The good and the bad of the Orioles' 2021 season - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

The good and the bad of the Orioles’ 2021 season

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

There are a number of ways to describe the Orioles’ 2021 season, starting with bad. But it also offered signs of perhaps a brighter future.

The Orioles lost 110 games. They became the first team in Major League Baseball history to have losing streaks of 19 and 14 games in the same season. During the 19-game losing streak, they were barely competitive.

But unlike the 2019 club, which lost 108, the Orioles had what Trey Mancini called “a core group forming in the lineup” and a significantly improved minor league system that features the top position player in catcher Adley Rutschman and the top pitcher in Grayson Rodriguez.

The core group Mancini referred to started with the leadoff hitter, centerfielder Cedric Mullins. Even though he appeared to tire in the final two weeks, Mullins finished with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, the first in Oriole history to accomplish that feat.

Mullins was the starting centerfielder on Opening Day for that 2019 club, but after a 6-for-64 start, he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk and then to Double-A Bowie. He earned his way back in the abbreviated 2020 season, batting .271.

It wasn’t a surprise that Mullins became a regular in center field in 2021, but his statistical breakout was. The nod as starting centerfielder for the American League in the All-Star Game for the injured Mike Trout was validation of his growth.

Mullins played a Gold Glove-caliber center field. He made a number of outstanding catches but none better than when he took a home run away from the New York Yankees Gary Sanchez — his left shoulder even with the top of the wall as he reached high above it with his right arm to make the catch.

At the beginning of the season, Mancini was probably the favorite to win Most Valuable Oriole, which he won in 2019. Mancini’s ability to rebound from his season-long absence because of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy in 2020 was the inspirational story of 2021.

Mancini seemed worn down at times, but playing 147 games, the same number he played in his 2017 rookie season, was remarkable. His .255 average, 21 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .758 OPS were all lower than his 2019 season, but more than respectable.

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If the Orioles had players that produced as well as he did at second base, shortstop, third base and catcher, they would have won many more games.

Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Mountcastle, whose 33 home runs were the most ever by an Oriole rookie, is another who could be a star in the coming years.

That’s also true of outfielder Austin Hays, who had a healthier season and played 131 games, coming on strong at the end. Hays hit .284 with a .921 OPS from September 1st on with eight home runs and 22 RBIs. His play in the outfield was strong and while he still hit far better against left-handers (.308) than right-handers (.221), his numbers against right-handed pitchers improved in the season’s final weeks.

Relief pitcher Tyler Wells was a Rule 5 draft pick whose development was unexpected. Manager Brandon Hyde liked the makeup of the 6-foot-8 reliever so much that he used him as a closer with mixed results. But Wells did earn four saves and struck out 65 in 57 innings before his season ended because of inflammation of his right shoulder.

Starting pitcher John Means thrilled the baseball world with his May 5th no-hitter in Seattle but won only two more games after that, although Means did miss six week weeks because shoulder fatigue. Means was still ninth in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) among American League pitchers and had a 3.62 ERA. Because of the time he missed for injury, Means threw 146 2/3 innings, just under the 162 needed to qualify for ERA leaders. (A 3.62 ERA would have have placed him eighth among qualifiers.)

Hays, Mancini, Mountcastle, Mullins, Means and Wells were among those who had success in 2021, but the Orioles were often overmatched, and their pitching was often inept.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde acknowledged the obvious — that playing in the American League East, where every other team won at least 90 games, takes it toll. Even though the Orioles were competitive at times in the final weeks against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, their final six games against the Toronto Blue Jays were mismatches.

It’s hard to believe that the Orioles beat the Blue Jays, 6-3, on September 10th because in their last five meetings, they allowed 72 runs.

The Orioles didn’t play Tampa Bay after August 29th, but they helped contribute to the Rays’ margin of victory in the American League East. They lost 18 of 19 to Tampa Bay, and many of those losses were lopsided. The Rays outscored the Orioles, 150-71.

After losing 17 of 19 to the Yankees in 2019, the Orioles were 8-11 against them this year, their best mark against an AL East opponent.

In 2014, the Orioles won the AL East and played well enough to qualify for the wild-card game in 2016. It now appears that the distance between them and the others in the East is insurmountable.

Moves to help reduce that distance need to be made this offseason. Hyde has said that playing 76 of 162 games against the best divisional opponents should make you stronger, but it can also be terribly discouraging.

The offseason is for changes, and there should be a dizzying amount of them. Although many fans are resigned to more 100-loss seasons, Elias vowed in his season-ending news briefing that he expected the record to improve measurably in 2022.

