As a few souls have observed, the Baltimore Orioles have played like a completely different team since Buck Showalter took over as manager in early August. The American League East standings since then:
BOS 22-18 -3.5
TAM 22-18 -3.5
NYY 22-19 -4
TOR 18-22 -7.5
By way of contrast, here were the standings before Showalter:
TAM 65-39 - 1
BOS 60-45 - 6.5
TOR 54-51 -12.5
BAL 32-73 -34.5
One's natural reaction is assume that Showalter is not just the Manager of the Year, but perhaps the Manager of All Creation.
And you know, in the absence of some other completely overwhelming candidate, I wouldn't mind voting for Showalter as Manager of the Year. I'm fairly sure the award's never been won by the manager of a last-place team, but maybe it's time.
Still, it's hard to figure exactly what Showalter has done here. He does not have a Billy Martin-like history of turning teams around immediately. In his first season managing the Yankees, they improved by just five wins (granted, their run differential was more impressive). In his first season managing the (expansion) Diamondbacks, they lost 97 games. In his first season managing the Rangers, their run differential worsened significantly.
In each case, it wasn't until Showalter's second season that his clubs vaulted into contention. Until he'd time to see his pieces and move them around and instill his Showalterness within them.
Brad Bergesen: 2.37
Jeremy Guthrie: 2.64
Brian Matusz: 2.66
Kevin Millwood: 3.28
Jake Arrieta: 3.78
Obviously, when your worst starter over the course of six weeks has a 3.78 ERA, you're going to win a bunch of games.
Without delving into the underlying performances here, I'm going to guess that none of these ERAs are sustainable. I'm also going to guess that these ERAs would not have been produced if David Trembley or Juan Samuel had been managing the Orioles for these past six weeks.
We simply have to accept the probability that Showalter and his charges have benefited from positive fortunes. But we also have to accept the possibility that Showalter is one of those exceptionally rare managers who can, in the right spot, make a huge difference.