clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How did we get here? Orioles infield 2010-2014

How did we go from the August 2010 laughing stock of the American League to the 2014 American League Championship Series? A look at the roster evolution of the Orioles infield under Buck Showalter.

Brian Roberts, mainstay of some pretty awful Orioles teams.
Brian Roberts, mainstay of some pretty awful Orioles teams.

As we live and die with every pitch, celebrate every win, and jump around in the stands (or our living rooms or favorite watering holes) after every playoff win, it gets harder and harder to see August 2010 in the rear-view mirror. Buck Showalter joined the club as manager on August 3, 2010, and Dan Duquette joined the Orioles in November 2011. While Buck had a head start of over a year, there's no doubt that Honey Badger GM has been the perfect partner in Buck's reclamation project.

So just how much has changed since 2010 in the roster construction? How did we get to this particular collection of players that has the O's just four wins from a World Series appearance? Let's take a look at just how we got to the current starting roster of the Orioles by tracing its roots in that 2010 roster that Buck inherited. We'll start with the infield.



We'll start at the one position that's been one of the most stable - catcher. Matt Wieters was the starter when Buck joined the club in August 2010, and he was the starter until elbow surgery ended his 2014 season in May.

Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger were rotated as his replacements until Nick Hundley was acquired from the Padres on May 24, 2014 for Troy Patton. Clevenger spent most of the rest of the season in Norfolk in AAA, while Joseph took over the primary catching duties, except for Chris Tillman starts. As Joseph's bat started to cool off in late August, Hundley saw more and more time as starter and caught two of the three ALDS games against Detroit. It's a shame Wieters lost most of a season that was off to his best start at the plate in his career, but Joseph and Hundley has provided almost adequate service in the batter's box, while Joseph has thrown out his fair share of would-be base stealers. This might be the only case where the October 2014 version of the Orioles is weaker than the August 2010 version.


HWGH-First Base

Ty Wigginton was once an All-Star. In fact, that year was 2010. And while he made that All-Star selection based on his play mostly at second base to start the season, by the time August 2010 rolled around, he was entrenched as the Orioles first baseman. He picked a bad time to go cold at the plate, though, as Ty only batted .238 once Buck took over. That wasn't going to cut it.

Enter Derrek Lee in 2011, who had been a two-time All Star in his years in Chicago. He was one of two Andy MacPhail free agent signings to try and kick start the 2011 campaign, along with Vlad Guerrero. Neither worked out.  Lee was traded to Pittsburgh before the year was out.

So in 2012, the Orioles tried Mark Reynolds. The Magic Toe became part meme / part joke / part truth, as Mark's enthusiastic approach to defense at 1B led to some stretches that were both amusing and oddly effective. His batting average was not good, but his OPS+ was slightly above average and the man could take a walk when he wasn't hitting homers. This became a common trait among first basemen for the O's for the foreseeable future.

In 2013, the O's turned to former Texas Rangers farmhand Chris Davis, who had made a splash in 2012 by serving as the winning pitcher in a game in which he'd started in the lineup and went 0-for-8 with 5 strikeouts. In 2013, no one was remembering Chris Davis the pitcher, but Chris Davis, the American League home run leader. He set a career mark with 53 home runs, finished 3rd in A.L. MVP voting and was intentionally walked an incredible 12 times.

Davis started the year in 2014 solidly ensconced as the team's starting first baseman. But the stroke of 2013 didn't quite return. He hit homers - 26 - but a torso injury and his subsequent Adderall suspension took away a chance at returning to the lofty home run plateau he had reached the previous year. Problem was, he didn't hit much at all in 2014, with his batting average (I know, I know) hovering and even dipping below .200 for most of the summer.

His 25 game suspension for testing positive for Adderall means he won't be on the ALCS roster, so Steve Pearce will continue as his replacement. Pearce has been an amazing story in his own right, returning from being DFA'd by the Orioles earlier in this season to post career highs in home runs, game played, on-base percentage, and slugging. If Davis returns to the World Series roster should the O's advance, it will be as the third baseman, not the first baseman.


