More significant improvement: record or players?

When fans look to grade how successful the 2020 season was when it comes to the Orioles rebuilding, what is the best way to do that? Is it just noting the won-loss record and looking for progress there? Or is it about looking more at individual players, especially those that came up from the farm and finding successes there?

Since we don’t have to choose just one standard, it was nice to have a little of both during this past season. But which one is more significant: an improved record or seeing the success from young and homegrown players as they get introduced to the show?

After playing .333 ball (54-108) in 2019, the Orioles improved their won-loss percentage by 84 points as they went 25-35 (.417). They did that against a tough schedule, featuring 40 of 60 games versus the American League East. According to TeamRankings.com, the O’s 2020 strength of schedule ranked as the second-toughest in the AL and fifth-toughest in the majors.

The 84-point gain was actually the seventh-best year-to-year in club history via a gain of win/loss percentage points. Here is a look at the top six improvements:

* 202 points - The O’s went 54-107 (.335) in 1988 and then 87-75 (.537) in 1989.
* 148 points - The O’s went 69-93 (.426) in 2011 and then 93-69 (.574) in 2012.
* 135 points - The O’s went 67-95 (.414) in 1991 and then 89-73 (.549) in 1992.
* 111 points - The O’s went 91-71 (.562) in 1968 and then 109-58 (.673) in 1969.
* 97 points - The O’s went 74-80 (.481) in 1959 and then went 89-65 (.578) in 1960.
* 90 points - The O’s went 76-85 (.472) in 1967 and then went 91-71 (.562) in 1968.

So while 25-35 is no record to write home about, and the Orioles still hold the fifth pick in the 2021 draft, it was a nice year-to-year improvement comparing every gain for the Orioles since their first year in Baltimore in 1954.

But along with that, we saw the debut of Ryan Mountcastle. He hit for average and power, he ran faster than we expected and played fine on defense in the outfield. He even drew a few walks and hit the ball to all fields, while showing a good approach and some success against breaking balls and off-speed pitches. It was some debut, which has O’s fans excited to see what comes next.

Thumbnail image for Akin-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgWe saw left-hander Keegan Akin debut and pitch to an ERA of 4.03 in his six starts, and the club went 4-2 in those games. If you could take away a first-inning knockout against the Yankees, his ERA was 2.49 in his starts. Akin fanned 34 in 22 1/3 innings. The average of 12.27 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth among American League rookies (minimum 25 innings).

We saw Dean Kremer (acquired by trade and not homegrown) debut and pitch to an ERA of 1.69 over his first three starts. He fanned 20 and walked nine over 16 innings for a strikeout rate of 11.25 per nine innings.

We saw Bruce Zimmermann make his debut, Anthony Santander win the Most Valuable Oriole award, Tanner Scott take a nice leap forward, and moments of strong pitching from Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate, showing that they might be big factors in future Orioles bullpens.

There was a team gain in the won/less record and reasons to be excited about young players moving forward. Seeing both was nice, but is one more significant for the future?

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