The good and bad in the Orioles' first quarter of 2021 -

Rich Dubroff

The good and bad in the Orioles’ first quarter of 2021

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The first quarter of the Orioles’ schedule is complete. Let’s look at the stats and see which offer hope and which bring concern.

The Orioles’ record isn’t horrible. At 17-23, it’s tied for the fourth worst in the majors entering Monday’s games. In last season’s 60-game schedule, the Orioles’ 25-35 mark was tied for the fifth worst in baseball.

If it seems as if the Orioles have played the Red Sox and Yankees often, it’s because they have. Half of the Orioles’ games, 20, have been against Boston and New York. They’re 4-6 against both teams.

They won’t see the Red Sox or Yankees again until early August.

The Orioles have yet to play the Tampa Bay Rays or Toronto Blue Jays. They’ll play three games against the Rays at Oriole Park beginning Tuesday but won’t see the Blue Jays until June 18th, their 69th scheduled game.

The Orioles also haven’t  played any of the five American League Central teams. Their first AL Central game is next Monday in Minnesota.

Punchless positions

At the beginning of the season, there was thought that the Orioles might have to outslug opponents to win games because of concerns about the starting pitching.

The Orioles have scored as many as 10 runs twice, including their 10-6 victory over the Yankees on Sunday.


In a down year for offense throughout the game, the Orioles haven’t hit well. They rank ninth in the AL in batting average (.231), 12th in on-base percentage (.294), home runs (39) and OPS (.669).

Of the nine positions, only two — shortstop (.244) and center field (.317) — feature players with averages above .240.

The one that hurts most is catcher, where Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco have a combined .225 average and .579 OPS—and just one home run and six RBIs.

At Double-A Bowie, the Orioles’ top prospect, catcher Adley Rutschman, is hitting .231 but has walked 13 times and has a .444 on-base percentage and, with three homers and 10 RBIs in 11 games, has a .957 OPS. Rutschman will be with the Orioles a year from now, but he’s played only 48 professional games.

Triple-A Norfolk has Austin Wynns, who’s hitting .320 in eight games, and Brett Cumberland, who’s batting .282 in 10 games. If there’s an injury to either Severino or Sisco, Wynns or Cumberland might get a shot.

Orioles second basemen are hitting .201 with a .610 OPS. On Sunday, the Orioles optioned Ramón Urias to Norfolk. For the time being, Rio Ruiz (.167, .550 OPS) and Pat Valaika (.173, .464 OPS) are playing second.

Jahmai Jones, who’s sidelined because of an oblique injury, could get his shot at second later in the season. The Orioles hope that he’ll return to the Norfolk lineup by the end of the month.

Rylan Bannon, who’s primarily a third baseman, might get a look at second, and there’s always Stevie Wilkerson, who’s batting .357 with a .914 OPS in the Tides’ first 12 games. Bannon is on the 40-man roster, Wilkerson isn’t.

Another trouble spot is third base, where Maikel Franco was in a 4-for-52 skid until his three-hit game on Sunday,. The Orioles had hoped for much more punch from Franco when they signed him in March. Bannon also could get a shot at third later in the season.

Two other surprising trouble spots are right field (.220 with just three homers and 13 RBIs) and designated hitter (.199 with three homers and 16 RBIs).

The lack of offense in right can be attributed, in part, to Anthony Santander’s absence. Santander, who’s been out since April 21st because of a sprained left ankle, could be back by the end of the week. Santander played three games for Bowie over the weekend. But Santander got off to a slow start and had only a .196 average with two homers and eight RBIs when he was hurt.

Manager Brandon Hyde has used eight designated hitters, but only Trey Mancini (10 games) and Ryan Mountcastle (17) have started more than three times.

Mancini is hitting .297 as a DH, but Mountcastle, who had his first four-RBI game in the majors on Sunday, is just a .212 hitter with a homer and five RBIs as a DH.

No outfield surplus

At the beginning of the season, there was thought that there might not be enough playing time for the Orioles’ outfielders. With Santander, Austin Hays and DJ Stewart each missing time because of injuries, that hasn’t been the case.

Mullins has been a revelation in center field. He began the season with an 11-game hitting streak and has put together a 10-game hitting streak, though with only 11 hits in those games his average has dropped from .322 to .312.

Hays has played regularly since returning from a strained right hamstring and is hitting .250 with five homers, 13 RBIs and a .787 OPS. His first game back was April 20th, when he replaced an injured Santander.

