Who Surprised and Who Disappointed for Baltimore O's in 2013
The Baltimore Orioles are making their final playoff push, and with just a week-and-a-half left in the regular season, it's now or never for the Birds.
The O's are only one game out in the wild-card race thanks to some outstanding performances by guys on their team. There have been plenty of bright spots on their roster, giving the team a boost and helping to propel themselves into the playoff race.
Likewise, there have also been some players who have had extremely disappointing seasons—seasons which have hindered the O's playoff run at times.
Every team experiences both ends of it each season. But when it comes to a team in a playoff race, it's all magnified and scrutinized, be it fairly or unfairly.
Let's take a look at the top most surprising and disappointing individual campaigns for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.
Surprising: Chris Davis, First Baseman
You knew this was coming, so I'm just going to knock it out first.
We all knew he was good. We all knew the power potential was there. But Chris Davis has had a season of historical measure.
He had a good season last year, leading the O's in both home runs (33) and RBI (85), both career highs at the time, while batting .270 with a .326 OBP. With those numbers, Davis had set himself up for more growth this season.
And boy did he grow. Davis is currently the most dangerous power hitter in the game, and with his 51st homer of the season that came on Tuesday night at Fenway park, Davis set a new Orioles franchise record for home runs in a single season. His 134 RBI are tied for the MLB lead with the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, and his .292 batting average and .376 OBP would be career highs. All of this while playing some top defense at first base.
Yes, we all knew Davis had the ability. But he's certainly come into his own, exceeding everyone's expectations.
He'd have my vote for MVP, but that's a subject for a later time.
Disappointing: Jason Hammel, Starting Pitcher
Last season, Jason Hammel was the Orioles' ace, being a steady force atop the rotation and pitching two great games in the ALDS opposite of New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia.
This season, Hammel has been anything but reliable, with a 7-8 record, a 5.12 ERA and a stint on the DL that may have been more of a roster move to make room for his replacement Bud Norris than to actually deal with an injury.
Hammel's ERA was at 3.43 at the end of last season, and that's the pitcher the O's were hoping they'd have at the front of their rotation this season, but it seems as though his 2012 campaign was just a fluke. Hammel's career ERA sits at 4.82, and outside of 2012, he's never had a season in which he finished with an ERA below 4.33.
Maybe the Orioles and their fans should have expected this from Hammel, and we're the fools for thinking he'd pitch like he did last year.
Regardless, his 2013 season is arguably the most disappointing of any Orioles player.
Surprising: Manny Machado, Third Baseman
Manny Machado has fallen off some since the All-Star break, when he received his first All-Star selection, but the young kid has still had quite the season.
His .286 batting average, 14 homers and 71 RBI are nice numbers in the two-hole in the Orioles' lineup, but what really makes them stand out is the 185 hits and 51 doubles, both league-leading numbers. His OBP (.317) could use some work, but that will come with age and experience as Machado is striking out a bit too much (107 K's) and walking too little (27 BB). He will improve there as he grows as a hitter.
On top of that, Machado has been playing third base so well, it will be robbery should he not win the Gold Glove at season's end.
Machado is starting his career out nicely and should only get better. Birdland, get ready to watch a special player for years to come.
Disappointing: Jim Johnson, Closer
Jim Johnson 2012: 2-1, 2.49 ERA, league-leading 51 saves in 54 chances.
Jim Johnson 2013: 3-8, 2.98 ERA, league-leading 47 saves in 56 chances.
While his season has had many bright spots, Johnson has been hard to figure out this season. He started the year out fine, then he had a string of four consecutive blown saves in May. Since then, O's fans have been wondering "Which Jim Johnson will we get tonight?" every time he gets the call, as he'll either be lights-out or have a meltdown.
The fact that Johnson leads the league in saves is good, of course. But when you're given the most save opportunities of anyone in the league, you're bound to get the job done more often than not. The fact that J.J. has blown nine saves this season is quite upsetting, and on top of that, he's lost eight games for the club.
The O's could be sitting atop the wild-card standings with a three-game lead had Johnson converted even just five of those nine blown saves, so it's safe to say that if the O's don't make the playoffs, Johnson will be a main target for fan scrutiny.
Surprising: Danny Valencia, DH
For most of the year, Danny Valencia was bouncing between the big leagues and AAA Norfolk, providing a solid bat against left-handed pitchers at the DH spot in the lineup.
However, he's been so hot lately that manager Buck Showalter has decided to just leave him in against righties as well.
Valencia has destroyed left-handers this season, hitting them to a tune of .378 with an OBP of .400, 13 doubles, four homers and 11 RBI.
Against righties, though, Valencia is batting .209 with no doubles, four homers and 10 RBI, while getting on base at a .277 clip. He has gotten only 43 at-bats against righties, though, compared to 82 against lefties.
Overall, Valencia is hitting .320 with a .356 OBP, numbers any player not named Miguel Cabrera would take. The O's would be smart to sign Valencia for another year or two and keep him around to play against the tough lefties in the AL East, such as Sabathia, David Price and Jon Lester.
Disappointed: Matt Wieters, Catcher
Matt Wieters was once thought to be the second coming of Joe Mauer, only a switch-hitting version.
Five years into his career, and it seems safe to say that isn't going to be the case.
While Wieters is no slouch with the bat—he's hit more than 20 home runs each of the last three seasons, including 2013—he doesn't hit for average, and he seems to only be declining in that regard. He's gone from a .262 average in 2011, to a .249 average in 2012, to a current .228 this season.
And while the RBI are there (68, 83, 73 each of the last three seasons), a higher average from him would be great for the Orioles.
What's most upsetting in 2013 is his OBP: a pathetic .283, dropping from .329 a year ago.
Wieters is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball with two consecutive Gold Gloves to his name, and when it comes to the catcher's position, anything the team gets from their catcher's bat is extra, but it still would be nice for the O's to get a little more production from him in the average/OBP department.
Wieters isn't a bad player by any means. His offense has just been disappointing in 2013.