Mike Elias is used to making evaluations over a 162-game season. This year, he needs to make decisions based on 60 games.
“I hadn’t really thought about that until recently,” the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager said in a Zoom call on Monday.
“It’s going to be a very small sample for these players. In terms of evaluating our talent based on what happens this year, we’re going to be probably more reliant on objective criteria that are not statistical samples that could be misleading in this short of a time.
“You look at a guy’s stuff, what kind of shape they’re in, how they’re playing defense, how hard they’re hitting the ball, all that. It is very possible that somebody has a misleading stat line over 60 games that they wouldn’t have over 162.
“It’s just one of the many challenges of this season. There are so many; it’s hard to think of them all, and that’s just one of them. I imagine we’re going to have to make some personnel decisions at the end of the year like we do every year, and we’re only working with a third of the info that we’re accustomed to.”
Can the Orioles exceed expectations? Online oddsmakers haven’t adjusted their expectations for the Orioles in 2020.
Early preseason predictions forecast that they could have the worst record in baseball, and that hasn’t changed with the new format. Elias said he’s looking forward to the challenge of the 60-game season.
“It’s going to be kind of fun,” he said. “I think it’s going to be interesting. I think it’s going to fly by. I think playing the National League East a lot is going to be interesting.”
Twenty of the Orioles’ 60 games are going to be against the NL East, and they’ll play 40 against the four other AL East teams.
“I didn’t think our strength of schedule, being an American League East team could be any tougher, but it actually did. We do have the toughest strength of schedule this year.
“It’s not going to be an easy road, but I do think it does make things a little less predictable. The fact that the pitchers may not be totally built up at the beginning of the year, and you get some extra roster spots and some more pitching changes, maybe that helps us, maybe that doesn’t.
“I think it creates a little uncertainty, and I think our goal is to be an unpredictable young team that’s scary to play in these circumstances and we mix things up.”
The Orioles won’t have their only star, Trey Mancini, in 2020. Mancini, who is recovering from March colon cancer surgery, was placed on the 60-day injured list. .
“We are without our best player from last year,” Elias said. “That’s tough. It’s a big blow. We’re going to miss him, but we’re going to have a bunch of young guys playing out there with their careers on the line, and they play hard. It’s going to be unpredictable and interesting.”
How unpredictable could it get?
“If we get in the season, and we’re surprising people, and we’re playing well, and our record is good, I think it will be a lot of fun,” Elias said. “We still have a lot of work to do in this organization to set it up consistently, healthfully for the future.
“That was going to be a multi-year effort when it started, and it’s still going to be a multi-year effort. We’re making progress there in spite of the curveball that this year has thrown at us, so we’re keeping that in our sights, but if we have a chance to make the playoffs this year, we’re going to be happy about it, and we’re going to look at it very seriously if that’s the position we’re in.”
New rules: Teams get to carry 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, then 28 for the following two weeks before cutting down to 26 for the rest of the season.
Major League Baseball had planned to cap the number of pitchers on a 26-man roster at 13. On Monday, they announced there would be no limit.
“They’re just trying to put a little less stress on the pitchers early in the season because spring training is going to be so short,” Elias said. “I think that will help everyone, and particularly us when we’ve got not a lot of established pitchers cemented on our roster. That should be helpful.”
Clubs will get to have a three-man taxi squad that travels with the team. One of those three players must be a catcher. They’re permitted to work out with the team before the game, but can’t be in uniform or sit in the dugout for the game.
Once the schedule is announced, the Orioles are permitted to schedule three exhibition games.