O’s John Means finishes second for AL Rookie of the Year

Orioles left-hander John Means, who was a surprise as the club’s best starting pitcher in 2019, tonight finished second for the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Means, 26, received 53 points, getting 16 votes for second place and five for third place. Two writers from each AL city voted for their top three for the award.

The easy winner was Houston’s Yordan Alvarez, who was unanimous and got all 30 first-place votes for 150 points. Alvarez hit .313/.412/.655 with 26 doubles, 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in only 87 games. Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe was third with 27 points. The Rays selected Lowe, 25, in the third round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Maryland. He hit .270/.336/.514 with 17 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs and 51 RBIs in 82 games, but missed more than two months with leg injuries.

The last Oriole to win the Rookie of the Year Award was relief pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989. In 2017, the O’s Trey Mancini was third in the voting. Six Orioles have won the BBWAA AL Rookie of the Year - Ron Hansen (1960), Curt Blefary (1965), Al Bumbry (1973), Eddie Murray (1977), Cal Ripken Jr. (1982) and Olson.

John-Means-All-Star-Workouts-Sidebar.jpgIn 31 games (27 starts), Means went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA that was the lowest by a Baltimore starter since Wei-Yin Chen posted a 3.34 mark in 2015. That ERA would have ranked seventh in the AL if Means had thrown seven more innings to qualify for league leaders. Over 155 innings Means walked 38 with 121 strikeouts. He posted a WHIP of 1.135, allowing 8.0 hits per nine with 1.3 homers, 2.2 walks and 7.0 strikeouts.

Means was named to the 2019 All-Star team, making him the first homegrown Orioles starter to make the All-Star team since Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, who made five All-Star Game appearances with the Orioles, the last in 1999. Means is the fifth rookie in O’s history and first since 1966 to be named to the All-Star team. He joins Chuck Estrada (1960), Jim Gentile (1960), Ron Hansen (1960) and Andy Etchebarren (1966) as O’s rookie All-Stars.

When spring training began for the 2019 season, Means appeared to be a pitcher that would get a brief look before heading to minor league camp to prepare for a Triple-A season.

That never happened. He showed a velocity increase along with an outstanding changeup. By April 9 he was in the rotation. In July he was headed to the All-Star Game and with a strong finish he ended the year as the Orioles’ best starter and a rotation fixture.

Now he will begin the 2020 season as a candidate to be the opening day starter.

In the first half, Means was 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA and 1.077 WHIP. The ERA was the best-ever by an Orioles rookie (minimum 80 innings pitched). That ERA ranked as the ninth-lowest for an AL rookie since 1954 (min. 80.0 IP) and was tied for the 16th-lowest among all Orioles pitchers in club history.

But Means struggled coming out of the break and had an 8.34 ERA in five starts to begin the second half. But he quieted any concerns at that point by going 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA and .214 average against in his final eight starts.

He finished the home season with a 2.74 ERA, the best by a first- or second-year Oriole pitcher since Mike Mussina in 1992 (2.65 ERA), the first season the team played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In 16 games versus the AL East, Means was 7-4 with a 3.97 ERA.

It has been a big few days for Means. On Friday he married former professional soccer player Caroline Stanley.

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