Tap-In Question: Which Oriole has had the most surprising 2017 season - good or bad? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Tap-In Question: Which Oriole has had the most surprising 2017 season — good or bad?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

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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?

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 24, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Well, though I hate to choose the player you have pictured above, I have to go with Boom Boom (sorry BanMo) for the rookie of the year caliber season he’s put together.

    But let me put a qualifier on this one … the only reason I’m truly surprised is because a certain sports writer around these parts, when directly questioned about the possibility, ‘assured’ us just this past offseason, that playing the outfield was out of the question for Trey. Otherwise, I think we all had a glimpse of his possibilities last September.

    One side note Mr. Connolly, congratulations on your boy’s entry into the world of higher education. I’m sure you’re filled with a sense of pride as well as wistfulness. Take note of these emotions, and try to remember them 4 to 6 years from now when you can’t get him out of your basement. Hah!

    Congratulations to both yourself and your boy ! Cheers Mr. Connolly … 1st round this morning is on me.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Thanks Boog. I’ll wear the Treyless outfield thing, but there were several people high up in the organization that didn’t think it would be a good move initially. Credit to them — and him — that they changed their minds. It really is remarkable that he has been OK out there considering he hadn’t played outfield since summer ball in college.

  2. Birdman

    August 24, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Gotta go with Gausman … his regression this season, with a 1.62 WHIP and 5.25 ERA, probably the biggest surprise

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Yeah. I truly didn’t expect that

  3. Osfan73

    August 24, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Most disappointing……Kevin Gausman. Love the velocity and stuff he has but maybe needs to concentrate more on location. At this point ERA, WHIP and BB all are up. Was expecting him to show more consistency, take a step up this year in as Bundy did.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Exactly. The team was counting on that progression. And that’s a dangerous precedent management has to fix in the future.

  4. Creatively_19

    August 24, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Congrats Danno on your boy.

    Most surprising in a good way: Boom Boom Mancini. Not just that he’s been so good, but he’s actually batted 4th and 5th lately. He’s been very consistent for most of the year, so big ups for that.

    The Bad and Ugly: Chris Tillman. From the moment we heard he had shoulder issues in the off-season the panic alarm should have gone off. However, everyone just kinda assumed he’d be back to his old self when he returned off the DL. He says he’s healthy and feels fine, but he just doesn’t have his old command. For a guy who was initially supposed to anchor this rotation and put up big numbers in his walk year, no performance good or bad was more of a shock than his. He’s all but blown his chance for a big contract next season, which is both sad, yet intriguing if he’d be willing to sign an incentive-laden 1 year deal for 2018 to come back and show what kind of pitcher he’s truly capable of being.

    As expected: I had a premonition that Schoop was a monster. His defense has always been killer, and the power has been there. This year he’s clicking on all cylinders, and it’s been fun to watch.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Thanks 19. I’d say Tillman, but that shoulder issue should have red flagged any expectations. He missed most of the offseason and spring training. That’s tough to rebound from for such creatures of habit. Tho it is surprising that he is still struggling mightily.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    August 24, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Most surprising (since the qualifier “so far” was used) is either Machado or Gausman. Each of them came into the season with high expectations, and each of them stunk up the joint in stunning fashion in the first half. Fortunately for us, both appear to have righted the ship, Gausman looking like the guy we saw in the second half of ’16 and Machado going full superhero in the past few weeks. The other guys weren’t as surprising. We knew Tillman would regress with age, though the scale of his implosion is still a shock. Bundy is about as good as we all hoped he would be, Mancini better but it was well known this guy was gonna be a player.
    One thing that Dan didn’t mention; after the year he had at the plate in ’16, if in November you had told me Kim would barely see the field and then be packed off to Philadelphia for a guy who tosses it in underhand I’d have laughed at you.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Good point on Kim. I think one of the crazy things about Tillman is that he is only 29. Regression with age usually comes later, assuming good health. For pitchers, 28-30 is often peak years due to learning how to pitch.

