Patience needed with young starters; Orioles' offense worrisome; Catch-22 with catchers - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Patience needed with young starters; Orioles’ offense worrisome; Catch-22 with catchers

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

As the Orioles begin a West Coast trip to Oakland and Seattle, it’s time to examine their first four weeks. They’ve played about 15 percent of the schedule and, with a record of 11-14, they’re tied with the New York Yankees for fourth place in the American League East.

Their winning percentage of .440 would translate to a season record of 72-90, moderately better than most prognosticators had forecast.

Here are some observations about their play in April.

Youth movements require patience.

The Orioles’ rotation includes two rookies, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann. If Keegan Akin had a better spring, perhaps he would have been in the rotation instead of Jorge López, who might be better suited for long relief.

Kremer, who returned from 10 days at the alternate training site at Bowie, has an 8.40 ERA in four starts and has allowed 24 hits in 15 innings.

Zimmermann, who has a 5.33 ERA in five starts, has given up 32 hits in 25 1/3 innings.

Those stats aren’t unusual for rookie pitchers, and they shouldn’t be terribly troubling.

Some rookie pitchers have immediate success, but some of the best had awful starts to their big league careers.

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Take Tom Glavine, In his first full season in the major leagues, 1988, Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.58 ERA for the Atlanta Braves. His teammate, John Smoltz, was 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA that season.

Glavine and Smoltz went on to Hall of Fame careers.

A year later, Randy Johnson, another future Hall of Famer, was 7-13 with a 4.82 ERA with Montreal and Seattle.

Who knows what kind of careers Kremer and Zimmermann will have.

Those who were eager to see young starters in the rotation must realize that bumpy beginnings are hardly unusual, and if Akin and Zac Lowther are added to that rotation later in the season, more inconsistency is promised.

Offense is worrisome. 

The Orioles’ team batting average (.224) and OPS (.645) are among the worst in baseball.

Cedric Mullins has had a fabulous start to the 2021 season. His .340 batting average, .393 on-base average and .918 OPS are outstanding, but there’s no one else close to him.

Trey Mancini had two hits in Wednesday’s game and his first three-hit game of the season on Thursday, and his .247 average and .773 OPS are beginning to resemble his career averages.

Freddy Galvis, who has missed the last three games because of a groin injury, could be back for Friday night’s game in Oakland. His .264 average and .779 OPS are behind only Mullins.

Ryan Mountcastle has slowly begun to make more contact. His modest four-game hitting streak has brought his average up to .184, but he has just one home run.

Galvis’ injury resulted in the Orioles bringing up Pat Valaika from the alternate site. But, the punch he displayed in 2020 seems to be missing. Valaika is hitless in 10 at-bats since he came up on Tuesday and is just 1-for-19 (.053) this season.

Difficult spot with the catchers.

Many fans can’t wait to see top draft pick Adley Rutschman, who is scheduled to play his first minor league game since September 2019 on Tuesday, presumably for Double-A Bowie, though assignments have yet to be made official.

But Rutschman needs minor league work, and the Orioles had little choice but to stick with their incumbent catchers, Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco for 2021.

Severino is hitting .262, but he’s driven in only two runs in 20 games. That follows last September when he didn’t have an RBI.

His defense has been criticized, and some fans want to see more of Chance Sisco.

The Orioles agreed to a $1,83 million contract with Severino ahead of arbitration, an amount considered a bit pricey at the time, and they’re not likely to move on from him.

Sisco, who is in his final year before arbitration, is 5-for-30 (.167) with three RBIs. But Sisco, who walked 47 times from 2018-2020, hasn’t walked at all this season.

Despite many opportunities to play, Sisco has a .203 lifetime batting average in 473 at-bats. Sisco, like DJ Stewart, were high draft choices during the Dan Duquette era, and current general manager Mike Elias values high picks, many of whom he scouted while with Houston.

Even if they’re not Elias’ picks, Sisco and Stewart are getting extended looks before the Orioles decide what their future is.

There weren’t many quality veteran catchers available on the free-agent market last winter. A good veteran wasn’t going to sign with the Orioles because they knew Rutschman was coming, either later this year or in 2022. Being a caddy to a star catcher means little playing time.

While the Orioles could eventually turn again to Austin Wynns, who didn’t play for the club in 2020 but played in 70 games in 2018 and 2019, he doesn’t offer much upside, either.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. millboy

    April 30, 2021 at 7:33 am

    Can’t wait for the minor leagues to start real games. It will be interesting to see who stands out down on the farm…hopefully some infielders

  2. The Cartoon Bird

    April 30, 2021 at 7:37 am

    My concern with the starters, with the exception of John Means, is their inability to pitch deeper into games. The inability to be effective the third time through a line up.

    • orf_nac_slaPslaC

      April 30, 2021 at 8:42 am

      MLB wide starters averaging 5 and one tenth innings per start. Orioles starters only averaging 4.76.
      MLB average OPS for starters 1st time through 0.668, 2nd time 0.708, 3rd time 0.739.

