Hyde chosen as The Sporting News AL Manager of the Year

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Awards season already is upon us.

The Sporting News has named Brandon Hyde as it’s 2022 American League Manager of the Year. The winner is chosen in a survey of players, managers and executives.

Hyde led an historic turnaround this season, with the Orioles improving by 31 games and posting its first winning record since 2016.

Seven Orioles managers have received the award. Hank Bauer won it in 1966, Hall of Famer Earl Weaver in 1977 and 1979, Frank Robinson in 1989, Johnny Oates in 1993, Davey Johnson in 1997, and Buck Showater in 2012.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America reveals its winners next month, and Hyde is a favorite to be honored again. He received 50 percent of The Sporting News votes to outdistance Houston’s Dusty Baker and Cleveland’s Terry Francona.

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A look at the remarkable 2022 season for lefty Cionel Pérez

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At one time, great things seemed to be in the future for O’s lefty reliever Cionel Pérez. He signed for big dollars as an international amateur out of Cuba in late 2016. He was signed by a Houston staff that included current O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. One of his minor league pitching coaches was Chris Holt.

He would be reunited with that duo and others from Houston when the Orioles claimed him off waivers from Cincinnati on Nov. 24, 2021.

But no one could have predicted his time with the Orioles would go as well as it did. Or that he would even make the opening day roster out of spring training. But he did do that, and had an ERA of 0.00 through his first 11 O's games into early May. What would turn out to be a great year for him had gotten off to a great start.

We can’t know for sure what exactly allowed Pérez, on the Orioles' watch, to pitch so much better than he previously had, but he lived up to the signing bonus he once signed. Twice.

Houston signed Pérez for $5.15 million on Sept. 12, 2016. But after a medical review produced big concerns over his left elbow, that bonus was reduced to $2 million and Pérez signed again.

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The Joe Maddon connection still paying off for Brandon Hyde

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The upcoming announcements of the winners for the major awards in Major League Baseball for the 2022 season could provide both some excitement and some frustrations for Orioles fans.

There could be excitement next Monday Nov. 7 when the finalists for the Baseball Writers' Association of America awards are announced. The O's, it seems likely, will have finalists for the AL Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards in Adley Rutschman and Brandon Hyde.

The frustration could come if both come close to, but do not win, those awards. 

Seattle's Julio Rodriguez seems to be the favorite for the ROY award and there is some sentiment that Cleveland's Terry Francona will be named top manager.

The BBWAA awards announcements begin on Nov. 14 with the rookies in each league and the AL and NL manager winners will be announced Nov. 15. 

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Three questions posed to the Orioles' front office

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One of the responsibilities of being a fan is also serving as armchair general manager. The pay’s lousy but one of the perks is you can’t be fired.

Not everyone is going to fit in the dugout. Someone has to move up to the suites and make the hard roster decisions.

I have three questions for you to consider.

Would you re-sign Jesús Aguilar?
Aguilar sneaked into the trade deadline craziness on Aug. 31, the unexpected guest knocking on your door, when the Orioles signed him as a free agent after his release by the Marlins four days earlier.

The Orioles saw an opportunity to grab a power bat and included him on their expanded roster. He was an All-Star with the Brewers in 2018 while hitting 35 home runs and finishing with 108 RBIs and an .890 OPS. He had 22 homers and 93 RBIs with the Marlins in 2021.

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Random take Tuesday

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There will be some rules changes coming to Major League Baseball in 2023 and among them is essentially the elimination of infield shifts. Starting next year, two infielders must be on each side of second base and they have to be no deeper than the back-edge of the infield which touches the outfield. Also, teams cannot switch defenders and for instance move a shortstop to the second base spot on the right side against a pull lefty batter.

This change should add some offense and some defense to the game.

The shift takes hits away from batters that are pull happy with groundballs and mostly unable to hit against the shift. Had they been able to do that, they would see fewer shifts. But we know how that turns out.

I went back and looked at the MLB number for Batting Average of Balls in Play (BABIP) every year since 2010. For most of the seasons between 2010 and 2019, the final BABIP was between .297 and .300. But teams kept shifting more and more and that number dropped to .292 in the shortened 2020 season and in 2021. The BABIP was .290 last season.

Now that lefty batters won’t face a seeming picket fence on defense on the right side moving forward, some hits will be added to their up-to-now sinking batting averages. That could create more scoring in the game in general and more scoring chances. More runners can mean more pressure on pitchers, who then make more mistakes in some of those spots and more runs are scored.

