The barkeep has been a bit preoccupied the past few days. On Wednesday, my wife and I dropped off our son at college for his freshman year. He’s the oldest of our three children, and the only boy.
For those of you who have done this before, well, I guess I’m now part of your fraternity. I’m honored, and misty-eyed. For those of you who haven’t: Oof. It’s a real gut punch. A bittersweet one, though.
So, anyway, I’m back at the Tap Room, but I didn’t cover Wednesday’s game. I listened to Zach Britton blow the save – snapping an unfathomable streak of 60 consecutive converted opportunities – and then I got home in time to watch Manny Machado hit another dramatic homer to win it.
I’m not sure there’s really a whole lot to analyze from the game or from the series that I – or others – haven’t discussed before. It’s great the Orioles won a series, but it would have been much better if they could have swept the lowly Oakland Athletics given the Orioles’ tenuous position in the AL Wild Card race.
So, today’s topic is a bit broader than one game or one series. It’s sort of a season-long question, but it was prompted a bit by Wednesday’s game in which Dylan Bundy picked up another quality start and Trey Mancini hit his 22nd home run.
I was thinking about which of their 2017 seasons has been more surprising. At first blush, I’d say Mancini, because he was ticketed for Triple-A again this spring before he transitioned to the outfield. And, despite some rough patches, to be an everyday player who is hitting .285 with 65 RBIs and an .847 on-base-plus-slugging percentage as a rookie is impressive.
It’s hard, though, to dismiss what Bundy has done: He’s given his club a chance to win nearly every time he’s on the mound. He is 12-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 24 starts and has been the club’s only consistent starting pitcher, which speaks to both his maturity and to the rest of the rotation’s struggles. And, remember, he’s only 24 – about seven months younger than Mancini.
Initially, I’d say those two have been the Orioles’ biggest surprises this season, though Jonathan Schoop’s breakout and Miguel Castro’s emergence have to be included. On the flipside, the continual frustration of Chris Davis, the power dropoff of Mark Trumbo and the pitching problems that engulfed Kevin Gausman in the first half and Chris Tillman once he returned from a shoulder injury are in play too for “Most Surprising Performance by an Oriole” in 2017.
I’m not counting Tim Beckham’s startling offensive play, simply because he’s been on the team for less than a month. It’s not just surprising, it’s mind-blowing. But this is a full season award, so Beckham’s disqualified in my opinion.
I’m sure there are some players I’m leaving out (I don’t truly consider the seasons turned in so far by Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez to be surprising, though I did publicly predict Jimenez would have a good year. I knew how shaky that limb was, however).
To recap, I don’t want you to tell me what’s surprised you the most about the team as a whole. I want you to focus on one player.
Tap-In Question: Which Oriole has turned in the most surprising 2017 season – good or bad?