  3. Bhoffman1

    April 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Sorry I don’t consider they are giving Sisco a extended look. He hardly if everything plays two days in a row never gets a chance to hit against lefties and has actually shown decent defense , good arm and handling of pitchers. Yes he hasn’t hit at all that I agree. Do you stuck with someone just because you gave them a nice contract. That’s the Chris Davis way of putting together a winning team.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      If ever

    • CalsPals

      April 30, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Agree, Sisco has never been given a fair chance, no pun intended, someone mentioned earlier his # of at bats for his career, not even a season’s worth, my biggest concern is he goes elsewhere & he starts hitting again, I think he is way better than Severino defensively…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 30, 2021 at 8:26 am

      Ray, Sisco has far more than a season full of at-bats for a catcher (473), and Bruce, his lifetime average against left-handers is .125.

      Sometimes, players just need a change of environment to perform, and maybe that’s the case here with Sisco, but to suggest he never gets an opportunity is incorrect. Because he was a high draft pick, he’s getting more opportunities than someone with similar stats who wasn’t a high pick would get.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 30, 2021 at 9:50 am

      Rich a opportunity to play regularly his 475 at bats is sporadic over three seasons or so. Let him play daily for one month even against lefties and see if he produces. What is there to lose . You get better defense and you have given that opportunity to Severino and he has failed

    • CalsPals

      April 30, 2021 at 9:57 am

      Sisco has 1/2 the AB’s of Severino & same # of RBI’s…go O’s…

  4. Orioles20

    April 30, 2021 at 8:09 am

    Good to see Mancini have three hits. Mountcastle had a good encouraging at bat against Chapman. Fouled off some good fastballs and splitters. As far as catchers I think by August or September we will as Rutschman. As long as he gets off to a good start in Bowie he should be up. Lopez needs to be a reliever or even closer. Seems like as soon as the fourth or fifth rolls out they seem to figure him out and he can’t make the adjustments. As a reliever he could just let it go.

  5. Jimrhill

    April 30, 2021 at 8:10 am

    Austin Wynns is generally considered a better defensive catcher than either of the other two. I’d rather have him catching on an everyday basis than either of the current catchers.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 30, 2021 at 9:51 am

      Definitely over Severino

    • Beachdogs

      April 30, 2021 at 10:46 am

      I agree . I would rather have Wynn and Sisco

  6. Orial

    April 30, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Very thorough analysis Rich. Not much to add from this arm-chair quarterback. The over aggressive plate approach is a combo of youth and overall talent level in my opinion. IF defense has settled down/improved somewhat,”dumb” plays/base running of past years has subsided–a good thing. Sisco,to me,isn’t deserving of an extended look. Stewart is blowing a Golden opportunity. And lastly–it can not be over emphasized how important it is to get this MILB season started.

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 30, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Sorry Rich, but I can’t see giving up on Sisco just yet. He has such a cool name!

    • CalsPals

      April 30, 2021 at 9:43 am

      2019 AL East catcher at bats, starter/backup: Boston-654, NY-624, TB-593, Tor-563, BAL-472, Sisco career and-473…go O’s…

  8. Bman

    April 30, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Sisco or severino get traded at deadline. And either stewart or Santander. Just a guess. Anyone in the 29 years old+ category could be traded. Plus, galvis, Franco.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      April 30, 2021 at 9:45 am

      Bman, what team wants Severino or Sisco based on how they’re playing? The Orioles’ fans know they are below average so wouldn’t you think GMs around the league know that too? You can’t just say trade bad players and assume teams will take them.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 30, 2021 at 9:56 am

      A lot of teams would take Sisco for a low prospect . I agree with trading either Sant and Steward and having a Everyday outfield ofDiaz , Mullins and Hays . Sant will bring a high prospect. Steward will bring a low prospect

    • Shamus

      April 30, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      Mullins , Hays and Santander. Diaz will be your fourth outfielder when he gets here and until he wins a job. Stewart hangs until Diaz shows up.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 30, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      Diaz is not a fourth outfielder. If he produces he’s a starter. He is a 5 tool player.

      • VICTORTEE

        May 1, 2021 at 8:12 am

        Diaz is all hype so far. He has never had an outstanding year for power or average in the minors.

    • Shamus

      April 30, 2021 at 2:57 pm

      So we got Diaz in 2018 when he was 21. I’m starting to wonder if the Dodgers swindled Danny boy. I hope he is a five tool guy but he hasn’t been forcing the issue

  9. willmiranda

    April 30, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the nice overview, Rich. Since I like to quibble, I’ll point out that in 1988 Glavine was 22 years old, and Smoltz 21. Our “young” guys are several years older. Johnson was a little older, but I don’t see our guys having his great stuff, which needed time to harness. I agree that patience is needed with youth, but youth doesn’t last forever (believe me!). With the present O’s Glavine and Smoltz might still be at the “alternative training site,” getting more seasoning.

