After Buck Showalter came in to take over the Orioles towards the end of the 2010 season and had his young team finish 34-23 down the stretch, there were some high expectations for Baltimore to come out of the gate and contend for a playoff spot for the first time since 1997. Allowing the new Baltimore skipper to have an entire Spring Training to instill how he wants his team to play the game would only make this team better and take more steps forward in 2011…or so he thought.
The O’s took that momentum through Spring Training and into the first week of the season, when they swept the Rays, beat the Tigers twice, and then took down the Rangers all within the first seven games of 2011, pushing them to a 6-1 record. Unfortunately, that was one of the hottest streaks they had all season. After that hot start, Baltimore put themselves in a hole by losing eight straight; Showalter’s club scratched and clawed to hang around .500, but they experienced a terrible 29-game stretch from the middle of June to the middle of July, posting a 6-23 record. After that skid, Baltimore virtually sealed their fate in the basement of the American League East division, not being any closer than 20 games to first place.
Even though the Orioles finished 2011 with a 69-93 record and 28 games back in the AL East, they did solidify their young core of position players, which includes Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis. On the mound, Zach Britton had a solid year and the coaching believes that he can be a part of their future, but Brian Matusz took two big steps back. Jim Johnson and Pedro Strop were bright spots in an O’s bullpen that struggled overall in 2011.