Observations on Orioles' hitting and starting pitching through first 2 weeks - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Observations on Orioles’ hitting and starting pitching through first 2 weeks

The Orioles ended the first two weeks of the season with a 5-8 record. Few conclusions can be drawn from less than 10 percent of the 162-game season.

A year ago, the Orioles ran off to a 12-8 start. That was vastly different. It was one-third through a 60-game season, and there was some chatter about the playoffs.

In 2020, 16 teams made the postseason. This year, it’s back to 10.

Here are a few observations from these first two weeks:

Hitters have been disappointing

Overall, the Orioles’ offense has been lacking. After 13 games, they have a .218 batting average, a .288 on-base percentage and a .641 OPS. Those stats put them in the bottom handful of baseball.

However, offense has been down around the game, and entering Thursday night’s games, 10 teams, a full third of Major League Baseball was hitting below .230. Two teams, the Cleveland Indians (.198) and Chicago Cubs (.163), have averages that are too low to be believed.

While those numbers are below the Orioles, it doesn’t give them any confidence.

Of Oriole regulars, only centerfielder Cedric Mullins has hit well. Mullins began the season with an 11-game hitting streak before going hitless in six at-bats in Thursday’s doubleheader loss.

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First baseman Trey Mancini, who has returned from colon cancer and chemotherapy, is hitting only .163, and when he grounded out to second in the sixth inning of Thursday’s second game, he slammed down his helmet.

It’s been a difficult two weeks for Mancini, who is unfailingly gracious in public and in private. He’s told his story, but he knows he must produce for the Orioles to be successful.

Entering Friday’s game at Texas, Mancini has a .624 OPS. He homered three times in the past week but needs to lead this one-dimensional offense.

While the Orioles wait for outfielder Austin Hays to return from a right hamstring strain, they’ve played Ryan Mountcastle, DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna in left field.

Mountcastle has boosted his offense slightly this week to .220, but he has struck out 19 times in 13 games with only two walks.

Stewart returned last Saturday from a left hamstring strain and is hitting .267 in six games.

Rightfielder Anthony Santander, who missed the final games of spring training because of a sore oblique, is also slumping, hitting .209 with 14 strikeouts and just two walks in 13 games. Santander struck out in each of his three at-bats in the Game 1 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

Some surprises among starters

Overall, Oriole pitchers have a 4.95 ERA. Although it’s also in the bottom third of MLB, there have been more bright spots than among the hitters.

Three starters — John Means, Bruce Zimmermann and Matt Harvey — have carried their weight. Jorge López and Dean Kremer haven’t.

Means has a 2.16 ERA in three starts, and opponents are hitting just .213 against him.

Zimmermann, who allowed two solo home runs in five innings in the Game 2 loss to the Mariners on Thursday, has been steady. Opponents are hitting .270 against him, but his ERA of 4.24 through three starts has been acceptable.

Harvey is the most interesting case. In three starts, one of them five innings, and two 4 2/3 innings, he has an ERA roughly as high as the teams’ as a whole, 5.02.

It’s been six years since Harvey was a top-shelf major league pitcher, but in his first three starts, he’s pitching on the same level that he did in 2018 when he was with Cincinnati.

In 24 starts with the Reds, Harvey was 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA. Harvey’s home stadium, Great American Ballpark, is one of the most friendly for hitters.

But, that year, Harvey went 5-1 with a 4.45 ERA in 11 starts. If Harvey can pitch on that level at Oriole Park, he could be a real find for the Orioles. He just needs to get deeper in games, something that he talked about after Thursday’s Game 1.

Kremer (10.50) and López (11.42) each have started twice. López will open the Texas series on Friday night, and Kremer is the likely starter on Saturday night.

With Keegan Akin at the alternate training site at Bowie, and Wade LeBlanc and Adam Plutko in the bullpen, Kremer and López will have to show improvement.

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