The Orioles went into the All-Star break at 36-52, a foreshadowing to a dismal season. Expectations were low for the second half and the O's were looking like triple digit losers for a while, but they managed to turn things around a bit in the second half, going 33-41 in the games after the break.
The year didn't turn out as anyone hoped, but the second half became a valuable time to evaluate talent for the future and figure out who can be used to make the Orioles relevant again in the AL East.
Here is a look, position-by-position, at how the Orioles did in the second half of 2011.
Key Contributors: Matt Wieters, Craig Tatum
Matt Wieters' strong first half earned him a trip to his first All-Star game. Unfortunately for opposing pitchers, Wieters had an even better second half.
After blasting just eight home runs in the first half, Wieters crushed 14 homers after the break. He also went from an OPS of .728 to .840.
The best part of Wieters' game is his spectacular defense. He made a strong case for the Gold Glove early in the season and managed to carry that through to the end.
Overall, Wieters' shook all of the bust claims to establish himself as one of the top 10 catchers in the majors. The 25-year-old is now looking like the superstar who was the No. 1 prospect just a couple years ago.
Key Contributors: Derrek Lee, Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds
The second half began with Derrek Lee at first base and he played his best ball of the season for the Orioles in the two weeks before the deadline to make him valuable for trade. He was dealt for minor league first baseman Aaron Baker at the end of July and Chris Davis came over from Texas to take over.
Chris Davis' time as the starting first baseman was mediocre and short-lived, as he got injured and Mark Reynolds moved over from third and stuck for good.
Reynolds' play at first was everything the Orioles could have asked for. His defense at first was terrific compared to the horrendous, error-riddled play at third. He also continued to put on a power show.
Thanks to Reynolds, the Orioles have a serviceable first baseman now and could make it next year and beyond without Prince Fielder. The only question is what will happen at the hot corner.
Key Contributors: Robert Andino, Ryan Adams
The first and second halves of the season show stark contrast. I would have never said the Orioles could get higher than a C- at the break, but Robert Andino has made me a believer.
I won't say that Andino is a starter because I don't want him starting at second base next year, but he has developed into a serviceable backup. Brian Roberts' lingering concussion issues crippled the position in the early goings, but Andino's flashy defense and clutch hitting made him a hero in Baltimore (and Tampa).
Andino's season and career highlights came in the final series this year against Boston. Andino's inside-the-park home run (first for any Oriole in Camden Yards) dropped the Red Sox into a tie for the Wild Card and his epic walk-off single to kill the Red Sox's season made up for his lackluster offense for most of the year.
Don't think that I'll skip mentioning Ryan Adams because he did well in his second stint in the majors this year. The legitimate playing time showed that Adams can definitely hit, but I'd like to see him play consistent defense.
Key Contributors: J.J. Hardy
J.J. Hardy has been just what the Orioles have been looking for since they gave away Miguel Tejada in 2007. Hardy's power and defense made him one of the most productive shortstops in the majors in 2011 and earned him a much deserved extension.
The Orioles totaled seven home runs between all of their shortstops in the last three years, but Hardy turned things around. His 30 home runs in 2011 were a career high, most among shortstops, and more than four times the production since Tejada.
J.J. Hardy has made me forget that Freddie Bynum ever existed and I think he deserves a Gold Glove.
Key Contributors: Mark Reynolds, Josh Bell, Robert Andino, Chris Davis
Considering the primary contributor at third was Josh Bell and his whopping .164 OPS, I would say that the Orioles failed at third base. Bell's tentative defense made me cringe.
When the Orioles finally switched to Chris Davis at third, it was better, but not by enough to make me believe that Davis is ready to stick around as a starter. I wouldn't be unhappy if Davis starts there next year because the Orioles should give him a shot, but he'll need to play better.
Key Contributors: Nolan Reimold, Matt Angle, Kyle Hudson
The Orioles weren't terrible in left field during the second half, but they weren't great either.
Nolan Reimold has struggled to return to the dominant hitter he was in his rookie season. He has the speed to be a terrific defender, but has never grown accustomed to playing defense in left. The patience and game plan in 2009 made him a force, but he seems confused at times and misses opportunities.
Matt Angle gave the Orioles strong defense and speed on the bases, but he has shown that he is nowhere near ready to hit in the majors.
Key Contributors: Adam Jones
Jones had a quiet breakout year for the Orioles as a leader both on and off the field. He made games fun to watch and has become the face of the young team.
Jones has begun to make more and more spectacular defensive plays and probably deserves a Gold Glove this year more than he did when he won in 2009.
The power displayed by Jones is starting to line up with his talent as he has finally surpassed the 20 homer plateau after hitting 19 the last two seasons.
Jones' OPSs in the first and second half were an identical .785, which is lower than it should be. Jones' impatience makes him a liability at times, but he is mostly sound as an offensive force.
Key Contributors: Nick Markakis
Markakis had a nice second half, but he has done little to stand out in the league.
Nick Markakis has all of the tools to be one of the league's top players. His patience and plate discipline allow him to do spectacular things, but he doesn't hit the ball out much and had a career low OPS in 2011.
Markakis is one of the premier defensive outfielders and the new rules to the Gold Glove make him almost a lock to win the first AL Gold Glove for right field. His cannon arm was on display a lot.
Overall, Markakis is making way too much money to just be good right now, so he is hurt in my grades.
Key Contributors: Vladimir Guerrero
It's a little difficult to give Vladimir Guerrero a C+ because he has been one of my favorite players to watch for over a decade, but he's clearly showing signs of old age.
Vlad hit .304 in the second half, which is nothing to scoff at, but he failed to drive in runs in the cleanup spot and just cost the Orioles a lot of money. His speed is entirely gone and he can't play defense, which made him more of a liability to carry on the team.
I love Guerrero and it made me happy to watch him earn the top spot in hits by a Dominican-born player in an Orioles uniform, but he really underperformed in 2011 and it cost the Orioles dearly.
Key Contributors: Jeremy Guthrie, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Alfredo Simon, Brian Matusz
It's hard to know where to begin with the Orioles starting pitching.
The starters seemed to completely collapse going into the All-Star break and then completely imploded until September rolled around.
The poor pitching starts with Zach Britton's first start after the All-Star break in which he recorded just one out while six earned runs (nine runs total) shot his ERA through the roof.
Brian Matusz can easily go down as the worst starter of the entire season for pitching to the worst ERA in history for a pitcher with more than 40 innings. The former No. 1 pick, who was coming off a year in which he finished sixth for AL Rookie of the Year, went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA to ruin his image on the club.
Jeremy Guthrie was good and finally got some run support to help his cause, but things were just bad on the mound for the O's. Jake Arrieta's injury proved to be a big test of the starting pitching depth that the Orioles failed miserably.
Key Contributors: Jim Johnson, Mike Gonzalez, Pedro Strop, Chris Jakubauskas, Jason Berken
The Orioles managed to not finish dead last in relief ERA, which is surprising considering their pitching.
Jason Berken and Brad Bergesen took giant leaps back and were just two of the frequently cycled players between Norfolk and Baltimore. Willie Eyre was alright, but had a lot of faults. Chris Jakubauskas had his moments but had some wild inconsistencies.
The bright spots in the bullpen began with Koji Uehara, whose Orioles second half lasted two weeks before he was shipped to Texas for a substantial haul. Jim Johnson was stellar in the set-up role and became one of the best, hardest-working relievers in the majors. Mike Gonzalez also pitched well in the second half and brought Pedro Strop to Baltimore when he was traded to Texas.
Pedro Strop emerged in September as one of the Orioles' best bullpen arms. He impressed Buck Showalter a lot with his powerful fastball and managed to hold opposing offenses to just one run in his 12.1 innings for the Orioles.
Key Contributors: Kevin Gregg, Jim Johnson
Had it not been for the wonderful September outings by Jim Johnson, I would have given this category a F in a heartbeat.
Kevin Gregg found surprising ways to stink up the joint and get in the way of the Orioles winning games. It seems hard for me to believe that Gregg only blew three saves in the second half considering how it felt like he was always melting down. Of the saves he did blow, he did it in spectacular fashion.
Jim Johnson took over in September and rocked the job with a perfect 7-for-7 in the final month. He earned national attention for shutting down the Red Sox and likely knocked Kevin Gregg out of the closer job for next year.