became a team strength and it looks like it will stay that way in 2013.