The book has now been closed on the 2016 Orioles’ regular season. So much of the season felt like it flew by and in other ways seemed like it dragged on. In the end, the team finished 89-73 a result that, according to the experts, seemed impossible back in March. The Orioles were roundly picked to finish dead last, as they have been the past four years.
This year’s trip to the Wild Card game tomorrow night will be the third post season trip for the Orioles in five years. Something that 2011 me would have never believed. The Orioles also had their fifth consecutive non-losing season, something I like to remind myself of as much as possible. The result ended up okay, but the ride was bumpy.
The Orioles started off with a seven game winning streak. They finished April with a 14-9 record. A sputtering 14-13 May led right into June. The month of June will not be forgotten any time soon. The Orioles mashed a record 56 home runs and went 19-9. On June 29th the Orioles had a 5.5 game lead in the AL East and seemed poised to capture a division crown once again.
However, the Orioles experienced the effects of gravity in a very real way and came crashing down after the All Star break. Almost every hitter in the lineup had a worse second half of the season which caused the offense, once the strength, to be horribly exposed. The Orioles went a combined 25-30 in July and August. The last day they were in first place was August 15th.
Luckily, with the season on the line, the Orioles turned it around in September. The leading cause of which was the starting rotation which sprung back to life the second half and came together in September. Exemplified first and foremost by the resurgence of Ubaldo Jimenez who reentered the rotation on July 28th coming in for an injured Chris Tillman.
Jimenez pitched to a 2.82 ERA over 60.2 innings in 8 starts. The Orioles finished September/October with a 17-12 record. They will play in Toronto tomorrow night to see if they can keep the season alive a little bit longer.
Going 89-73 is an accomplishment for a team that no one thought would go anywhere. Lots of fans would have taken that at the beginning of the season. The hot month of June got some hopes up, but when the cards were on the table and the time was running out the Orioles played some of their best baseball in the last month of the season.
One of my favorite things to do at the end of the season is to go back and look at some of the people that actually received playing time. Did you know that Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright combined for 168.2 innings and 25 starts? The Orioles somehow managed to survive that. Do you remember Logan Ondrusek? Or how about Brian Matusz’s 12.00 ERA in six innings pitched for the Orioles?
On the position player side not as much fun is to be had. Nolan Reimold did receive 227 plate appearances somehow. Also, as you probably know by now, Caleb Joseph managed to finish the season without a single RBI. That’s some bad hitting and horrible luck.
The Orioles offense finished 1st in home runs with 253 total. They finished tied for first in Isolated Power, eighth in wRC+, and ninth in wOBA. Manny Machado comes in as the most valuable position player with a 6.4 fWAR tied for 7th in baseball. Machado finished the year as the Most Valuable Oriole hitting .294/.344/.535 with 37 home runs, 96 RBI, and a 129 wRC+ all while playing gold glove third base.
The pitching staff as a whole finished with a 4.23 ERA good for 19th in baseball. The starters were 24th in baseball with a 4.74 ERA. The bullpen finished 3rd overall and 1st in the American league with a 3.41 ERA.
Interestingly, in the second half the starting rotation sported the 15th best ERA in baseball with a 4.27 after the All Star break. And in September, when time was running out, the starting rotation posted a 3.86 ERA good for 11th in the league and 5th in the American league.
The pitching staff was led by Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton. Britton finished the year with zero blown saves in 48 opportunities and a 0.55 ERA. The Orioles could not afford even a small margin of error this season and Britton gave them perfection.
Gausman struggled early on, but came on in the second half to finish the year with a 3.66 ERA. He learned to limit the long ball and to get right handed hitters out as the season went along. Gausman and Britton combined for nine innings yesterday giving up only two runs to ensure the Orioles would have a spot in the playoffs.
The regular season is over, but the Orioles played well enough to get to play some more. The 2016 regular season had a lot of ups and down. Times when I was sure they were going to win the AL East and times I was sure they were not even going to see the playoffs. Tomorrow night the post season begins and the Orioles are once again long shots. Join us here to revel in it.