    • ClayDal

      April 30, 2021 at 3:45 pm

      Glavine and Smoltz were drafted out of high school. Randy Johnson was drafted by the Expos out of USC and didn’t really make it until he was 26 in Seattle. Kremer was drafted at the age of 20 by the Dodgers. Akin and Means were drafted at the age of 21. Zimmerman was drafted by the Braves at 22. They have all advanced at a normal rate and they have all struggled at some point, although it looks like Means has overcome his struggles from last year. Mike Flanagan was 25 when he had his breakout year in 1977 and McGregor was 24 in 1978 when he established himself. Mike Boddicker was 26 in 1983 when he helped the Orioles win the World Series. So the current crop of Orioles prospects aren’t ready for Social Security yet

    • orf_nac_slaPslaC

      April 30, 2021 at 6:43 pm

      In 2019, 61 starters pitched 162 innings qualify for the ERA title. Of those 61 pitchers, 20 were 26 or younger – that’s less than one young starter with 162+ innings per team. Kremer is 25, Zimmerman is 26. Hopefully the Orioles will have a 21 or 22 year d phenomenon on the mound soon…

  10. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    April 30, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Sisco is batting 0.167 so far this season after averaging 0.214 in 2020, 0.210 in 2019, and 0.181 in 2018. He had 557 career plate appearances, only 503 are needed to qualify for batting title.

    Hope he improves, but he had plenty of opportunity to prove himself but has not so far. Think you have to be a big Chance Sisco homer to insist he hasn’t been given a chance or had been sabotaged by Elias & Hyde.

    • Birdman

      April 30, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      Add in Sisco’s very high, Crush-like, strike out rate, and he hasn’t made a strong case for more playing time.

    • Icterus fan

      April 30, 2021 at 5:23 pm

      Even though Cisco has had that many AB, I wonder how many games he’s played in a row? Consistently playing has got to help.
      I know this doesn’t support the “our catchers suck” narrative, and heck, I don’t even have any fancy stats here.
      Then there’s the “well if he hit better, he’d play more” philosophy.
      Truth is, even if they did bring up Wynns and he struggled, we would roast him too in short order, and clamor for Rutschman next.
      Apparently it’s all “Mikey’s” fault anyway……

  11. B.C. Bird

    April 30, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    Rich could you give a bit of an update on Adam Hall,. Wondering why he isn’t at least on Bowie roster. Single A seems too low or have they given up on him as a legitimate prospect. The current state of the Oriole infield suggests that help is needed.
    Welcome any new info
    Keep the faith

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 30, 2021 at 3:21 pm

      He’ll be at Aberdeen.

  12. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    April 30, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    Means is 1-1 with 1.93 ERA vs Oakland
    Fiers is 4-1 with 1.93 ERA VS Baltimore
    Oakland hitters are 5 for 33 against Means with 1 HR and 2 doubles
    Orioles hitters are 6 for 28 against Fiers no HR, 1 2B, 1 3B

    • dlgruber1

      April 30, 2021 at 5:44 pm

      So………baseball being what it is I’m guessing both guys don’t make it outta the 3rd inning and a slugfest ensues.

      • orf_nac_slaPslaC

        April 30, 2021 at 6:08 pm

        Thinking this follows form with Orioles eeking out a 2-1 victory, though you theory is probably just as likely! Hoping Means can keep his roll going though…

    • dlgruber1

      May 1, 2021 at 12:32 am

      Damn good prediction there. I was SO wrong about Means. I’m already looking ahead to the All-Star game and thinking if the O’s only have one representative who do you possibly give it to, Means or Mullins? I’m pissed just thinking about it!

  13. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    April 30, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Esteemed members of the “Homers and Haters” group here on BB, how is it that Sisco’s inconsistent playing time had adversely impacted his batting this season but not his fielding?

    Homers: “we love Sisco no matter what the numbers say, he never got a fair chance! Catchers need to play everyday obviously”

    Haters: Severino? Elias? Hyde? Urias? Unbounded hate! “They have never done anything worthwhile and cannot never do anything worthwhile in the future. Plus if they have ever had good stats, it was a small sample size by gum!”

  14. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    April 30, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    It’s time for me to come out of the closet! I am a Brett Cumberland fan. 2019 OBP at A- 0.412, A 0.429, AA 0.395. Compare that to Adley’s A- 0.413 and A 0.261.

    Wynns, Davis, and Ciuffo at AAA don’t really have much long term potential for the Orioles IMHO.

    If Sisco keeps struggling, send him down, he has an option left. Bring up Cumberland, we all might be pleasantly surprised…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 30, 2021 at 8:46 pm

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  15. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    April 30, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Happy 25th Birthday Zac Lowther!

    Hope you are back with the Orioles soon!

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