After having the worst defense in baseball through the first half-plus of the baseball season in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles rebounded nicely to have the best defense in baseball for the final two months of the season.
Many things can contribute to the reasoning of the defensive turnaround for the O's. But ultimately, it comes down to the players, and some of them came to be very impressive.
Good defense is necessary to winning. The Orioles understand this, and that's why they're going to make sure that they can make their good August and September play stretch through the whole year in 2013.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that the O's can have the best defense in baseball next season. They figure to enter 2013 with the same (or least a very similar) defense they had this past August and September.
The O's will have a great defense in 2013. And here's why.
Currently, the O's roster consists of four gold glove winners, three of which took home the honor this year.
Catcher Matt Wieters and center fielder Adam Jones each won their second Gold Glove, and shortstop J.J. Hardy received his long-overdue first.
And in 2011, right fielder Nick Markakis (pictured, left) won his first GG as well.
Those four guys have become solid staples on the field for the O's. As well, should outfielder Nate McLouth return to the team, he would make the fifth Oriole to have won a GG, and would give the Orioles GG winners all across the outfield.
Furthermore, first baseman Mark Reynolds played like a GG first baseman after his move across the diamond mid-season, and the O's would love to retain him because of his defense. Not to mention prospect Manny Machado is expected to reel in some hardware of his own either at shortstop or third base, the latter of which he's projected to be playing in 2013.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is known to be one who values good defense above many other aspects of the game of baseball.
During the time when the O's were the worst defensive team in baseball during 2012, Showalter was very obviously losing his patience with the club in that aspect, and because of this, one would think that he'll come down harder on the team early in 2013 and will probably make them work harder on their fielding in spring training as to try to avoid another early-season defensive collapse.
Every single Orioles fan has faith in Showalter as a manager, teacher and nurturer to young players. Helping a team grow is his specialty, and if he wants to make a team better in any aspect of the game, he can do that.
The defensive growing pains came in 2012. In 2013, Showalter will have his Birds playing serious defensive right out of the gate.
As mentioned before, Manny Machado (pictured) figures to take home at least a Gold Glove or two during his career. The Orioles called him up in 2012 to stabilize their defense at the hot corner, and he did that and then some.
The more he plays, the better he'll get, and he's already pretty darn good. A full season of Machado on the left side of the infield next to J.J. Hardy will do wonders for the Orioles' defense.
Along with Machado, Ryan Flaherty is another young player the O's love, and he figures to be given the second base job to lose in spring training. He's solid at that position already, and like Machado, will only get better at it with more playing time, or in his case, more consistent playing time.
Young players are always good to have in the field, because they can provide a spark to a team. These two guys will provide a spark for the O's in 2013.
Now that the Orioles' young players have both more playing experience and some postseason experience, they'll mature more as players and as a team, and maturation will help improve their game.
Very, very few players are top-notch players as soon as they hit the MLB level. Most players take time to develop. The young players on the O's are no exception, and many of them have grown into highly respected players already who figure to only get better.
Having experience in the highest level of the game helps a player relax on the field as well as spot their flaws and be able to correct them.
That experience will be vital to making the Orioles a winning team in 2013, and giving the Birds the best defense in baseball next season.