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

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    April 16, 2021 at 7:36 am

    The sun came up this morning…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 16, 2021 at 8:20 am

      What does this mean, Ray?

    • CalsPals

      April 16, 2021 at 8:56 am

      That’s a positive thing…go O’s…

  2. Orial

    April 16, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Excellent breakdown Rich. Cubs .163–ouch!! Bottom 3rd(hitting and pitching)not good but expected. That one dimension(HRs) may not be a demension to depend with this 2021 team. Offenses, all throughout baseball,have been on a steady decline for a while now–analaytics be damned? Analytics favoring pitching? Other than Means and maybe Zimmerman(5 innings) a Tampa Bay 4 inning rule may not be a bad idea for the starters. What’s up with Santander? Million dollar question—does Hays really make this much of a difference?

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 16, 2021 at 8:08 am

      Hays adds a dimension to the offense that’s missing.

    • CalsPals

      April 16, 2021 at 10:18 am

      When he is hitting, he adds more defensively right now…go O’s…

  3. Orioles20

    April 16, 2021 at 8:02 am

    I don’t think the pitching has been that bad. Guys like Kremer and Harvey have one bad inning that gets up there pitch count. Lopez has been the worst starter. The bullpen has been very good with the exemption of a few. Armstrong had a good outing yesterday. The hitting has been non existent. Franco has been a pleasant surprise. Mountcastle and Santander seem to be hitting the ball hard. MASN showed a graphic yesterday that showed Mountcastle chase rate is down five percent and everything like exit velocity and launch angle are up so I think you’ll see him get going soon. He seems like a guy that starts slow. I think part of the problem with the hitting is there is no production from the bottom of the order. Guys like Ruiz just don’t make the adjustments to stay at this level. This lineup seems to have about four legit hitters and they all seem to be starting slow. Maybe they get going tonight in warm Texas.

  4. LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

    April 16, 2021 at 8:23 am

    OPS is usually lower in March/April compared to complete season average. Noted increase in Avg MLB OPS from 2012-2015 to 2016-2020, might be a bit too early in the season to predict a lower league wide OPS for the entire season IMO.

    Season Avg OPS April OPS
    2012 0.724 0.711
    2013 0.714 0.719
    2014 0.700 0.706
    2015 0.721 0.705
    2016 0.739 0.724
    2017 0.750 0.725
    2018 0.728 0.719
    2019 0.758 0.742
    2020 0.740 n/a
    2021 n/a 0.706

  5. TxBirdFan

    April 16, 2021 at 8:25 am

    I’ll be at tonight’s game and Sundays game here in Texas. I’ll be the one wearing the orange Brooks Robinson throwback jersey. The Rangers are not a good team despite their modest winning streak so I’m hoping the O’s can get their offense going.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 16, 2021 at 8:35 am

      Since I won’t be going, unfortunately you won’t be my “Jersey of the Game.”

    • Hallbe62

      April 16, 2021 at 8:44 am

      Where are you sitting ? I’ll peek at the background a little…see if I can spy you

    • TxBirdFan

      April 16, 2021 at 8:50 am

      My seats are between home plate and the first base dugout. About 12 rows up. Here’s a fun tidbit – Don Baylor’s sister works at the stadium.

      • Hallbe62

        April 16, 2021 at 10:44 am

        I’ll be looking for ya Tex

  6. Triandos 11

    April 16, 2021 at 8:44 am

    I see some good in the Oriole pitching and hope the hitting comes around with warmer conditions. Maybe this weekend will help out, we will see. Definitely need Hays in the lineup or one of the hopefuls besides Mullins to anti up a bit. As far as pitching is concerned I think Plutko could be a decent starter once he stretches out more. Lopez is very marginal if even that, so they need to consider others. Time will tell on Harvey and I guess a .500 pitcher is ok right now, but they will need better going forward. Offense from second and short positions very weak to go along with the slumping regulars who are spinning their wheels. A bit of a disappointment right now and hoping for better performances down the line from all. .

  7. willmiranda

    April 16, 2021 at 10:25 am

    One conclusion: they are who we thought they were, and their record is what they are. Cliches, but I think appropriate. Players between the ages of 24 and 32 already have matured physically and have on-field track records. We already know what they can and cannot do. Most have had good streaks and bad streaks, but not many have had superior performances for a full season, much less several consecutive seasons. And, of course, there is the constant undercurrent that winning major league games now is not the organization’s goal and should not be our expectation. Thus, at 5-8, they are who we thought they were.

    • LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

      April 16, 2021 at 6:12 pm

      Will,

      You rained on my balloon and popped my parade with your comment that makes way too much sense.

      LUDONI!

  8. BarstoolSleeper

    April 16, 2021 at 10:42 am

    I must admit at the start of the season, I thought they’d be losing games 8-7 not 2-1. So in my opinion, I’m cautiously optimistic about the pitching thus far. I don’t see the pitching staff pitching this “well” (era over 5) for the season. An injury to the starting rotation or key bullpen piece will undoubtedly prove to be a setback. I also do not think the hitting ineptitude will continue. Once the weather warms up, the ball will carry out of the yard more consistently (for visiting teams too unfortunately). 5-8 isn’t great but it’s not awful either. Still plenty of tough games within the east. Should be a interesting season. My expectations have been low for this season so I’m not as upset as most that post here not saying it’s a good or bad thing just an observation. Lots of 1 year stopgaps at key positions not only makes it hard to gel as a team but also puts a lot of pressure on the individuals with 1 year contracts. They have to produce or they don’t get another deal.

  9. LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

    April 16, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Rich!

    We need some minor league news to brighten our outlook here at BB! I heard rumor Richie Martin went 4-4 with a 5-run homer and stole 14 bases in the last scrimmage…

    Surely they will let you in at the facility at Bowie? Or maybe BB gets some kind of drone with camera and microphone? No Zoom press conferences at the alt site? Not even after scrimmages?

    Last minor league post 2/15/2021…were dying here from lack of news from the alt site. No! I am not exaggerating!

    LUDONI!

    • Beachdogs

      April 16, 2021 at 4:52 pm

      Ludon! I will attend 22 shorebirds games this season. First one being May 5. Will provide updates.

      • LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

        April 16, 2021 at 5:05 pm

        Beachdogs! You are officially my favorite BB commenter now! Can’t wait for the updates!

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 16, 2021 at 4:54 pm

      Sadly, the press is barred from the alternate site.

      Todd Karpovich will be providing a weekly minor league column for us beginning on May 3, just prior to the beginning of the minor league season, and once they begin, I’ll be writing about the minors from time to time, too.

      • LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

        April 16, 2021 at 5:00 pm

        If I slide Todd a Benjamin, can I get a fix this week Rich? Just kidding! Okay, I will try to stay strong until 5/3!

  10. LonelyUnlovedDudeOfNoIntegrity

    April 16, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    I guess we are expecting Hays to have an OPS like 2019 0.947 or this Spring Training 1.192 when he comes back and not like 2021 0.500 or 2020 0.722. Lots of high expectations for Hays round these parts! Hope he meets expectations!

  11. BirdsCaps

    April 16, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    Hopefully Harvey can keep it up until the deadline. The birds could use a significant overpay a la the Bedard for Jones trade to put the farm firmly in the top tier. Rutschman looks good, but there is almost no chance he can live up to the lofty expectations (e.g. Wieters) as a franchise savior. Someone said that the birds “are who we thought they were”, which is essentially a team of placeholders and (hopefully) rising youngsters. There is no way to overestimate the need for the bats to come alive. If this is the level of position player talent that the birds have been building(yes I know there is a lot of filler in the lineup), the rebuild will continue indefinitely.

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