Hyde would like to get an extended look at an outfield with Hays, Mullins and Santander.

DJ Stewart has hit only .205 despite regular work in the outfield since he returned from a hamstring strain on April 10th. He’s had only two home runs and nine RBIs.

The injuries to Hays and Santander have contributed to more major league time for Ryan McKenna than expected. McKenna has played in 20 games but has started just six times. He’s been a useful pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

The Orioles might have to decide between McKenna and Stewart when Santander returns.

Yusniel Diaz, who is expected to get a shot later in the season, is out because of a leg injury. He hasn’t played since May 9th.

Starting pitching has shown promise

Besides John Means’ outstanding performance, there are some promising signs. In their last outings, Zimmermann, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer showed their potential.

Zimmermann, who was used in long relief on Sunday, allowed just a run on two hits in 5 2/3 innings. Kremer gave up two home runs to Aaron Judge and three other hits in five innings on Friday.

In a relief appearance on Saturday, Akin pitched three innings in a game that was already out of hand, allowing just one hit before tiring in his fourth inning and allowing three runs.

Kremer is back in the rotation, and Zimmermann will get another shot. It will be interesting to see if the Orioles keep Akin, using him as a long man and spot starter or decide he’d be better at Norfolk with more regular use.

Bullpen has been strong

Oriole relievers have a 3.44 ERA, though that includes Zimmermann’s outing on Sunday. Before Adam Plutko allowed four runs in the first inning, he’d had a 1.21 ERA. It’s now 2.82.

Of their most used relievers, Paul Fry has a 1.17 ERA. Tanner Scott ( 2.16), Cole Sulser (2.77) and César Valdez (2.81) all have acceptable ERAs. Valdez allowed two runs to the New York Mets on May 12th and another to the Yankees on Sunday.

Travis Lakins hasn’t been as effective. His ERA is 4.38. Shawn Armstrong, who’s allowed nine of 11 inherited runners to score, has an 8.53 ERA.

Dillon Tate, who is on the 10-day injured list because of a strained left hamstring, has a 3.46 ERA.

The Orioles have two healthy relievers at Norfolk who are also on the 40-man roster — right-hander Isaac Mattson, who appeared in one game, and left-hander Brandon Waddell, claimed on waivers from Minnesota.

Notes: Matt Harvey (3-3, 4.81 ERA) will face Luis Patino (1-1, 1.54) when the Orioles open a three-game series against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. John Means (4-0, 1.21) will pitch Wednesday night, and Dean Kremer (0-3, 5.81) is scheduled for the Thursday afternoon game, which begins at 12:35 pm. … Delmarva shortstop Gunnar Henderson was named the Low-A East Player of the Week. In the Shorebirds’ six-game sweep of Fredericksburg, Henderson was 10-for-23 (.435) with a homer and 13 RBIs.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. CalsPals

    May 18, 2021 at 7:20 am

    Now Means start is bumped again until Wednesday, something is not right…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 18, 2021 at 11:50 am

      I thought they said Wednesday all along?

    • CalsPals

      May 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      Originally it was Sunday, then moved to Tuesday, now Wednesday…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 18, 2021 at 12:50 pm

      Ken, you are correct. It was Wednesday.

      • Massmonster

        May 18, 2021 at 10:35 pm

        Oh good they rested a rested starter 2 days and in the meantime wore out the bullpen

        • WorldlyView

          May 18, 2021 at 10:54 pm

          Maybe management needed more time to work out the details of the Means trade. Stay tuned.

    • CalsPals

      May 19, 2021 at 7:00 am

      That was the whole point of my post, agree with you guys…go O’s…

  2. Bhoffman1

    May 18, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Great article Rich. You say Adley has only played in 44 professional games and we won’t see him till next year. Just curious how many professional games as Vaughn played who was drafted 2 slots below him and is younger and has made his debut last week. Also what about Patrick Dorrien who is tearing it up at Bowie. Is Mason McCoy just considered a career minor leaguer?

    • Orioles20

      May 18, 2021 at 8:00 am

      The white Sox had to use Vaughan out of necessity due to injuries. The white Sox are also in now mode so they were willing to take the chance. He struggled before turning it on this past week. I think adley could play in the big leagues now but no need to rush him.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 18, 2021 at 8:07 am

      Bruce, I said Rutschman has played 48 games. He had mononucleosis and his debut in 2019 was delayed. Because he’s a catcher and not a first baseman, like Vaughn, it’s essential he gets more minor league time since he needs to work with the team’s young pitching staff. Vaughn, played 55 games, and was promoted directly from High-A where Rutschman would have played last year had there been a season.

