New Year’s Eve is here and we can officially put the worst season in Baltimore Orioles franchise history in the books
2018 didn’t exactly live up to expectations for Baltimore Orioles fans. The Orioles’ 47-115 record was easily the worst in franchise history and challenged for one of the worst ever in MLB. And worse, that 47-115 came while the Orioles were allegedly competing for a division title.
The Orioles signed Alex Cobb in late-March hoping that he’d help them compete in the AL East. Cobb was initially terrible, pitching to a 13.11 ERA in April. By the end of the first half, Cobb’s ERA sat at 6.41, he had a .310 batting average against, and his 62.6% strand rate was one of the worst in the majors.
Thankfully Cobb was able to turn it around in the second half, posting a 2.56 ERA in his final 59.2 innings but his season ended prematurely due to blisters on his pitching hand. How fitting.
Chris Davis had one of the worst hitting seasons on record, posting -3.1 fWAR with a slash line of .168/.243/.296 and a 36.8% strikeout rate. Dylan Bundy led the league with 41 homers allowed, and almost everyone on the roster played under their projections.
Manny Machado was the lone bright spot in Baltimore as he got out to arguably the best first half of his career. Through the All-Star break, Machado was hitting .315/.387/.575 with a 155 wRC+, all of which would’ve been career highs.
However, at the break, the Orioles sat at 28-69 and were 39.5 games behind the Red Sox in the East. The day after the all-star game, the Orioles traded their franchise cornerstone to the Dodgers, signaling the real beginning of the rebuild.
At the time, the trades felt underwhelming and looking back, some of them were. Last week at Birds Watcher, we ranked the Orioles’ 2018 trades. Here’s the link if you haven’t already read it.
Much of the leadership in the clubhouse was gone by August, and the Orioles fell further behind, eventually finishing 61 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
We expected it after the year the Orioles had, but once the season ended, Duquette and Buck Showalter were relieved of their duties. Buck was one of the most successful managers in franchise history, despite the fact that the 2018 season brought his winning percentage with the Orioles below .500.
But there were a couple bright spots toward the end of 2018.
Cedric Mullins played well in Baltimore and could be an answer for the Orioles in center field. DJ Stewart looked like he can be a major leaguer. Tanner Scott has a ridiculous slider and could potentially help lead the Orioles bullpen next year.
Ryan McKenna absolutely destroyed the Arizona Fall League, hitting .344/.474/.590 against advanced competition.
And the Orioles recognized the situation they’re in and have begun rebuilding the organization. The decision to hire GM Mike Elias was universally lauded across the baseball world, as was bringing in Sig Mejdal to spearhead a new analytics department in Baltimore. Hiring Brandon Hyde to be the new manager seems to have been a smart decision as well, though time will tell.
The trio plan to rebuild the organization from the ground up, building a better minor league system, and focusing on player development.
The Orioles have had a bottom-tier minor league system for what seems like forever but several prospects were impressive this year, including McKenna, DL Hall, Zac Lowther, Keegan Akin, and Ryan Mountcastle.
Ideally, under Elias’ watch the Orioles will finally be able to turn their prospects into stars, something that Gary Rajsich and Brian Graham were never able to do.
Overall, 2018 was about as bad as it gets as an Orioles fan, but 2019 seems to be shaping up to be a better year for us. The 2019 Orioles will still likely find trouble winning games, but it at least feels like the Orioles have a purpose.
They’re focused on building the talent in the organization, developing the players they already have, drafting smarter, and doing a better job acquiring talent in the free agent market and through trades.
It’s finally time to close the books on the 2018 season, and we couldn’t be more happy to do so. Here’s to hoping that the 2019 Orioles bring us more happiness than the 2018 squad did.