It was a 2012 campaign that truly defied the statistical laws of baseball for legendary manager Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. A year that can’t be explained with traditional baseball logic ultimately culminated with the franchise’s first trip to October since the Cal Ripken era.
How a team with only one pitcher recording more than eight wins, no hitter hitting above .290, and a defense ranked in the bottom-half of the league could finish 24 games above .500 remains a mystery. Call it what you want, Buck had the baseball gods behind him in 2012.
Much of the team’s success was found in a bullpen staffed with underperforming starting pitchers. Guys like Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter, who all spent time in the minors after struggling early in the year, were paramount for the AL’s top bullpen down the stretch. Combat that with the league’s second highest home run total and the Orioles found their recipe for recording an all-time MLB best 29-9 record in one-run games.
Magical is the only word that could rightfully describe the year for the Orioles and their fans. There were numerous times throughout the year that it appeared the team would return to the Orioles of old, but even with injuries that ended the season of four starting position players, the scrappy ball club refused to ever go away.
Outfielder Nolan Reimold (neck), veteran second baseman Brian Roberts (hernia), and All-Star right fielder Nick Markakis (wrist) all saw their seasons end with injuries.
The year effectively changed on August 9 when Buck rolled the dice and brought 20-year old rookie Manny Machado up from AA Bowie. And boy did the gamble pay off. The future shortstop had only played third base twice in his entire career, but with Baltimore third basemen leading baseball in errors at the position he was immediately placed their upon arriving at the big stage.
Baltimore was locked in a three-way tie for the AL Wild Card spot at the time of Manny’s arrival. The defense experienced an immediate upgrade, as the Orioles became the number one fielding team in MLB with Machado at the helm at third base. It’s uncommon for a rookie to hold so much responsibility, but the case could be that Manny Machado was the reason Baltimore made the postseason.
Now, looking ahead to 2013, the question is whether the O’s can build on last year’s success. The club’s main offseason goal was to keep the main pieces of the team together. Early rumors suggested Baltimore would take a look at bringing in top free agent Josh Hamilton to play left field, but after Hamilton signed with the Angels, the focus shifted to re-signing their own players.
All-Stars Adam Jones and Matt Wieters signed long-term deals that should keep the two in Baltimore for years to come. Nate McLouth, who came in to Baltimore in August and was vital as a leadoff hitter, signed a one-year deal that will keep him in town for 2013.
Starting pitching will be the key for Buck and company this year. Jason Hammel showed glimpses at times of developing into an ace, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for close to two months. Baltimore had 12 different pitchers start games in 2012, so developing a consistent rotation will be crucial with an AL East division that will be loaded with offensive firepower.
Matt Lawrence is a sophomore at Penn State University and a writing intern for Whiztix.com. Whiztix.com provides fans with the easiest way of comparing ticket prices on the web. Tickets for sporting events, concerts, and Broadway musicals can all be found Whiztix.com.