      Patrick Dorrian, who I didn’t know anything about until the last several days, was obtained from Pittsburgh for Yefry Ramirez in 2019. With the offensive start he’s had, we’ll keep an eye on him.

      Mason McCoy wasn’t protected last December nor drafted by any other team. I know you’ve had your eye on him for a few years. It wouldn’t be a shock if he made it to the majors, but he’s not considered a top prospect.

  3. Orioles20

    May 18, 2021 at 8:07 am

    The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise with exception of Armstrong who has been a disappointment. Mullins has put it together and hays seems to be figuring it out. Hays just needs to stay healthy. Mountcastle need to make the appropriate adjustments. Seems like he swings at a lot of pitchers pitches with two strikes whether it’s the high fastball or the slider away. But with two strikes he has to swing at those. Rich quick question why does Santander have to go through protocols to return? Can’t they just test him like they do anyway? I don’t remember voit going through protocol when he returned. Is this mandated by the league or by the Orioles?

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 18, 2021 at 8:13 am

      Santander rehabbed at Double-A Bowie because of its proximity to Baltimore. Double-A players aren’t following the same protocols as the major leagues. Triple-A players are. Had Santander rehabbed with Norfolk, he could have returned directly, but the Tides were in Charlotte last weekend, and for now, MLB wants to keep its players off commercial airlines.

      Voit rehabbed at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

    • Made ya look

      May 18, 2021 at 9:30 am

      Mountcastle has one of the highest chase rates on the team and it doesn’t seem to be going down. As a matter of fact the opposing pitchers are throwing more pitches outside the strike zone and his chase rate is just as high

  4. Orial

    May 18, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Good breakdown Rich. Pretty much covers it. A mediocre roster balancing itself through injuries while keeping a watchful eye on the Minors. True the OF is not as deep as expected. McKenna and Stewart just aren’t heeding the moment. Diaz and Jones both out really delays the process. Sadly-about ready to give up on Diaz. Come on Jones–rumor has it they were about to call you up! Rich is there a “law” that says Severino/Sisco have to stay on as the main 2 catchers(been this way for 2-3 years now)? Options run out(Sisco)? Sure seems Wynns could be ready to grab the second catcher spot. See you mentioned Bannon for 2B. Isn’t he also the short term future at 3B?

    • Bhoffman1

      May 18, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Why you giving up on Diaz he has performed admirably just always getting injured

  5. Bhoffman1

    May 18, 2021 at 9:05 am

    Like Hays and Santander maybe we need a new conditioning coach for outfielders seems like everything time they dive back into a base they get a ankle or leg injury

    • Bhoffman1

      May 18, 2021 at 9:06 am

      And DJ although he’s showed very little consistency when given the opportunity to play

  6. 900E-33rdSt

    May 18, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Great quarterly review Rich, thank you!

    Hopefully Diaz can get healthy again and then start playing well, his stats at Norfolk so far this season are a bit down. He is only 24 and he has only played 6 games at AAA, so plenty of time to turn those stats around.

    DJ Stewart had good 2020 stats except for his 0.193 batting average – OBP and OPS were both well above the league averages. He had that very good 3 hit game Friday against the Yankees, hopefully he can build off of that. He seems to be struggling against left hand pitchers, DJ throws right but bats left – wonder how that came to be?

    • CalsPals

      May 18, 2021 at 10:26 am

      Sisco does the same…oddity….go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 18, 2021 at 11:02 am

        Many,many many big leaguers have hit left handed, thrown right over the years. I’d wager to guess that at least 1/4 of the left handed hitters today are naturally right handed. Considering there are a lot more right handed pitchers in the game, it’s advantageous.

        Not that uncommon.

        What IS uncommon is someone that throws left to bat righty, although there are guys in the league that do that now.

        • 900E-33rdSt

          May 18, 2021 at 12:45 pm

          For just the Orioles non-pitchers on the 40-man roster, 4 out of 20, or 20%, throw R and bat L.
          Stewart, Sisco, Chris Davis, and Rio Ruiz are the 4 on the Orioles current 40-man roster.

