The Baltimore Orioles finished above fourth place just once between playoff appearances in 1997 and 2012. When they won the AL East in 2014 with 96 wins and advanced to the ALCS it looked like Dan Duquette was making good on his return to the majors. Then something happened.
The Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees all had difficult years yet it was not the Orioles, but rather the Toronto Blue Jays who capitalized and made a playoff run in 2015. Dropping to 81-81, Baltimore may have missed a golden opportunity.
The Orioles scored 713 runs last season, right in the middle of the top half of teams. With Chris Davis leading the way, they were third in baseball in home runs. On the other end, the O’s were dead last in stolen bases. And again, with Davis leading the way, the team was fifth in strikeouts. So there were things to like here, but not everything.
In his walk year, Chris Davis once more showed off his elite power: 47 homers while hitting .262/361./562. Two big years sandwiched around a down 2014 isn’t the best trend, but at least he could fix what went wrong. With a large contract in hand, Baltimore will have to hope he keeps it up.
Manny Machado had the type of year we’ve all been waiting for (forget that he was just 22) with 35 homers, 20 stolen bases and a .286/.359/.502 line. Like Trout, Harper, Betts and others, Machado is officially part of baseball’s new crop of rising stars.
Matt Wieters, once thought to be on the path to super-stardom himself, had another injury-shortened campaign. The catcher played just 75 games and hit .267/.319/.422 with eight homers. Returning to the Orioles in 2016, he’ll hope to to try again at free agency with a stronger season of play. In his absence, Caleb Joseph hit for some pop—11 homers—but very little else. His .234/.299/.394 performance at the plate was nothing remarkable.
Adam Jones hit 27 home runs to compliment batting .269/.308/.474 from a centerfielder. He’s a free swinger, but he does it well.
This is where the trouble really started. The Orioles allowed just a fraction more runs than average (4.28/4.25) and had a slightly below average ERA (4.05 vs. 3.95), while allowing 693 runs in a season when 688 was average. When pitchers are having unprecedented success, average doesn’t cut it.
Wei-Yin Chen has been somewhat underrated with Baltimore and 2015 was no exception. A 3.34 ERA (4.16 FIP) and more than three-and-a-half strikeouts for each walk were the highlights. Heading to the Marlins in free agency won’t help a rotation that needs it—he’s not dominant, but he’s good to have in a competitive rotation.
Ubaldo Jiménez finished strong with the Cleveland Indians in 2013 and parleyed that to a four-year, $50 million deal in Baltimore. In his first two seasons, Jiménez has put up a 4.39 ERA (4.28 FIP) and a K:BB of less than two to one.the pitcher who was a success story for the Rockies isn’t around anymore.
Chris Tillman took a step backwards after several good seasons with an ERA just barely under five (4.99, 4.45 FIP) while issuing walks at a higher rate (8.6 percent compared to 7.6 percent in 2014) and striking out the opposition less (16.2 percent down from 17.2 percent).
Kevin Gausman may still break out in his age 25 season, but between time in the minors and the bullpen, Baltimore got just 112 major league innings from what could and should be a part of their future.
Dylan Bundy hasn’t appeared in the majors since he burst onto the scene for a cup of coffee in 2012. The injured prospect missed all of 2013 and hasn’t thrown 65 total innings in two years since, including two innings in the 2015 Arizona Fall League where he was injured once more.
Was it a successful season?
The Red Sox and Yankees haven’t been powerhouses in the AL East the last few seasons—Baltimore capitalized in 2014, then Toronto did in 2015. But while the Blue Jays took a step forward from 2014 to 2015, the Orioles followed up with a disappointing 2015. The core of the lineup is good, the rotation is troublesome, and the rest of the division is improving. 2015 could have been the year the Orioles, like the Jays, went for it. They didn’t, and might have missed their best window.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs