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Scherzer, Davis turned seasons around

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Scherzer, Davis turned seasons around

Back on June 1, the AP unveiled a list of 10 players who were off to slow starts but were likely to bounce back quickly - some thinly veiled advice for fantasy players, if you will.

In the interest of accountability, now it's time for a look back at how we did:

ALBERT PUJOLS, 1B, ANGELS

What We Said: ``Pujols' numbers began to slip a bit last year, but his .243 average in his first season with Los Angeles has been a shocker. There's no reason to think the 32-year-old's swing has deserted him for good. He might not reach 32 homers, his previous low for a season, but Pujols is hitting .329 since May 12. The worst seems to be over.''

What Happened: It almost felt like cheating to pick Pujols, whose track record made it fairly obvious he wasn't going to keep scuffling for an entire season. His final numbers: .285, 30 homers and 50 doubles. Not bad considering what a nightmare April was.

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TIM LINCECUM, RHP, GIANTS

What We Said: ``The two-time Cy Young Award winner has an unsightly 5.82 ERA, but he's struck out 64 hitters in 60 1-3 innings. Lincecum has struggled to avoid the big inning, and he's walking too many hitters, but his performance isn't as bad as it's looked. Opponents are hitting .339 off Lincecum on balls in play. That's a fairly high number, especially for someone who is a bit of a groundball pitcher. Lincecum should improve as more balls start finding the gloves of his fielders.''

What Happened: Since June 1, Lincecum is 8-9 with a 4.87 ERA - better but still not very good. Instead of being San Francisco's No. 1 starter in the playoffs, the Giants may simply be hoping he doesn't hurt their chances.

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MARK REYNOLDS, 3B, ORIOLES

What We Said: ``Reynolds is hitting .202 with only two home runs, but Baltimore fans have been through this before with the slugging third baseman. Last year Reynolds was hitting .193 at the end of May, but he finished the year with 37 homers. Low batting averages are the norm for Reynolds, but his power should be there now that's he's back from the rib cage injury that sent him to the disabled list earlier this month.''

What Happened: Reynolds finished the season with a .221 average and 23 homers in only 135 games. He turned 29 this year, and his power stroke seems fine if he can stay healthy.

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MARK TEIXEIRA, 1B, YANKEES

What We Said: ``Usually a slow starter anyway, Teixeira has been playing through a terrible cough all season that's sapped his strength and energy at times. In his last five games, Teixeira is 11 for 24 with four homers and nine RBIs. Just like that, the New York star is back on pace for another 30-homer season.''

What Happened: Teixeira ended up with only 24 homers thanks to more health problems. He's been out for most of the last month with a left calf injury, and although he returned during the final series against Boston, he has to be considered a question mark going into the postseason.

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MAX SCHERZER, RHP, TIGERS

What We Said: ``Scherzer might be the American League's version of Lincecum, although he doesn't have the career track record of the San Francisco ace. Scherzer has a 5.55 ERA this year, but he's striking out an impressive 11.7 hitters per nine innings. Scherzer is clearly still fooling batters with his stuff. He's also shown improved command lately and could be due for a breakout.''

What Happened: Lincecum could only wish he enjoyed this type of resurgence. Since June 1, Scherzer went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He finished the year with 231 strikeouts, second in the majors to teammate Justin Verlander.

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JOSH JOHNSON, RHP, MARLINS, and ADAM WAINWRIGHT, RHP, CARDINALS

What We Said: ``Both pitchers came into the season off injuries to their throwing arms, and both have ERAs well over 4.00. But there are some encouraging signs. Their strikeout and walk rates are reasonably in line with what they were when these two were among the top pitchers in the National League. Wainwright has allowed only one run over 15 innings in his last two starts.''

What Happened: Johnson went 5-11 from the beginning of June on, but he was actually pretty good over that span, posting a 3.30 ERA. Wainwright also improved, going 10-8 with a 3.73 ERA since June 1. Perhaps most importantly, Johnson made 31 starts this year and Wainwright made 32.

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IKE DAVIS, 1B, METS

What We Said: ``After missing most of last season with an ankle injury, Davis was diagnosed with a likely case of valley fever in spring training. Now he's hitting .170, one of the worst averages of any regular in baseball. Davis is striking out about once a game, and when he does make contact the ball seems to go right at somebody - witness his .210 average on balls in play. Davis has a long, unorthodox swing that would seem to lend itself to lengthy slumps, but it's too early to write off the 25-year-old after the promising start to his career.''

What Happened: Davis finished the year with 32 homers and 90 RBIs, salvaging a decent power-hitting season despite a final average of .227.

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JUSTIN MORNEAU, 1B, TWINS

What We Said: ``Morneau was hitting .345 with 18 homers in July 2010 when a concussion knocked him out for the rest of that season. He hasn't been the same since, hitting .233 in 103 games while battling other injury problems in 2011 and 2012. But he's hit five homers since coming off the disabled list a couple weeks ago - a sore right wrist was keeping him out that time. At 31, Morneau should still have some productive at-bats left if he's finally healthy again.''

What Happened: Morneau finished with a .267 average and 19 homers - and he stayed pretty healthy for the rest of the season. He has one year left on his contract, and still a lot to prove in terms of durability and productivity.