          Was not aware such a high percentage of MLBers were of the throw R, bat L variety, makes sense/good to know – thanks for pointing that out!

          • 900E-33rdSt

            May 18, 2021 at 12:48 pm

            Checked the O’s opponent tonight Tampa Bay and they have 6 out of 18 non-pitchers on their 40-man roster who throw R and bat L – 33%. Wow!

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            May 18, 2021 at 2:03 pm

            My 1/4 guess (25%) was referring to ONLY the left handed hitters……your 20% is including the right handed hitters.

            On the Orioles 40 man (excluding pitchers and Crush) …. There are 7 batters that hit left handed if you count the switch hitters.. Of those 7 …. 6 of them throw right handed. That’s 86%!

            That’s pretty amazing. I had no idea.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 18, 2021 at 12:54 pm

      900, Davis is not currently on the 40-man, so it’s three.

      Ken, Tanner Scott, who has never batted, is listed as a right-handed hitter, who throws left-handed.

      • 900E-33rdSt

        May 18, 2021 at 1:08 pm

        Rich – I went to MLB website, pulled up the 40 man rosters for the Orioles and Rays. I missed the note at the bottom of each page that reads “While not officially part of the 40-man roster, players on the 60-day injured list (IL-60) are included on the 40-Man tab.” My mistake!

        Correction, for the record:

        4 out of 20 position players listed as on 40-man roster or IL-60 for Orioles throw R and bat L.

        6 out of 18 position players listed as on 40-man roster or IL-60 for Rays throw R and bat L.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 18, 2021 at 1:50 pm

        An ex-coworker of mine has a son who’s a 1st baseman with the Royals. Since being a small boy he’s thrown left but hit right. He says he has no idea why. It just happened that way naturally. Ryan McBroom, was recently sent to AAA.

        • Rich Dubroff

          May 18, 2021 at 6:06 pm

          Growing up, Cleon Jones batted right and threw left for the Mets.

    • CalsPals

      May 18, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Still a much larger number than I would’ve thought, cool…go O’s…

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 18, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    So the Yankees have left town. All three games were very nearly sold out, if not sold out. All having 10,600 fans or more in attendance.

    Now we have the Tampa Bay Devil Rays coming to town for a mid week series. So what would YOU make the over/under line for attendance?

    I’m going with less than ½ what the Yankees drew. How about a 5,100 as my over/under for each game.

    Fly United

  8. WorldlyView

    May 18, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Re left-handed throwers, Why is it still unheard of for a catcher to throw lefty?

    • CalsPals

      May 18, 2021 at 3:41 pm

      Would have to throw through the batter to first, just a guess, kinda like a left handed 2B or 3B…just guesses, go O’s…

      • WorldlyView

        May 18, 2021 at 5:32 pm

        CP: That might well have been the rationale back in the day when almost all batters were right-handed. With all of the left-handed hitters these days, right-handed catchers have to throw thru many batters. Time to give lefties a chance?

    • CalsPals

      May 18, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      Agree, to me if they can do a decent job behind the plate, givem a chance…go O’s…

  9. Baltimore Castaway

    May 18, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    We may not be happy with the timeline, but this is a franchise with a coherent plan…and it is beginning to show signs that things are working.

    • willmiranda

      May 19, 2021 at 11:16 am

      What timeline? Manana is not a timeline. When do we win AL East? AL? World Series? Or when do we
      even cross 0.500 for a season? I think the timeline is imaginary, to make it sound as if there were A Plan.
      So far, it consists of “We’re not as bad as we were last year or two years ago.” If that’s The Plan, would someone please say so, instead of insisting that there are invisible milestones. As a long-time O’s fan, I am not unhappy with the team; its incredible vagaries over the decades have rarely been dull, with food for all kinds of commentary. On the issue of timeline, schedule, or whatever, I’m just looking for a little specificity and clarity. If The Plan really is “Manana is good enough for me!” that’s OK. Just say so. Not speaking to you personally, BC, rather to the establishment rhetoric.

      • WorldlyView

        May 19, 2021 at 4:51 pm

        I don’t like it when someone is more critical of management than I am. I have provided my own timeline on another post. Arguably, it is better than any forecast from the establishment. With promising players at AA and A levels, my crystal ball says that we go comfortably above .500 in 2024 and become a pennant contender in 2025. Again, I pray we are all alive and mentally alert at that time.

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