Before the 2012 season, the last time Lew Ford played in the Major Leagues was in 2007. The last time Lew Ford had even 300 plate appearances in the Major Leagues was in 2005. So when the Orioles signed him to add some outfield depth to the team, it was largely viewed as a joke by many.
The 35 year-old Lew Ford then proceeded to hit .331/.390/.500 with 11 homers in 62 games in Triple-A. He was called up at the end of July to help fill some in when Nick Markakis got hurt, and ended up hitting just .183/.256/.352 for the Orioles in 79 PA.
Ford actually didn't play that poorly - his walk and strike-out rates (9%, 16%) were virtually identical to his minor league numbers and were both better than average. His .169 ISO was also above average. The main difference after his promotion was the nose-dive his batting average on balls in play took, from .365 to .182. Part of that was bad luck, and part of it was him hitting as many pop-ups as Joey Votto has in the last four years (combined).
Used mostly as a platoon guy, Ford posted an above average .330 wOBA against lefties compared to a .123 wOBA against righties. Part of that was BABIP-fueled, but he also walked twice as often against southpaws and hit all 3 of his home runs off of them (CC Sabathia, Chris Sale, and Francisco Liriano, no less).
Add in some decent defense in outfield corners, and Ford was a replacement level player even with the horribly low BABIP ("freely avialable talent" indeed). It's very possible - maybe even likely - that he showed enough to catch on with some team as a fourth-outfielder and righty bat, which is certainly a pretty neat story.
Given the current roster make-up though, I doubt it's worth bringing him back for 2013 on anything more than a minor league deal. But that doesn't at all take away from the fact that Lew Ford started a playoff game for the Orioles - as the designated hitter! - or that he hit .375/.375/.500 in the post-season overall.