93-69, 2nd in the AL Central, Wild Card #2
Lost in the ALDS to the Yankees
Here’s the thing about the Orioles, they were not supposed to win this many games. If you asked 100 baseball experts entering the 2012 season to rank the 14 AL clubs by how many wins they would achieve during the season, I can’t imagine more than five would have them any better than 10th. But, the funny thing about baseball is that the Orioles won the fourth most games in the AL in 2012. Fourth!
Lots of mean, rational people tried to rain on their parade the whole time. I am among the guilty in this regard. You see, the Orioles were winning in magical ways. They had a ridiculously good record in one run games and extra inning games and they didn’t score more runs than they allowed until like August. They were, by every measure, over performing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love over performing. It’s exciting and it’s fun. But over performing rarely lasts and often the other shoe drops. The Pirates may have something to add to this discussion if you are interested. But the beautiful thing about the 2012 Orioles is that they never stopped over performing. They made the playoffs even though they weren’t playing the best. The lucked themselves in. I don’t say that derisively, I say that as a matter of fact. Normally, baseball teams who play like the Orioles did in 2012 don’t sustain that performance. They did. It was fun.
The offense was led by Adam Jones (4.6 WAR) and Matt Wieters (4.1) and supported by J.J. Hardy (2.8) and Chris Davis (2.1). They had help from a lot of platoons and part time players, but the only players who sustained starter level production are the four listed above.
The starting pitching wasn’t impressive, but it was okay. Jason Hammel (2.9 in 20 starts) set the pace and Wei-Yin Chen (2.2) held his own. No other pitcher made more than 20 starts and no starter made it above 1.6 WAR. That’s not usually how you draw it up.
But, then there was the bullpen. Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, and Pedro Strop anchored an excellent bullpen, and a bullpen that was well-used by their manager. These gentleman are the reason the Orioles held so many close leads.
So it was a lucky year for the Orioles, but that doesn’t make it less than great. They were a contender wire to wire and made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They won the inaugural AL Wild Card game and pushed the Yankees to the brink in the ALCS. All in all, it was a brilliantly successful season for a club that had no business being brilliantly successful.
The 2013 version of the team is due for regression mostly because lighting rarely strikes twice, which is what makes lighting so exciting and powerful. Also, they didn’t take steps to upgrade the roster in any meaningful way. With some excellent prospects coming and a respectable core, the Orioles are nobody’s punching bag anymore. But they also aren’t the big man on campus, either.
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection: 85-77