Turning a team around from 69 wins in 2011 to 93 victories in 2012 is usually enough to warrant heavy consideration for a Manager of the Year award.
Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter will likely win honors for the best manager in the American League for leading his team from a last-place finish in the AL East last season to second place and a wild-card playoff bid this year.
The O's were expected to finish last again in their division while the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays battled for playoff contention. As of July 18, Baltimore was 10 games out of first place and looked as they could live down to those last-place expectations.
But as the Yankees began to deal with injuries—especially with their starting pitching—the Orioles began to chip away at that deficit. Baltimore's record in one-run games was a phenomenal 29-9, a testament to Showalter consistently making the right moves in later innings, especially with his bullpen.
Making that climb more impressive is the Orioles were doing it with a less-than-stellar starting rotation.
Wei-Yin Chen was a constant throughout the season, but Showalter had to cobble together a rotation among Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman while working through the struggles of Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz. By the end of the season, Joe Saunders was part of the mix as well.
Showalter also nudged Adam Jones toward the best season of his career and got the most out of players such as Chris Davis and Nate McLouth.
Additionally, the O's skipper showed his adaptability by putting rookie Manny Machado in at third base. It seemed like a desperate move at the time, especially in moving the shortstop prospect to the hot corner. But the Orioles took a chance on talent and that gamble made the team better.
Baltimore fell short in the AL East race and divisional playoff series to the New York Yankees. But the Orioles did defeat the favored Texas Rangers in the one-game AL wild-card playoff, adding just one more surprise to a season full of them.