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Orioles bringing back coaching staff for 2023

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The Orioles are following their first winning season in six years by leaving their coaching staff intact.

According to multiple sources, the only change coming is the addition of Cody Asche as offensive strategy coach. Asche just completed his first season as upper-level hitting coordinator in the minors.

Anthony Villa will now oversee the entire system as minor league hitting coordinator after working at the lower levels in 2022.

Manager Brandon Hyde, whose option already was picked up for next season, will again have Fredi González as his bench coach, Chris Holt as pitching coach/director of pitching, Darren Holmes as assistant pitching coach, Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte as co-hitting coaches, Tim Cossins as major league field coordinator/catching instructor, Anthony Sanders as first base coach/outfield instructor, Tony Mansolino as third base coach/infield instructor, and José Hernández as major league coach.

Holmes moved from the bullpen to the dugout this season, swapping places with Cossins. He previously held the title of “bullpen coach.”

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After he munched on innings and did more, O's have decision to make on Lyles

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Right-hander Jordan Lyles, who was the 2022 Orioles team leader in wins and innings, could return to the Orioles for the 2023 season. The decision will solely be made by the front office as the O’s hold a team option on Lyles for next year.

Should they decide to allow him to leave via free agency, Lyles will get a $1M buyout. Should they pickup that option they will add $10 million to that for a total outlay of $11 million. They are going to owe him $11 million to stay and $1 million to go.

This past season, in 32 starts over 179 innings, Lyles went 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He allowed 26 homers with 52 walks and 144 strikeouts. His WHIP was 1.385 and he walked 2.6 per nine and fanned 7.2. His numbers were similar to last year in many respects, except his ERA went down from 5.15 and his homer rate of 1.3 fell from 1.9.

It is well documented that Lyles was a real leader for the pitching staff and he embraced and enjoyed the role. For this article late in the year, Tyler Wells discussed Lyles’ leadership abilities.

“He is invaluable in so many ways,” the right-hander said. “You can’t really put a price on what he has done for us as a starting staff, as a team, and as a mentor for a lot of us. He really teaches us what it’s like to be a starter and how he has made a 10-year career into what he has. All based on certain principles – like going deep into games and giving your team a chance to win every single time.

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Is Wells a definite starter next season?

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How close are the Orioles to setting their rotation?

The short answer is, “Not very.”

How much urgency is there in the fall?

The shorter answer is, “None.” But it’s one of the most important tasks facing executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, along with adding some muscle to the offense, however he can do it.

The club doesn’t know when John Means will return from Tommy John surgery. He’s cleared to do some light tossing and plans on ramping up his activities after Jan. 1, when he reports to the spring training complex in Sarasota.

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A few more questions for O's fans

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We’re back. Yes, already. A few more questions today for our readers and O’s fans among us.

Hope most of you are both – readers and O’s fans.

Enough with the small talk.

On to today’s questions:

What will be the season-ending OPS next year for both Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson?

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Returning to more reflections on 2022 season

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We've entered Day 4 since the Orioles last grabbed the local media's attention by announcing a few transactions, the most notable the signing of backup catcher Anthony Bemboom to a 2023 contract.  

The quiet won't last. 

Let’s do a little more reflecting on 2022, a season that brought so many unexpected highs and unavoidable lows.

I’ve already noted how Matt Harvey never had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk, Gunnar Henderson earned a promotion despite his age, Yusniel Diaz stayed only for a cup of coffee, Rougned Odor lasted into September, we never saw Robert Neustrom, DJ Stewart didn’t make it back to the Orioles after three games to begin the season, Jorge Mateo was exclusively a shortstop, Bryan Baker stuck for the entire season, Nick Vespi will never give up another Triple-A run, Joey Krehbiel disappeared after almost going wire-to-wire, Terrin Vavra could wear many hats next season, Jacob Nottingham didn’t get back to the majors, and César Prieto’s 2022 ceiling was Double-A.

Here are two more:

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Can O's make something good even better in 2023?

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On the MLB transactions wire last November, the Orioles registered two small blips. Small blips that later made big impact during the 2022 season. On Nov. 8, they claimed right-hander Bryan Baker on waivers from Toronto. On Nov. 24, they added lefty Cionel Pérez via waivers from Cincinnati.

They were part of a Baltimore bullpen filled with waiver claims that was among baseball’s best for most of the year. In fact on Aug. 16, the O’s ‘pen had an ERA of 3.05, which was among the lowest in all of the majors. That would not hold up and there was some leakage and falloff late in the year.

