What did the 2020 season mean for O’s rebuilding?

While we wait to find out if the Houston Astros are really going to tick off baseball fans in 2020, it’s time to again ponder the Orioles’ rebuilding efforts.

I have asked this question of fans often the last year or two and I’m asking again today: How do you feel about the club’s rebuilding efforts and do you see hope for the future?

I’ll repeat another sentiment today you’ve heard from me before. That is that fans, generally speaking, seem to be very on board with the Orioles’ rebuilding and they seem to almost embrace it. They understand it takes time. This doesn’t mean every fan feels this way, just a majority - and maybe it is a large majority. I base this on my ongoing interactions with Birdland. Here, on Twitter and during the season on my postgame radio show. Everywhere I turned, I was listening to or reading fans’ opinions. I enjoyed it. OK, most of it.

My background is growing up as an Orioles fan. That background is what makes this job great for me. I’m covering my hometown team. I often wonder what it would be like to be consumed by such a job that involved covering someone other than my hometown club. Not as fun and not as rewarding are answers I come up with.

But back to the team.

The Orioles have played better each of the last three years and, yes, the bar was not set high.

* 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 Orioles ended a run of three straight last-place finishes this year. They were in fourth place - one game up on Boston. After 223 losses and playing .312 ball for two seasons, they played .417 ball. That would be a final record of 64-98 over a 162-game season. So they went from 47 to 54 to what would have been 64 wins.

Sometimes these things don’t happen in a linear progression, but could they now push for a .500 season in 2021 followed by 90-plus wins and contention in 2022?

O’s manager Brandon Hyde was a coach on the 2016 Chicago Cubs when they won the World Series. But that team never lost as many games as the 2018-2019 Orioles. The Cubs won 61 in 2012 and then won 66, 73, 97 games (and lost the National League Championship Series in 2015) before winning 103 and the World Series the following year.

Houston lost 107, 107 and 111 games from 2011 to 2013. So that was 51 wins in 2013 followed by 70, 86, 84 and 101 and a championship in 2017.

Mountcastle-w-Bag-ST-sidebar.jpgIt must be encouraging in Birdland to see that young talent came up and did well this season, with players like Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer. It must provide some confidence that the O’s farm can turn prospects into the elite talent pipeline that general manager Mike Elias is looking to build. The farm helped the 2020 team and some of its highest-rated players - like Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez - are still to come. Several young pitchers that are top 30 prospects have yet to make their major league debuts. In fact, there are 12 pitchers in the MLBPipeline.com O’s top 30 that have not pitched in the majors yet.

The international program is now humming along, too, and Elias added to that with the acquisition of players to be named later in recent trades. He’s added new coaches and technology to the farm system. The O’s front office seems quite unified now, something not seen in the final year or two under Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter.

Having said that, the 2020 Orioles were almost on a 100-loss pace for a full 162-game season. So what do you make of the rebuild right now? Is the progress of this year meaningful? Is the team on the right path? How far away are they? Do you question some things the front office has done?

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