TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 04: Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Manny Machado #13 after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

End of season post-mortem: 2016 Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles were a bit of a surprise in 2016, contending all season and actually holding first place in the AL East as late as Aug. 12. But they began to tire down the stretch, and didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the final day of the regular season.

Their playoff run lasted exactly one game, as Buck Showalter’s typically strong bullpen management blew up in his face in the AL Wild Card Game against the Blue Jays.

Preseason Prediction: This is a team that spent hundreds of millions just to bring back Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Darren O’Day. They didn’t get a whole lot better. They lost Wei-Yin Chen and essentially replaced him with Yovani Gallardo. That’s a downgrade. The outfield looks bad after Adam Jones. Pedro Alvarez might help to boost production from the DH spot – which isn’t saying much since they were the third worst last year. I don’t think it matters how many wins they end up with, I just don’t see them doing enough to earn a playoff spot. (Derek Harvey, March 16)

What Went Right: Manny Machado had another MVP caliber year, hitting .294/.343/.533 with a career-high 37 homers and his typically strong defense at third base (and shortstop when J.J. Hardy was injured). Mark Trumbo launched 47 homers in his first (and perhaps only) year in Baltimore, surpassing his previous career-high of 34. After being plucked off the scrap heap, Pedro Alvarez hit 22 homers in 109 games. Jonathan Schoop continued his progression as a player, homering 25 times and playing in all 162 games. After getting off a rough start, Korean signee Hyun Soo Kim slashed .302/.382/.420 in 95 games.

Kevin Gausman finally put it all together, leading the Orioles with 30 starts, 179 2/3 innings, 174 strikeouts, and a 3.61 ERA (which was best among all starting pitchers).  Chris Tillman was a solid enough No. 2 to Gausman, pitching to a 3.77 ERA over 30 starts. Baltimore’s bullpen was ferocious, led by closer Zach Britton, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities and pitched to a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings. Brad Brach and Mychal Givens were also fantastic, striking out more than a batter per innings and each notching at least 1.2 fWAR on the year.

What Went Wrong: The rest of the team’s rotation was varying degrees of bad. Ubaldo Jimenez had a 5.44 ERA in 142 1/3 innings. Yovani Gallardo made 23 starts and had a 5.42 ERA. Wade Miley came over at the trade deadline and pitched to a 6.17 ERA over 111 starts. Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright each spent time in both the bullpen and the rotation, posting ERAs over 5.00.

Offensively, Chris Davis homered 38 times and hit .221/.332/.459, but that’s not what the Orioles expected in year one of his new seven-year, $161 million deal. Adam Jones also struggled, homering 29 times and hitting just .265/.310/.436. Matt Wieters put together a disappointing season, slashing .243/.302/.409 with 17 homers. Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Nolan Reimold, and Joey Rickard combined for over 800 plate appearances of below replacement level baseball.

Most Surprising Player: How about Dylan Bundy? The former elite pitching prospect made his major league debut in 2012, recording five outs over two games. He missed all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, and threw just 41 1/3 innings in 2014 and 24 innings in 2015.

This season, Bundy spent the entire year in the majors, splitting the year between the rotation and the bullpen. His 4.02 ERA overall wasn’t too inspiring, and the 104 strikeouts, 42 walks, and 18 homers he allowed in 109 2/3 innings may not inspire a ton of confidence going forward. But the fact that he was even able to spend the whole year in the majors is a step forward for his career.

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 31: Staring pitcher Yovani Gallardo #49 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 31: Staring pitcher Yovani Gallardo #49 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Most Disappointing Player: Yovani Gallardo had never really been “bad” over his career. Coming into 2016, he had recorded seven straight seasons of 30 starts (crossing 200 innings in two of those seasons), and had posted an ERA under 4.00 in six of those seven seasons. After the Orioles signed him to a two-year, $22 million deal, giving up a draft pick in the process, the wheels fell off.

The 30-year old Gallardo’s ERA soared to a career-worst 5.42. He made just 23 starts and threw 118 innings, his lowest totals in a season since way back in 2008. His 6.48 K/9 was the second-lowest of his career, surpassing (ironically) only 2015. His 4.65 BB/9 was the worst mark of his career. Nothing really went right for him, and the Orioles need to hope he puts together a better sophomore campaign with the team in 2017.

The Future: The Orioles already have just under $96 million committed to eight players on their 2017 payroll. It looks like they’ll be losing Trumbo, Wieters, and Alvarez, while Britton, Tillman, and Machado are all poised for massive raises in arbitration.

Baltimore’s window may be coming to a close. Their farm system isn’t in great shape, their major league club isn’t loaded with young cost-controlled talent, and the AL East will continue to be a meat grinder going forward, thanks to the financial strength (and now, even more horrifyingly, the youth) of the Red Sox and Yankees. I’m intrigued to see what happens this winter with the Orioles, given how weak this free agent class is and how depleted their farm system has become in recent years.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.