3 Reasons the Baltimore Orioles Can Repeat This Year's Success in 2013
The success of the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 shifted the culture of Camden Yards and the city of Baltimore.
A stadium that once hosted a depleted crowd has been given new life as the Orioles are back in contention.
Yankee fans ousted Orioles fans at Camden Yards as the Yanks pulled off their perennial and unsurprising three-game sweep of the Birds to start the season. Fans left the stadium expecting more of the same from a team that hasn’t given them much to cheer for in the last decade.
October told a very different story. The New York Yankees now entered an unlikely sea of screaming orange, attempting to knock off a resilient, 93-win Orioles team in the ALDS.
The Yankees pulled off the victory, but only after a hard-fought, five-game pitching spectacle. The Orioles pushed the Yanks to a Game 5 with a rotation including three rookie pitchers, while the Yankees countered with veteran experience.
The Orioles, along with the Oakland Athletics incredible second half, were the surprise of the 2012 season.
Doubted by analysts and fans for the majority of the season, the Orioles never looked back and kept pace with the Yankees in arguably the most difficult division in baseball.
This offseason, the Orioles will once again be doubted and the question of whether or not this team can repeat this year’s historic success will arise.
Here are three reasons the Baltimore Orioles’ 2012 success will spill over into next season.
Finding a True Ace
Showalter assessing the health of Hammel in a game against Detroit in July.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The question of whether the Orioles will stick to their bottom-up approach or play this year’s free agent market to find themselves an ace still remains.
The Orioles made the executive decision to move forward with their once-broken rotation, rather than trade for a big name pitcher, a decision that’s hard to criticize looking back on their successful second half.
One can only guess how the ALDS could have played out for the Orioles if they had a true ace.
Next year, there won’t be any guessing.
“I’ve said all along the way to build a good ballclub is from the ground up,” said Orioles’ Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. “The core players are going to come from our minor league system.”
If the Orioles’ stick to their traditional philosophy, they will find their ace internally.
Jason Hammel could be that ace. Here’s a guy who ended June with an 8-3 record and a 3.29 ERA. After July, Hammel battled on-and-off right knee problems which included arthroscopic knee surgery.
Next season, the Orioles will have a healthy Jason Hammel pitching at full strength, and he will not disappoint.
His performance against the Yankees in the ALDS was impressive. Hammel went 5.2 innings and gave up just two runs in each of his two starts.
Nothing is set in stone. Duquette could turn aggressive this offseason and sign a prominent starter like Greinke or Rays’ pitcher James Shields.
But, something tells me the bottom-up philosophy will take precedence and Jason Hammel will be toeing the rubber Apr. 2 against the Rays as the ace.
O'Day pitching against the Yankees in the ALDS Oct. 10.
This Orioles bullpen was phenomenal in 2012 and the most important factor in Baltimore’s success.
Baltimore’s bullpen posted the fifth-lowest ERA in baseball at an even 3.00 during the regular season, a stat they ranked twenty-seventh in last year.
Free agency spares Baltimore this year, as the core of this Orioles bullpen is set to return in 2013.
27-year-old Pedro Strop had a career season posting a 2.44 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 66.1 innings pitched.
Right-handed side-winder Darren O-Day was not simply a righty specialist. He gave the Orioles 67 quality innings of work this season, posting just a 2.28 ERA and striking out 69.
Long-time Orioles right-hander Jim Johnson finally got a shot in the closer's role this season and did not disappoint. Johnson saved 51 of 54 save opportunities this season.
Johnson did struggle against the Yankees in Game 1 letting up five runs in just 0.1 innings pitched, but he’ll more than likely be back in the same role in 2013.
With Baltimore finally obtaining a solidified rotation and bullpen going into next season, they’re going to be an extremely dangerous asset for Buck Showalter and company.
Showalter arguing a call in the ALDS.
Al Bello/Getty Images
While the rest of baseball is tired of hearing about how good a manager Buck Showalter is, Baltimore, quite frankly, is not.
Showalter is the brains behind this Orioles operation and a true player’s coach. He’s built relationships with his players that you don’t see elsewhere.
“[He's] very personable with everybody, easy to talk to. He keeps it loose,” said Orioles’ shortstop J.J. Hardy. “And I think the fact that he's so prepared for every game, everyone trusts that we are not going to get out-managed."
It’s his preparation for each game, relationship with his players and impressive resume that define him as an elite MLB manager.
Other than Bob Melvin in Oakland, no one has done so much this year with so little.
The Orioles came into 2012 coming off an overly disappointing 93-loss season owning the lowest ERA in baseball at 4.89
It took Showalter only one full year to turn those 93 losses into 93 wins and revamp a depleted pitching staff.
The backbone of this team, Showalter goes into the 2013 season with stability on the pitching front and an opportunity at a healthier lineup.