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ADRIAN GONZALEZ, 1B, RED SOX

What We Said: ``The last-place Red Sox could use more from Gonzalez than a .267 average and four homers, but he does have 18 doubles, so there's still plenty of pop in that bat. Last year Gonzalez hit .347 at Fenway Park, but a majority of his homers came on the road. Perhaps that should be the expectation going forward.''

What Happened: Gonzalez was traded from Boston to Los Angeles in August, but he picked up the pace with the bat as the season progressed. He hit .314 from June 1 on, finishing the year at .299 with 18 homers and 108 RBIs.

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

The Baltimore Orioles were historically awful in 2018. The Orioles were eliminated from the A.L. title race on Aug. 10 and eliminated from playoff contention Aug. 20. Since the divisional era began in 1969, no team has been eliminated from postseason contention as early as the 2018 Orioles were.

The 2018 season was downright awful for the Orioles. Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers. Chris Davis, who is set to receive $94 million over the next four years, had one of the worst seasons in MLB history.

Baltimore fans knew very early that a trip to the 2018 MLB Postseason was not going to happen. But because the Orioles traded away such a sizable chunk of its roster, fans actually had a better opportunity to see their favorite players in the postseason.

How did the former Orioles players do in the 2018 MLB Postseason? Glad you asked.

Atlanta Braves

Brad Brach (2014-2018): Continuing off of a regular season in which he struggled, Brach was unable to turn it around in the postseason. He gave up two walks and two hits in an 1.1 innings (two games), allowing one run.

Kevin Gausman (2013-2018): Gausman came on in relief in Game 3, Atlanta's only win in the series, though Gausman didn't play a big role. He allowed two runs in two innings, off two hits and two walks (deuces are wild). He did strike out four though.

Ryan Flaherty (2012-2017): Ryan Flaherty had an uneventful October, as he only got two at-bats in the series, and he went 0-for-2.

Nick Markakis (2006-2014): The beloved Markakis' comeback season was a major reason for the Braves making it to the postseason, but he didn't do much with the opportunity. Markakis went 1-for-12, just a .083 batting average.

Boston Red Sox

Steve Pearce (2013-2016): Pearce's overall numbers don't jump off the page, but he's had quite the postseason. On numerous occasions, Pearce has come up with the big hit when needed. He's just 9-for-34, but hit one of the most critical home runs of the World Series when he tied the game off Kenley Jansen in the eigth inning of Game 4, and he started the scoring in Game 5 with a home run in the first inning off Clayton Kershaw.

Chicago Cubs

Pedro Strop (2011-2013): Strop pitched just one inning in the NL Wild Card game, allowing one hit and striking out two in the Cubs loss. 

Cleveland Indians

Andrew Miller (2014): Miller didn't have many leads to protect during the Astros' dominating performance against the Indians, and he pitched poorly when he actually got in the game. In 0.1 innings, Miller allowed one hit and walked three batters, which is unheard of for someone of Miller's talent.

Colorado Rockies

Gerardo Parra (2015): Parra reached base twice in the NL Wild Card game, walking once and recording a hit. He stayed hot in the NLCS against the Brewers, going 3-for-6 and scoring a run.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rich Hill (2009): It feels strange including Hill, given his minimal time in Baltimore (Justin Turner was left off the list for the same reason). He is technically a former Oriole, however. This postseason, Hill pitched 16.2 innings and allowed four earned runs. Hill was terrific in Game 4 with the Dodgers trying to tie up the World Series, allowing one hit, one run, and three walks whil striking out seven. The Dodgers lost the game, thanks in part to another former Oriole in Steve Pearce.

Manny Machado (2012-2018): You could write a dozen articles about Machado's postseason without even mentioning his on-field performance. Manny has taken a heel turn this October, becoming baseball's biggest postseason villain since Alex Rodriguez. There have been quesitonable slides, weird kicks and stomps while running to first, and even the occasional crotch grab. In terms of the games themselves, he's hit 15-for-62, though struggled in the World Series, being held without a single extra-base hit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Wade Miley (2016-2017): Miley has had an interesting postseason. He pitched well in his one NLDS start, going 4.2 scoreless innings (which is essentially a complete game in this era of pitching). He then started Game 5 in the NLCS and was pulled after just one batter, part of a strategic decision by the Brewers. He started again in Game 6. The Brewers lost Game 5, but he held his own the next day and the Brewers forced a Game 7. 

Jonathan Schoop (2013-2018): Schoop didn't get many chances this October, and he did literally nothing with them. He was 0-for-8 overall, and struck out three times.

New York Yankees

Zach Britton (2011-2018): Britton struggled in pinstripes, allowing two runs in his only inning pitched during the Wild Card Game. He fared better in the ALDS, allowing one run and three hits over the course of four innings across three games.

Oakland Athletics

Edwin Jackson (2017): Did not pitch.

 

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.

A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles' career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.

Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.

Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.

Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.

"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It's the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don't know if he's going to coach or manage again, but he's got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."

With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.

"You know how good they've been to me? I'm not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin was asked before his team's playoff game against the Yankees on Wednesday night whether Showalter was victimized by the trend toward analytics.

"I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics," Melvin said. "I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships."

After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.

Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.

Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.

The Orioles' deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.

Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.

At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.

"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We've got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."

Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.

"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He's really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He's been a main figure here for a long time."

Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had ever played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It's been an absolute honor to play for Buck. He's been incredible."