HWGH-Second Base

Oh, the tale of woe that is Brian Roberts. Now, don't weep too deeply for a man who earned more than $64 million playing baseball. But poor Brian never got to play in a single Orioles playoff game. While Roberts did start at second base for Buck's first game and win in Baltimore, injuries claimed most of his 2011 and 2012 campaigns (including a self-induced concussion from slamming his bat into his own batting helmet), and he and the Orioles parted ways after the 2013 playoff-less season.

Robert Andino was the hero of Game 162 in 2011, and with Roberts playing just 17 games in 2012, it was left to Andino to be J.J. Hardy's double play partner. While his defense was just fine, he was horrid at the plate. His 2012 slash line was just .211/.283/.305/.588. He wasn't going to be the answer.

Roberts recovered enough to start the 2013 campaign. And promptly got hurt the first week of the season, and didn't reappear until June 30. He ended the year batting under .250 with diminished range at 2B and a weakening arm, and the decision was made to part ways.

Enter Jonathan Schoop in Spring Training of 2014. He wasn't promised the job - in fact, the O's seemingly had no plans to bring him to Baltimore to start the season. But he made the club, and after initially starting the year at third base to cover for an injured Manny Machado, he took over at second base and hasn't look back. The defense has gotten better (especially the footwork), the arm is a cannon, but the bat need helps. Right now, Schoop is starting due to his defense. Here's hoping for a few more timely hits as well in October.


HWGH-Short Stop

Cesar Izturis was the Orioles short stop just 49 months ago. Let that sink in. A mere four years has passed since J.J. Hardy was acquired in the winter of 2010 for two guys you don't remember. Cesar Izturis has an OPS+ of 51 that year. That's why he was gone in 2011.

Hardy's years with the O's haven't been as productive as we may have hoped - he's broken a 100 OPS+ just once, in 2011 - but his steady defense and veteran presence in an ever-changing infield has been needed.


HWGH-Third Base

Miguel Tejada played for Buck Showalter. Bet you forgot that, didn't you? It's OK if you did - his performance was rather forgettable. It's not that Miggi played badly. He just didn't play well. And the former All-Star wasn't going to fit into the plans of a team trying to get younger, hungrier and leaner going forward. And thus Miggi's second tour of duty with the O's came to an end. (EDIT: Let's just forget this paragraph ever existed. As PaulFolk pointed out in the comments, Miggi was traded the week before Buck took over as field manager. Their paths missed crossing by mere days.)

2011 saw Mark Reynolds attempt to play third base. It didn't look pretty. Mark still took his fair share or walks and hit some homers, but that glove, eesh. No, that's not going to work.

And thus Wilson Betemit was acquired to start the year at third base in 2012. And he made us yearn for the days of Mark Reynolds at 3B. So in August, with the season in the balance and the situation at third base quickly reaching an untenable state, Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter and the Orioles made a bet that would pay off in ways they could never imagine. They brought up a 20-year-old Double-A short stop named Manny Machado to play third base for the first time in his life. I think you know how that turned out.

After 2012, the Orioles felt like the narrator in Fight Club - "It's just, when you have Manny Machado, you tell yourself, that's it. That's the last third baseman I'm gonna need. Whatever else happens, I've got that third base problem handled." Manny earned a Gold Glove and a Platinum Glove for his work in a season that unfortunately ended early. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tampa Bay in September. It would not be his last knee injury to end a season.

Manny got his left knee repaired, and while he missed about a month to begin the season, he started finding his stride in the field and at the plate around the All-Star Break. From July 7 until his second knee injury on August 11, Manny slashed .350/.387/.553/.941. And then, poof, in one ill-fated swing of the bat, and a right knee injury that mirrored the one to his left knee just a year before, he was done for another season.

Chris Davis isn't the smoothest fielder, but he was probably the best option for the Orioles to cover for Manny's absence. And while Davis had his own issues at the plate, his walk rate and home runs were still showing up at a decent clip. Then, poof, he's suspended for Adderall usage, and he's gone.

And so Ryan Flaherty slid over to third base. The former Rule 5 draftee has never quite swung the bats the O's hoped for when the took a chance on keeping him on the active roster for all of 2012, but he can catch and throw. And right now, that's about all the O's need in a third baseman. It was rather fitting he started the double play that ended the ALDS.

Next up, we'll look at by far the most stable group of Orioles position players - the outfield.