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Brandon Hyde would make history with AL Manager of Year win

Playoffs or not, Hyder has done more than enough with the 2022 Orioles to merit the post-season hardware.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When Brandon Hyde wins the 2022 AL Manager of the Year, he’ll be making history. I say “when” and not “if” because any other manager winning the award would be an absolute robbery. Don’t just take my word for it. Dan Connolly of The Athletic thinks so too. Of course, the Orioles players are backing their manager as well.

Now to the history part: since the award was introduced in 1983, no manager finishing in fourth place has ever won Manager of the Year. There have been seven winners from second-place teams, even two managers from third-place teams. Never a fourth-place team, though. And we wish the Orioles’ playoff hopes were as unkillable as a horror movie villain, it seems almost guaranteed that the O’s end the season fourth in the AL East.

So what is it exactly about what Brandon Hyde has done for this O’s team to merit such an unprecedented honor? The improvement in win total is hard to ignore. The Orioles are already +24 wins from their 2021 win total. With 18 games remaining, Baltimore is on pace to push that number all the way up to +33.

For context: of all the AL Manager of the Year winners over the last decade, only Paul Molitor in 2017 (+26) and Rocco Baldelli in 2019 (+25) had win improvements better than what Hyde and his staff have already accomplished this season. Hyde even has a reasonable chance to eclipse the +34 mark set by Tony Peña for the Royals in 2003—with Peña being one of the two managers to win the award with a third place team.

However, the win-loss record is far from the only place that Hyder has made his imprint on this team. The O’s skipper has become much more aggressive in challenging plays this year. After a previous high of 41 challenges in his maiden season with the O’s, Hyde is already up to 60 challenges in 2022 (and at a career-high 53.8% success rate). Hyde has also spearheaded a much more aggressive Orioles attack on the basepaths. After being a below-average team in terms of stolen base attempts the last two seasons, the Orioles are now one of the more aggressive baserunning teams in baseball.

This aggressiveness doesn’t just show up in the challenges and stolen base numbers but in the entire approach of this team. Pitchers challenging opposing hitters more, Orioles batters being ready to attack any pitch and any situation. Hyde has instilled a sense of aggressiveness and a “don’t back down” mentality in this team. It is that mentality that has become an undeniable key in the evolution of this team in 2022.

There also is a lot to be said about how Hyde has deployed the group of rookies that have been an integral part of this roster. Some might say that having rookies with the exceptional talents of an Adley Rutschman or a Felix Bautista makes it easy on the manager. Some might argue that these players would perform no matter who was in the manager’s seat.

That argument, though, belittles the importance of guiding the players through the transitions they’ve undergone throughout this year. Rutschman came up, struggled at first, and was a fixture in the bottom half of the lineup. Hyde gave him the patience and vote of confidence that was a key part of Adley transforming into the hitter that is now firmly entrenched in the No.2 spot and the unquestioned best player on the O’s.

Then there’s the even more impressive transition we’ve seen from Bautista. Starting the year as seemingly just another arm in the bullpen, the mountainous right-hander has evolved from an imposing setup man to his final form as a uniquely intimidating closer. The way Hyde and his pitching coaches have handled the bullpen, in particular, has shown a well-balanced commitment to trying to win now without over-taxing players important to the future. Bautista is the best example of this, and the brightest-shining jewel in a bullpen that is this coaching staff’s crowning achievement.

While Rutschman and Bautista are the biggest rookie standouts, Hyder and crew have also overseen positive development from the likes of Terrin Vavra, Kyle Bradish and—more recently—GUNNAR HENDERSON. Each of these rookies has contributed positive WAR in their limited times in the big leagues while showing plenty of promise for the future. With Vavra and HENDERSON, Hyde has deftly shuffled them around the defensive lineup in order to ensure they have enough at-bats to continue their development. With Bradish, the skipper and pitching coaches turned around a pitcher who was throwing batting practice early in the season into someone who now has a future in this rotation.

Frank Robinson won manager of the year for the “Why Not” O’s in 1989. It’s only fitting then that Hyde—with the spiritual successor of that ‘89 team—is now poised to make his own mark in the history books. No, he’s not going to reach the 96 wins that previous winners of the award averaged. And no, being the first manager to win the award on a fourth-place team wouldn’t exactly be the most illustrious of firsts.

In a way, though, all of that speaks to the very nature of who this Orioles team is. They are worthy of celebration because of the outstanding way they continually surprised all of Birdland and the greater baseball-watching public. This season won’t end with the Orioles' name etched on a trophy. And yet, this team has successfully transformed from the constant victims of a chaotic organization to the ones inflicting chaos upon other teams. For that, Hyder more than deserves to see his name etched on the Manager of the Year award.