  6. Mustang21

    August 24, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I’d have to go with Mancini for the good surprise. Gausman as a bad surprise. Mancini’s September last year gave me hope, but he has exceeded those with the power and the clutch hitting that has moved him ahead of Trumbo and Davis in the lineup.
    This was supposed to be Gausman’s breakout year. He has showed some great stuff in games, then has games like Saturday where I watch a bunch of homers fly over my head in the left field bleachers. I hope he puts it all together and he doesn’t end up like another Arrieta.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Gausman certainly has been the most befuddling. It’s all there.

  7. Orial

    August 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Schoop

  8. garyintheloo

    August 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Unfortunately neither Tillman nor Jimenez were surprises. Never a big Tillman fan and Jimenez was grasping at straws. Mancini goes as a surprise as I thought they wouldn’t have a place for him and Britton is the other one. Someone wrote last year that the previous five World Series champs ended the year with different closers than they started. Britton’s health will be a major concern going into the off season for us or any trade partners. I would also add the rotation as a whole. We knew it was be a challenge but at one point it was just ridiculous.

  9. garyintheloo

    August 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    One other disappointment. Other than Castro who wasn’t hyped the Norfolk Shuttle took the off ramp and never got back on the highway. The Tides rotation was worse than ours.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      That’s an excellent point, Gary. The majority of guys down there did not seize the opportunity. Drink chip.

  10. pedro

    August 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    It’s the starting rotation. 4/5 starters significantly underperform. If my math is right, that’s 80%. My pre-season prediction was that Ubaldo would get DFA’d by midseason, Gausman would be the stopper, Tillman would win 15 in his walk year, Miley would stink (got that one right), and Bundy was a wild card. Put it all together, it’s the biggest surprise to me.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      To me, 3/5ths of the rotation is surprising. Most fans/experts would have nodded as to where Ubaldo and Miley are right now. But, yeah, you make a good point.

  11. Ezrine Tire Award

    August 24, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Good seeing you yesterday. I think Schoop has been the biggest positive surprise. He’s now an elite second baseman. Negative surprise Chris Tillman. You expect inconsistency from guys Ubaldo but Tillman was always steady Eddie. This year he’s consistent – in a bad way.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Agreed on Schoop. And agree to an extent on Tillman. I don’t think anyone thought it would be this bad. But we were fooling ourselves if we thought his shoulder would round back to form quickly after basically 6 months of inactivity after injury.

  12. OriolesFan1986

    August 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    I say the biggest surprise has been how Gausman has regressed this year. IMO plays a big role in why the Orioles are in such bad shape. I mean Gausman has shown flashes of what makes him a great pitcher, but he never seems to get a good stretch of starts together. With him pitching like he’s capable and Bundy who’s pitching really well, I believe we have a good chance of a Wild Card spot despite the bad 3-5 starters.

    Also, I didn’t expect Kim to play every day but given that he had a good 2016 I expected he would get much more at-bats than he did, but unfortunately for him, he never got much playing time and it’s hard to stay fresh going through long stretches of no play or little ABs. Kim also had good numbers against lefties in Korea, I really would’ve liked to seen the Orioles given him a chance against lefties.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Yeah, as I said earlier, Kim’s demise is one I forgot.

  13. dmroberts03

    August 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I think the biggest disappointment has to be Tillman. A regression wouldn’t have been particularly surprising given his injury in the fall, but the levels in which he has fallen since returning are almost unfathomable. He hasn’t even been able to battle through 5 innings most starts, instead, its been an incredible number of early pulls—that’s really sad. The hope was that he would have been a great #3 behind a developing Gausman and Bundy, but instead he has made Jimenez look dependable.
    Gausman, Trumbo, Davis, and O’Day, among others have been disappointing, but I wouldn’t put them on the same level Tillman. I hope he agrees to an incentive laden one year deal to try again.