The final ‘pen ERA of 3.49 was still seventh-best in the American League and ninth-best in the majors. The Orioles ranked last in bullpen ERA in 2021 at 5.70, so this over two-run improvement was massive and a huge difference between 110 losses and 79.

The two AL teams still playing in postseason, Houston (2.80) and New York (2.97), ranked 1-2 in the league in bullpen ERA. But in a stat via Baseball-Reference.com called Wins Above Average, the Orioles ‘pen ranked first at 4.1 followed by Houston 2.7 and New York 1.9.

But here is a big difference between these three clubs: While the Houston bullpen threw the fewest innings in the AL and New York’s pitched the fourth-fewest, the Orioles ‘pen accumulated 631 innings, which was fourth-most in the league.

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Is Urías a regular in 2023?

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The Orioles used to collect Gold Gloves the way my furniture collects dust. Winners every year between 1960-79. Eddie Murray creating a new streak on his own from 1982-84.

Pitching, defense, and the three-run homer. A box set.

The last streak ran from 2011-15, with third baseman Manny Machado the last Oriole to be honored.

Third baseman Ramón Urías and center fielder Cedric Mullins are finalists this year. Neither one is a favorite, but at least they earned the recognition.

Mullins is expected to lead off again and play center field on opening day, but Urías’ role is a mystery.

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John Means' return in '23 will be big, but when exactly is uncertain

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When Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow took the mound on Oct. 8 in the American League Wild Card Series against the Guardians, no doubt one Orioles pitcher was watching closely. We don’t know that for certain but can assume that Baltimore lefty John Means watched with great interest.

Glasnow has gotten to where Means wants to go - to the end of the rehab process and back to a big league mound after Tommy John surgery. And he did it rather quickly.

In that game versus Cleveland, Glasnow threw five scoreless innings on two hits and 63 pitches. That was a nice success story for his comeback. No doubt the Rays may have handled him differently if his surgery had not taken place on Aug. 4, 2021. That meant if he could come back in around 13 months, he might help the Rays before this year was out. And Glasnow hit that deadline.

He pitched in four Triple-A games, starting out with a one-inning outing for Durham on Sept. 7, returning to a pro mound at about exactly 13 months out. He pitched seven innings in four games for Durham and then joined Tampa Bay for two late-season starts that led to that playoff outing. He threw three innings on 50 pitches Sept. 28 for the Rays and threw 3 2/3 on 64 pitches on Oct. 3. Then he made a successful playoff start 14 months and four days after his procedure.

If Means could be back throwing well in a big league game 14 months after his procedure – which took place April 27, 2022 – he would be back with the Orioles in late June next year. The team would probably be delighted with such a timeline especially if Means could quickly get his usual stuff back. It would be like making a mid-year trade for a top starting pitcher.

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Latest look at 40-man roster before it changes again

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I’m old enough to remember when the Orioles didn’t have any catchers on their 40-man roster.

OK, that was earlier this year. But I remember.

Pedro Severino and Nick Ciuffo were the holdovers in November after Austin Wynns had been outrighted and declared for free agency. And then they were gone, too.

Robinson Chirinos agreed to a one-year, $900,000 contract in March. Anthony Bemboom made the club in spring training after signing a minor league deal. And everyone waited until the Orioles selected Adley Rutschman’s contract, which removed Bemboom from the 40-man roster.

Bemboom has returned to it. The Orioles selected his contract on Oct. 6 and signed him to a one-year deal on Wednesday, a split contract like most of them under these circumstances, with his salary based on whether he’s in the majors or minors.

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Urías and Mullins named Gold Glove finalists in American League

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The Orioles will have two opportunities to break their streak of being denied a Rawlings Gold Glove.

Infielder Ramón Urías didn’t need the implementation of a utility player category in 2022 to be recognized in the American League. He joined the Blue Jays’ Matt Chapman and the Guardians’ José Ramírez today as finalists at third base.

Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins also was named a finalist with the Guardians’ Myles Straw and the Royals’ Michael A. Taylor.

Known more for his versatility in the field, Urías led the league with 14 defensive runs saved and a 10.9 ultimate zone rating at third base per FanGraphs.com. His seven outs above average put him ahead of Chapman (one) and Ramírez (one).

Urías, 28, was limited to 118 games due to injuries but made 84 starts and 98 appearances at third base. He also played second base and shortstop and twice served as the designated hitter.

