I wrote back in September that Brandon Hyde deserved recognition for a successful season in Baltimore. I stopped short of making a case for the Manager of the Year award, but I felt the skipper had earned some praise. The Orioles exceeded expectations in an abridged season, and Hyde played a large role in that.
Just one day after pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota, the annual “hope springs eternal” day for baseball fans, I find myself reflecting on the fact that I spent 700+ words hyping up the manager of a fourth place ball club. These are still tough times in Baltimore.
That being said, I stand by it.
Feel free to reminisce (I won’t link to an old story of mine twice in four paragraphs— I’m not that vain), but I liked the way Hyde handled the bullpen and José Iglesias’s injury. I felt he integrated the O’s young prospects well, and did a nice job keeping hot bats in the lineup. Essentially, he did everything he could to maximize the talent on the roster. That’s what good managers do.
Now if we look ahead to the coming season, I’m wondering what would mark another productive year for Hyde. It’s difficult to measure the performance of a manager when his team enters the year with a zero percent chance of making the— nope, not going there. But it is tough to grade a skipper during a rebuild.
There will be a day when the O’s manager can be judged on wins and losses, but we’re not there yet. Until then, the conversation must start with pitching. The Orioles’ pitchers may have reported yesterday, but there certainly were not five clear starters in the group. Hyde’s first task will be evaluating the veteran arms that Mike Elias secured on minor league deals and determining if any can still hack it at a big league level.
Starting rotations can be very fluid with rebuilding clubs (see Milone, Tommy, starting on Opening Day last season) and this year will be no different. Hyde will determine a five-man group, and he must put them in a position to be successful. He’ll toe the line of letting guys like Keegan Akin or Dean Kremer learn on the fly without leaving them in a game too long.
The same logic applies to the bullpen. Last year, Hyde’s ability to manage the ‘pen aided the Orioles in multiple ways. It helped the team win games, but it also led to maximizing a player’s value. The Orioles were able to gain legitimate prospects for Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro, and even picked up a pair of players for Milone. The Birds converting Felix Hernandez, Matt Harvey or Wade LeBlanc into a trade chip would represent a big win.
Hyde attempted to roll with Cole Sulser as his closer last season, but eventually moved on. The Orioles appear to have multiple late inning options between Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott, Paul Fry and Cesar Valdez. Baltimore will not enter camp with a definitive closer, but that might be a good thing. How the third-year skipper deals the cards could impact close games and player development.
Hyde will also be measured on the lineup card he fills out every game. Will Austin Hays or Cedric Mullins claim the starting center field gig? Will Rio Ruiz remain at the hot corner even if he struggles? How will Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco split time behind the dish? That’s up to Brandon Hyde.
I mentioned the way Hyde managed Iglesias’s nagging injuries last season. He utilized the DH spot to keep his number three hitter in the lineup (and yes, Hyde deserves credit for immediately sticking Iglesias in the three hole). While Trey Mancini appears set to be a day-one participant, do not be surprised if Hyde works in the occasional off day and a few extra DH starts as the righty readjusts to the daily grind.
Hyde made it clear last season he would fill out a lineup that gave the team the best chance to win. Unsurprisingly, that lineup rarely included Chris Davis. The manager does not have the ability to cut Davis, but he’s already made it clear that he will not play him every day. Do not expect that to change without the former slugger rediscovering his power.
Baltimore’s win percentage has improved in both of Hyde’s two seasons in Baltimore. While it is not unreasonable to hope for a third, it’s important to remember that last year’s hot start played a big factor in the O’s’ .417 win percentage. The Orioles are not expected to play .500 ball quite yet, but a 70 win season is not out of the question.
The last thing to point out would be the O’s improving mindset under Hyde. Buzzwords like culture, effort and winning-mentality get written off as a cliché, but that’s only if you take them for granted. It can be difficult to keep a young team engaged through a 162-game grind, and Hyde’s ability to do so should not be overlooked.
Are you satisfied with the job that Brandon Hyde has done so far, and are you looking for anything specific during his third season in Baltimore? Let us know below.