    The biggest surprise to me has been Schoop. The 300BA, 30-35 HR and 100+ RBI pace is a pleasant surprise, but its the consistent and developed patience at the plate is what sets him apart. He has carried us for a large portion of the year. While going into the year everyone thought Schoop was still developing and had untapped potential, its rare you see a guy who has as many career at bats as he has change in the way he has. Typically a streaky free swinging player remains a streaky free swinger their whole career, even if the core numbers trend upwards for a few years. Schoop’s walk numbers may not crush those from previous years, but I think anyone who watches him regularly can identify that his patience and swing outside the zone rates are night and day to previous years.
    I love what I have seen from Mancini, but I don’t give it to him because you never really know what a player will do when he reaches the majors. Pleased with him, yes, but I can’t say I am shocked. You just never know. Bundy’s consistency has been great, but for the most part he has just been a very solid pitcher in an otherwise very bleak rotation.

    • LenSakata

      August 24, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      I agree – Tillman was the biggest surprise even with the injury. I mean he has been really bad. There has to be something wrong with him.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      That’s a couple more votes for Tillman. I can stand corrected.

  14. karks

    August 24, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    On the good side, I go with Mancini because I didn’t even see a way for him to fit on this roster once Trumbo was resigned. Learning to play a new position and having the great offensive season he’s had is a huge surprise.

    On the downside, I think it’s a tie to me between Tillman and Gausman. Even with the injury, I expected Tillman to be much more effective overall than he has been. And Gausman is just incredibly frustrating. He’s been (as far as we know) healthy and still has electric stuff. But why he’s struggling is just beyond me.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Come on Karks. We don’t do ties in the Tap Room.

  15. TxBirdFan

    August 24, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Nothing really novel to add. My Good, Bad and Ugly are Mancini in a landslide (where would we be without him), Gausman and Tillman.

    Congrats Dan on your so heading off to college. From experience I can tell you it’s a lot easier saving for college than it is to write big checks.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 24, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks Tex. We wrote our first big one. With so many more to come.

  16. Liamandcarolinesdad

    August 24, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Tillman, especially in his free agency season…

    I think we should’ve realized Kim wasn’t going to get the playing time he probably deserved once we acquired Seth Smith, though Mancini’s outburst also contributed to Kim’s lack of playing time.

    Also of note, Caleb has had a really strong season that’s been a pleasant surprise.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 25, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Mancini’s emergence was the primary reason Kim’s PT dropped so much. Otherwise he and Smith would have been in the lineup together. But it’d be difficult to keep Mancini on the bench.

  17. Ben1

    August 25, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Trumbo … I think we all had higher expectations.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 25, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      After 47 homers, I think we all did. Trumbo foremost.

  18. JParsley

    August 25, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Britton. his season hasn’t been bad but it is certainly been disappointing

    • Dan Connolly

      August 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      You can’t predict injuries, but obviously it’s been a letdown given his historic 2016.

  19. willmiranda

    August 25, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Positive side. Given his age, journeyman history, and last year’s major surgery/poor performance, I wondered whether Caleb Joseph would even make the 25 this year, much less play at a solid major league level on offense and defense. No offense to Wieters or Castillo, but Joseph holds his own when he’s in there. Always good to see a hard-working guy come back.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      I agree. Drink chip.

  20. GSISDANNO

    August 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Trey Mancini has been the biggest surprise for me. This guy is a genuine big league hitter and would be a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year if not for the guy in New York. Jonathan Schoop has developed into one of the best players in the American League. I am not surprised that happened. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
    Unfortunately, some things happened that weren’t a surprise to me: Mark Trumbo reverted to the kind of player he was in Arizona, Seattle and Anaheim. His 47 homers were an abberation. It seems like we have two Chris Davises now. I have been unsurprised by Chris Davis’ season. I do not know what happened to him. He was a force to be reckoned with from 2012 to 2015. He is never going to bat .300 but he needs to do better than .210 to .220. All of those called strikeouts make me crazy.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 25, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Yep. Makes everyone crazy.

      • AlaskanOsFan

        August 25, 2017 at 7:41 pm

        My ? is do you think Trey can “catch” Judge in the ROY voting since Judge has been in a massive slumps since the ASG?

        And could we have an INF next season of Schoop at 3B, Manny SS, Becks 2B and Trey at 1B? Figure out a way to unload Davis and I think Hardy is done, IMO

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