It was a season of progress and improvement for the Orioles

For the Orioles, the 2020 season, turned out to be about progress and improvement. They moved the organization forward in bringing young talent onto the team, much of it homegrown, that performed well. They made improvement in the won-loss record.

But, yes, the bar was low for that latter achievement.

* The 2018 Orioles went 47-115 and played .290 baseball.
* The 2019 Orioles went 54-108 and played .333 baseball.
* The 2020 Orioles went 25-35 and played .417 baseball.

The club had finished in last place three straight years since 2017 but avoided that this season by finishing in fourth, one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox, who were 24-36. The O’s lost 223 games over the last two seasons and played .312 ball in those combined years.

They played a tough schedule with 40 games against the American League East. They played .316 ball (24-52) within the division in 2019 and were a bit better this year, playing .350 ball (14-26) against the AL East. They went 5-5 against Boston, 4-6 versus Tampa Bay, 3-7 against New York and 2-8 versus Toronto. Three of those teams will be in the playoffs that begin Tuesday.

The Orioles, even without Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar and with the various injuries and team slumps on offense, still hit better this year.

They averaged 4.57 runs per game, which is better than the 4.50 from 2019. The club slash line was better, too. The 2019 offense produced a line of .246/.310/.415 with an OPS of .725. They were 12th or 13th in the AL in all four categories. This year, they hit .258/.321/.429 with an OPS of .750, which was seventh in the league. They ranked third in the AL in batting average, eighth in OBP and sixth in slugging. Nice move up.

Their team ERA of 5.59 was last in the league in 2019. They improved to ninth this season at 4.51. The starting pitching ERA improved from 5.57 (14th in AL) to 5.09, which looks like it will be 11th when final numbers are released. The bullpen ERA made dramatic improvement from 5.79 (last in the league) to 3.90, which will likely end up seventh or maybe sixth. They improved by nearly two runs per game in the ‘pen. Big move up.

The O’s may be getting the No. 5 overall draft pick next summer. Major League Baseball has not yet announced how the order of the draft will be determined, but ESPN reported it is very likely to be using the previous year’s standings, as usual. The O’s tied Arizona this year for fifth-worst record at 25-35. In the past, a tiebreaker has been previous year record and the O’s would get the No. 5 selection after losing more games than the Diamondbacks in 2019.

I will not point out that Matt Hobgood was once the O’s No. 5 pick. But we’ve seen better picks, like when Matt Wieters went No. 5 in 2007 and Buster Posey went No. 5 in 2008 (not to the Orioles, of course). Ryan Braun was once drafted No. 5, and years before he was taken, pitcher Dwight Gooden was once the No. 5 pick.

After 41 games this year, the Orioles were 20-21 on Sept. 8 and just a half-game out of a playoff spot. But they went 5-14 after that to finish seven games out of a playoff berth. When I asked fans Sunday on Twitter if the amount of late losses tarnished the progress the club made this year the overwhelming response was, “No, it did not.”

Yep, we did see progress and improvement.

Thumbnail image for Zimmermann-Pitch-White-ST-sidebar.jpgThe rotation got younger and better, and 2020 rookies Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann got starts. The bullpen got dramatically better despite three key players getting traded. Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier brought the team three of its current top 30 prospects and three young international players in those deals. The O’s dealt from a strength and the deals opened innings for others.

Fans can dream on a 2021 season of full health for players like Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, José Iglesias, John Means, Hunter Harvey, Dillon Tate, Austin Hays, Shawn Armstrong and Alex Cobb, to name a few. Add Ryan Mountcastle to that for a full season. Maybe prospect Yusniel Diaz impacts the roster next year, and there are plenty of pitching prospects getting closer, like Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells, Kevin Smith, Kyle Bradish, Isaac Mattson and Cody Sedlock, to name just a few.

At some point in the future - and it may not be 2021, but we’ll see - it will be time for players like Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. Plus the O’s international pipeline is now actually a pipeline. They’ve added a lot of players to the organization. The young international prospects can take a while to get there, but when they are signed at 16, can arrive in the majors at 19, 20 or 21.

There are reasons to be excited in Birdland.

Note from Steve: Today officially puts us into offseason mode around here. It’s still very busy and active on this blog, even without a game to cover or game blog to write and host. Keep the comments coming. There will be a new entry here pretty much every day.

I’ll pledge to write often about the O’s in the majors and minors. We may add more Zoom video interviews, too. We’ll also branch out at times to discuss some general MLB topics that are of interest to all of us.

If your prefer to comment or ask a question on something not mentioned in that day’s story, that’s fine. The Orioles are never off-topic here. No matter what is written about that particular day.

Enjoy the playoffs and here we go with another offseason and the countdown to spring training and the start of the 2021 season.

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