12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
Showalter proved turning point in O's season
New skipper brought immediate success to a struggling club
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
But while the first half of the season was marred by injury, inconsistency and underperformance, the tide turned with the Aug. 2 announcement of Trembley's permanent replacement, Buck Showalter. Known for his attention to detail and no-nonsense approach, Showalter, who took over for interim manager Juan Samuel, made it clear upon arriving that no one's spot was secure.
Buoyed by the second-half additions of a healthy Brian Roberts, Felix Pie, Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez, the Orioles posted their first winning August in 13 seasons. The starting rotation of Jeremy Guthrie, Kevin Millwood, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta all received a shot in the arm, so to speak, as quality starts became more the trend than anomalies.
As Showalter frequently pointed out, "no one had all their bullets" in the season's dwindling days, but the Orioles finally started to play like the team that multiple national outlets predicted in the spring would be a plucky club. The O's snapped an 0-12 losing streak against the Blue Jays with a series sweep at Camden Yards, and grabbed September series wins at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Simply put, Baltimore saved its best baseball for the final two months of the season, putting a respectable finish on an otherwise disappointing year that as late as July was on pace to be the worst in franchise history.
As the O's prepare to move forward in '11, let's look back at some of the top storylines from an up-and-down season:
5. Luke Scott sheds his streaky label and earns Most Valuable Oriole
The O's designated hitter emerged as a key part of the team's turnaround, collecting career highs in home runs and proving he can hold his own against left-handed pitching, with a solid 4 1/2-month stretch. Scott hit .314 with nine homers and 20 RBIs in August, and his teammates called his powerful blasts "happy homers," in reference to Scott's giddy celebrations.
4. Brian Roberts' health concerns
Leadoff man Roberts missed most of Spring Training with a herniated disc in his lower back and reinjured it during the O's home opener. A key cog for the offense, Roberts missed three-quarters of the season. It was a hole the Orioles were never quite able to fill, and it showed.
3. The O's missing offense
Roberts' absence likely played a part, but the Orioles' bats were atrocious for much of the season, dwelling at the bottom of the Majors in several offensive categories. Nolan Reimold spent most of the year at Triple-A, while Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters struggled to pick up the slack in a lineup devoid of a true power hitter. Gambling on Garrett Atkins, who was released due to poor performance, certainly didn't help.
2. Pitching, pitching, pitching
After plenty of speed bumps along the way, the O's starting staff -- particularly Bergesen, Matusz and Arrieta -- flourished in the final months of the season. Among the season's memorable outings were Bergesen's two complete games vs. Cleveland and Toronto and Matusz's seven scoreless innings against the Rays, giving hope for the future.
1. The Buck Effect
Showalter, an ESPN analyst after stints as manager in Texas, Arizona and New York, brought an immediate air of accountability to a beleaguered club, winning his debut and making it clear out of the gate that he was also auditioning and evaluating players for next season. Showalter, who posted a 34-23 record, quickly became the most popular member of the organization, the object of fan giveaways and the face of a franchise hoping to turn it all around.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.