Brandon Hyde wasn’t supposed to still be here.

When the Orioles hired Hyde to manage the club in December 2018, there was natural skepticism about his ability to survive a grueling rebuild. The Astros and Cubs – teams the O’s were openly modeling themselves after – had fed lousy rosters to inexperienced skippers before handing the prime rib to big-name managers.

Sure enough, Baltimore compiled a dismal .341 winning percentage over Hyde’s first three season. But, after leading his team to a winning record in 2022, Hyde was given the opportunity to take this group to the next level in 2023.

Few could’ve predicted what has followed. In a division full of playoff mainstays, the Orioles have defied oddsmakers and grabbed the American League’s best record entering September. And, behind nearly every euphoric moment of Baltimore’s extraordinary season, Hyde’s deft hand has been pulling the strings.

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It’s always difficult to determine just how much a manager has contributed to his team’s success. But it’s the Orioles’ remarkable record that should lead Hyde’s cover letter for AL Manager of the Year.

In March, Caesars Sportsbook projected Baltimore to finish with 78 wins, a total it smashed with a week to go in August. Hyde’s squad has 41 come-from-behind wins, tied for the most in baseball. Its 24 one-run victories are more than any other AL team.

Before Opening Day, FanGraphs gave the Orioles a 10.4% chance to make the playoffs. They now have a 99.9% chance to reach their first postseason since 2016.

Hyde’s biggest competitor for Manager of the Year, Bruce Bochy, is attempting to end an equally long drought in Texas. The three-time World Series winner with the Giants has kept the Rangers competitive in a tight race for the AL West crown.

But Bochy’s group packs far more star power than Hyde’s. The Rangers sent six players to the All-Star Game in July, compared to the Orioles’ four. Texas boasts the fourth-highest payroll in baseball; Baltimore has the third lowest.

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Scott Servais, leading the Rangers’ division rival Mariners, should also challenge Hyde. Seattle has amassed 21 wins this month, propelled by second-year phenom Julio Rodriguez. But the Mariners’ inconsistent play – losing records in April and June – could threaten an otherwise promising season.

Meanwhile, Hyde has overseen a steady and balanced team, maximizing an Orioles roster that is better than the sum of its parts. He has manipulated platoons remarkably well to play to his team’s strengths. The Orioles’ on-base-plus-slugging percentages against lefties and righties are almost identical (.763 vs. .737, respectively).

Scott Servais of the Seattle Mariners is a contender for AL Manager of the Year, but his case is not as strong as Brandon Hyde's. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Injuries and call-ups have tested Hyde’s lineup construction, forcing him to use seven different leadoff hitters this season. But seemingly every lineup combination has produced. The O’s have scored 663 runs, eighth most in baseball.

As was the case in 2022, Baltimore’s elite bullpen has been the team’s backbone. Unfazed by the prolonged absences of veterans Mychal Givens – who was released this month – and Dillon Tate, Hyde has deployed his relievers brilliantly. The bullpen ranks sixth in MLB in ERA.

In an MLB season defined by bloated disappointments – the Yankees, Padres and Mets – Hyde has built a juggernaut out of rookies and big league castoffs.

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Hyde was acknowledged for overseeing the surprisingly competitive 2022 Orioles, finishing second in Manager of the Year voting last November. This year’s squad is more than a fun story, and Hyde is more than a stopgap skipper.