The Baltimore Orioles featured a record-setting defense in 2013, including three Gold Glove Award winners.
One of the first things that draw us into the game of baseball as young fans are the moonshot home runs that seem to defy the laws of physics as they soar through the air and create a roar of excitement among fans as they share in the awe of the jaw-dropping feat they just witnessed. That wasn’t the case for this Baltimore Orioles fan.
Growing up, it was watching the smooth turn of a double play, Mike Bordick to Roberto Alomar Jr to Rafael Palmeiro in an effortless chain of events to record two outs in one play, that excited me the most. It was those early memories of Orioles baseball that led to hours and hours of practice taking groundballs in hopes I could replicate the highlight-reel defensive plays I admired.
The current version of the Orioles are far from being considered defensive juggernauts. They barely pass for a major league defense. It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, this same franchise featured a record-breaking defense and a trio of Gold Glove Award winners.
In fact, it was on this date back in 2013 when center fielder Adam Jones, third baseman Manny Machado, and shortstop J.J. Hardy all took home Gold Glove honors after a season that saw Baltimore commit just 54 errors across 162 games. It was an MLB record for the fewest numbers of errors in a single season.
Overall, the 2013 Baltimore Orioles recorded a dWAR of 3.8, good for fifth place in the majors. Machado’s 4.4 dWAR ranked second in the majors behind Andrelton Simmons and his 5.5 dWAR.
It would be Hardy’s second Gold Glove, part of a three-year stretch of Gold Glove honors and the beginning of an impressive five-year stretch that saw Hardy accumulate the fifth-highest number of Defensive Runs Saved among shortstops from 2013-2017.
Since that 2013, it’s been a bit of a downfall for the Orioles and their defense. By 2015, the Orioles owned a team dWAR of 0.3 (ranked 15th). That number has since dropped to -1.9 in 2016, -2.4 in 2017, and -7.8 in 2018 before improving to -3.8 in 2019.
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No Orioles found their name on the 2019 Gold Glove nominee list, meaning the drought of Gold Glove winners since 2015 continues. When Hanser Alberto and his 0.8 dWAR, Rio Ruiz (0.5), and Pedro Severino (0.3) were the only regulars with a positive dWAR on a team that committed 108 errors (8th most in baseball), it’s easy to understand why.
As we recently discussed here at Birds Watcher, Orioles fans should see improvements on the defensive side of things in 2020, especially in the outfield, but don’t expect to see any Gold Glove quality defense
For now, all we can do is sit back and daydream about the better times, when anything hit to the left side of the infield would likely find the glove of a slick-fielding Manny Machado or end in a mechanically sound and smooth catch and throw from J.J. Hardy and Orioles pitchers felt confident in the defense waiting behind them.
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