Orioles' Most Surprising Contributors So Far
Each week, two PressBox baseball writers weigh in on a different topic. During this season of the improbable Orioles, whose contribution to the team's success stands out as the biggest surprise? Stan "The Fan" Charles and Matt Palmer share their picks.
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
I think the pure number of surprise contributors speaks more to the reconfigured front office Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations, has run than to any one individual on the field.
During a season that seems full of Cracker Jack surprises, how do you pick just one from the likes of Steve Pearce, Taylor Teagarden, Omar Quintanilla, Miguel Gonzalez, Lew Ford, Nate McLouth, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman or Brian "the relief pitcher" Matusz?
Suffice it to say, for an organization that has spent nearly a decade and a half as the American League East's carcass, Duquette and his team have been grinding it out.
For too long, the Orioles have been what they were molded to be during the offseason. It's fine to say, "We'll go with our young pitchers, the cavalry," but what do you do when the cavalry that shows up is more problem than solution? That is the question Duquette has not allowed to be asked or answered with a lack of foresight.
The one-time boy genius, black-balled from having a go at the chemistry set, has come back mature and primed to prove all his naysayers wrong. That's Dan Duquette, circa 2012.
To me, he has been the most surprising person to arrive at the Warehouse in a long time.
It's nice for Orioles fans to have had a good surprise for once, but I have a feeling Duquette is just getting this show started, and he will run it successfully for a long time.
By Matt Palmer
Without a doubt, I am most surprised recently by the mental toughness of Chris Tillman, who got his seventh win during a 6-0 victory against the White Sox Aug. 28. He allowed just one hit during seven innings and struck out five Chicago batters. He did walk four, though, which is something to be concerned about.
But Tillman looks like a new pitcher, who genuinely grew during his time in the minors. The Orioles have spent much of the season searching desperately for a young starting pitcher to give them hope. Both Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta have struggled so badly that the club's front office is willing to see whether they fit better as relievers rather than starters. Two years ago, that was unthinkable.
Questions about Tillman's makeup surrounded him during previous stints with the Orioles. He was pummeled and didn't answer, but he's a more mature player and person now.
His 3.26 ERA is certainly a welcome change from the bloated numbers he showed during previous years. While other young arms were putting up terrible numbers this year, Tillman answered the call during the second half of the season and has helped solidify and stabilize the club during its stretch run.
The Orioles have uncovered an unexpected rotation for their playoff push -- Tillman, Joe Saunders, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton and Miguel Gonzalez.
Everything about the Birds in 2012 comes down to surprise successes, and Tillman certainly fits that mold as well.
Posted Aug. 29, 2012