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Why the Orioles may have to part with a player the fan base really likes

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With some of the top pitchers in the majors pulling in some of the biggest salaries, short of signing a pitcher for $25-30 million or more, how do the Orioles get a frontline pitcher?

Well, potentially via trade.

But to get something good you have to be prepared to give up something good. Fans for years have suggested trades where their team gives up six mediocre players to get one good one. But teams don’t look to add mediocre players, so acquiring several of them at once is no incentive. What they want is players who have two or three years (or more) of team control left and are good players now. If they are in the prime years of their careers, all the better. If their salary is reasonable, even better yet.

The Orioles have at least one such player. And when it is suggested the team consider trading Anthony Santander to get something they like in return, it makes some in Birdland nervous. They get worried when there is talk of trading productive players. But if the team wants to acquire a pitcher they can slot at or near the top of their rotation, one with some track record of success in the majors and not a prospect who hasn’t done it yet, they need to give up something.

This is where Santander or someone similar could come in. Not because the Orioles want to “get rid of him” or they want to “move him,” but when you talk about “trade chips” that have some significance and could get another club's attention, well, he could.

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The case for the defense

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Of the many aspects of baseball for which we can produce statistics, for me, defense is the hardest to quantify and hardest to find reliable stats. There may be some numbers – advanced or otherwise – that some fans swear by, but I have often struggled to find any to really suit myself.

Many defensive metrics are hard to understand and which one (s) should we rely on? That is not easy to determine either.

But one defensive stat that seems more in the norm now or one used more often now is Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Maybe O’s fans will like this stat even more when they realize that while their team ranked among the worst in baseball in that stat in the most three recent full seasons, this year Baltimore ranked tied for ninth in team DRS in MLB.

Here are the top 10 teams in DRS from 2022:

129 – New York Yankees
84 – Los Angeles Dodgers
77 – Cleveland Guardians
70 – St. Louis Cardinals
67 – Houston Astros
55 – Arizona Diamondbacks
51 – Milwaukee Brewers
43 – Toronto Blue Jays
38 – Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners

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Could Orioles field a homegrown lineup in 2023? (Bemboom update)

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As I sorted through the mailbag that I emptied this week, I came across a question that nudged my curiosity.

A question that made me want to do a little digging.

More of a team effort. I’ll admit that I passed the shovel to a few hands.

Could there be at least one game next year with a homegrown Orioles lineup? With nine position players drafted by the club or signed as an amateur free agent?

My first reaction was to scan each one posted this season to make sure it didn’t happen.

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Random take Tuesday

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It’s a random-take Tuesday around here. A few thoughts, yes on baseball, for your reading interest. 

Will this become a regular thing here? Even I don't know that answer, but random-take Tuesday has a nice ring to it. Of course, we don't need a special day to express opinions around here. But I digress. 

The playoff format is fine: Just because the Los Angeles Dodgers got upset in the MLB playoffs doesn’t mean we need to make any changes to the playoff format.

Play better. Win more.

The Dodgers had to wait five days to play San Diego as the wild-card round was being played out. They then won just one of four games. Was the layoff an issue for the LAD? Well, the Houston Astros, who won five fewer games than the Dodgers this year, had the same layoff and then went out and went 3-0 against Seattle. No problems for them with the layoff.

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A look at Ryan Mountcastle's 2022 season

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In evaluating Ryan Mountcastle’s 2022 season, it is easy to note that his homer total dropped from 33 in 2021 – a new O’s rookie record – to 22 last season. His OPS dropped from .796, which was 14 percent above league average to .729, which was five percent above the league.

In 145 games Mountcastle, who will turn 26 in February, hit .250/.305/.423/.729 with 28 doubles, one triple, 22 homers and 85 RBIs. His homer percentage – the percentage of balls he hit out – dropped from 5.6 in 2021 to 3.6 last season.

Mountcastle’s offense really fell off in the second half when his OPS dropped from .786 to .656. It was .541 in July and .630 in August, and he hit a total of five home runs in those two months.

With the glove Mountcastle, via the eye test, got better. Via the data he got a lot better, going from the the bottom two percent in Outs Above Average (and he did make 18 starts in left field then) to the top 20 percent. Mountcastle tied for first in the AL and tied for third among MLB first basemen with his three outs above average.

“Defensively, I feel like I made some huge strides over there at first base and want to keep improving on that. Hitting, I hit the ball hard all year. It didn’t fall as much as I hoped. It is what it is. Got to keep learning, it’s a tough game and I will try to get better this offseason,” said Mountcastle, during the final series.

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