That would be the most welcome improvement of all.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering your questions later this week. Please leave them in the comment box below or email them to: [email protected]

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

 

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    October 5, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Cedric Mullins is “our guy” and shows wonderful flashes with his glove & legs in CF but I don’t think he is a Gold Glove caliber CF (mainly because of his 6 error this season, with 4 on throwing errors). Taylor or Straw should win GG at CF this season IMO. Thanks for the good, bad, and ugly review – now take cover as “Captain Obvious” comments may be incoming…

    • Orioleschatter

      October 5, 2021 at 9:27 am

      OK….Captain Obvious in the house….

      Yes, the O’s line up was improved a bit this year and frankly, there is some good young talent in there.

      But, they will never improve to a point where they can compete in the AL East with their double A pitching staff. So say what you will about a balanced schedule but the reality is they need to take a different approach to be competitive.

      Let’s hope they make a genuine effort to improve in the off season. I personally am not optimistic. Keep the young position players and do their best to score some pitching on the open market.

  2. Orial

    October 5, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Dizzying changes or an IF of Mountcastle 1B,Urias 2B,Mateo SS,and Guttierrez 3B? Not dizzying there. Rutschman C unless Elias goes totally out of control and waits for May or June. Now for dizzying–the pitching staff ,good luck with this mess. OF other than Hays,Mullins could be the most unpredictable. Could we actually see a FA land in there? Keep an eye on Mullins coming down to earth,and Santander/Mancini heath. Best remedy–keep pushing for a balanced schedule.

    • CalsPals

      October 5, 2021 at 8:42 am

      Totally agree with a balanced schedule, makes a ton of sense, probably why it won’t happen….go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      October 5, 2021 at 6:30 pm

      Orial, if Urias, Mateo and Gutierrez are starting for the O’s next season then I’m afraid we O’s fans are in for another very long season. Who knows, maybe they’ll prove me wrong but I’d be stunned. If those 3 are the best they can come up with, well, I’m afraid my apathy will remain.

      • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

        October 5, 2021 at 7:47 pm

        Urias and Gutierrez showed promise over a small sample size, expecting they will prove you wrong and you will have to go to the stunned room with most of the other commenters here on BB. Wouldn’t really expect anything other than your apathy to remain…

    • dlgruber1

      October 5, 2021 at 9:03 pm

      Listen, I HOPE they do prove me wrong. You see, I want the O’s to be successful, very successful, winning World Series successful. It’s simply my belief that the players were talking about aren’t gonna get them there. I’ll be more than happy to say how terribly wrong I was if next season they’re both having solid seasons and along with a hopefully improved pitching staff has them playing competitive ball once again.

  3. OrangeDNA

    October 5, 2021 at 9:19 am

    Rich, Will the layout of the schedule be up for debate in this Winters collective bargaining agreement? I personally would rather leave the weighted by division schedule.

  4. Battleshipbill

    October 5, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Some quality pitchers will have to be bought….no way around that

  5. Buzz1979

    October 5, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Change the schedule!

  6. willmiranda

    October 5, 2021 at 10:45 am

    I know it’s popular to whine about playing in the AL East, but how many of the teams would have had 90 wins
    if, instead of playing the O’s, they played a team against whom they had a .500 record? Is there a WAR for teams as well as players? Maybe it could be used to rate the different divisions. I think each division has its challenges and the AL East has certainly not dominated the World Series for the last decade or so.

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 5, 2021 at 7:44 pm

      There is a WAR for teams, usually split by batting and pitching WAR. FanGraphs shows team WAR split by batting and pitching. Baseball Reference shows Wins Above Average for each team (pitchers and position players combined) and then splits this stat out by Pitchers, Position Players, Starting Pitchers, Relievers, and each position…the whining about playing in the AL East is sad IMO but not surprising

  7. Buzz1979

    October 5, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    How do you watch a baseball game when yo want both teams to lose? Answer, you don’t!

  8. jimcarter

    October 5, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    The Orioles need to make some definitive positional moves. Something at a faster rate than the time it took to realize Mullins is not a switch hitter. Mullins needs to be in left since he has a weak arm. Mountcastle doesn’t need to play the field other than giving Mancini a breather at first base. Mancini needs to sit more often, and I shouldn’t have to say why. They need to think about trading the glut of outfielders for help in the infield at all positions aside from first. When it comes to pitching, they need to sign at least two free agent starters who have a major league track record of ERAs under 5.

    • CalsPals

      October 5, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      Jimmy, I totally agree, it’s funny where the game has gone when we are asking for FA pitchers with era’s below 5.00…remember not long ago if your era was above 4.00 as a FA no one wanted you…lol…go O’s…

      • WorldlyView

        October 5, 2021 at 7:30 pm

        CP, A rising ceiling on what makes for acceptable ERA s makes perfect sense when you take into account that batting averages have sunk to historic lows–or something like that. Also, any FA pitcher with an ERA not too far above 5.00 would still be an improvement to the existing Orioles pitching staff.

        • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

          October 5, 2021 at 7:50 pm

          Does lower batting averages mean less run scored?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 5, 2021 at 11:51 pm

      What glut of outfielders are you talking about?

  9. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 5, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    2 years ago it was Mullins y’all wanted to spitcan. Now it’s Santander. C’mon guys, he’s got all-star talent. Imagine what he’ll do when he has a little luck in the health department. (just like Hays did) Frankly, I think he was a soldier this year.

    So how does everybody feel about the Cobb for Jones trade at this point? How’s that one working out?

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 5, 2021 at 7:55 pm

      Can you explain why Cobb had 5+ ERA with the O’s and sub 4 ERAs while not with the O’s and just how in the heck anyone could forecast that? I for one think Cobb and his $15M salary would have fit in just nifty with the O’s this season. I went to the eye doc to my hindsight tested and the doc said he couldn’t help me because everyone here bought up all the hindsight glasses, I am sad…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 5, 2021 at 10:10 pm

        Hindsight had nothing to do with me bemoaning that move the day it was made. Trading viable/proven starters is one of Elias’ bad habits. Just an opinion of mine. No WAR required.

        So Hummer … you didn’t answer my question. How to you assess that trade … now … could we not have used Cobb this year? How’d Jones do?

        Jesus … you’re closed minded.

  10. Hallbe62

    October 5, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Major “Obvious” says……..WE NEED MORE IMPROVED PITCHING. Both the starting rotation and pen. This game is won & lost on the mound. You’ve all heard that one before.

    PA…..kindly part with 50-60 million to buy whatever pitching is adventurous and courageous (some would say dumb) enough to sign here and pitch this club to a more respectable sub .500 finish next year

  11. Jim-Considine

    October 5, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Rich,
    Ever since the rebuild was launched, I have been studying the history of the Orioles annual June Amateur Draft. As is the case with most teams, this resource was more of an after-thought than a strategy. My question pertains to the variances in amounts paid to the draftees.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/

    The dispersal of funds, generally speaking, is not a declining, linear regression with #1 getting the most and the amount decreases until you get to pick #20 which is generally the last person to receive a bonus. I realize that paying people “under the slot value” allows you to pay people “over the slot value”, I assume in order to get them to sign the contract.
    In this year’s draft 6 of our picks between 11 and 20 did not receive a bonus.
    Do they bypass a bonus in order to receive a higher salary throughout their years in the minors? Secondly, can you address some of the strategies employed with the dispersal of the bonuses?
    (Eg, We paid our 20th pick almost twice as much in bonus money than picks # 10 through #19. I am guessing that the fact Pick #20 is from a junior college has something to do with it. (Mike Elias almost exclusively drafts college players).
    Thank you.

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 5, 2021 at 8:05 pm

      “As is the case with most teams, this resource was more of an after-thought than a strategy.” HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      HS draftee usually have a college commitment and are often offered larger bonuses. Some college players drafted can return to college and are sometimes offered larger bonuses too.

      “Almost exclusively” is an oxymoron IMO, 20% in 2019 were HS, 33% in 2020 were HS, one in 2021 HS…

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm

      Joe, this question was meant for my mailbag.

      • Hallbe62

        October 6, 2021 at 11:05 am

        That doesn’t matter to Josephus. HRH reserves the right to spew whatever nonsense percolates up and through his noodle.

    • CalsPals

      October 6, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      The only thing Hmmm did different this time was not start off with “I’m not Rich but”….great call Hallbe62…go O’s…

  12. cedar

    October 5, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    Question: with regards to the CBA are there some things that both sides are likely to come to an easy agreement on?

    • dlgruber1

      October 5, 2021 at 5:39 pm

      Cedar, that’s a great question. I actually think they’re farther apart than the Dems and the GOP. As far as I’m concerned the CBA is far more important than what the clowns in DC do. At least in baseball the sides aren’t lying to each other-and their fans.

  13. WorldlyView

    October 5, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Rich, Pulleeze. You say above that “IF the Orioles had players that produced as well as he did at second base, shortstop, third base and catcher, they would have won many more games.” I say IF my grandmother had testicles, she would have been my grandfather. Also,IF we had five or six additional really good pitchers, we would have won more games; but we didn’t.
    In response to your assertion that it “now appears that the distance between them and the others in the East is insurmountable,” I say that what needs to be done is to move the O’s to Las Vegas so they could be in the AL West. I wonder what your knee-jerk optimist readers think of this allegedly insurmountable AL East talent deficit.

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 5, 2021 at 8:11 pm

      Ohhhh good another one! Do youse guys meet frequently to discuss knee-jerk commenting?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 5, 2021 at 10:14 pm

        We meet every Tuesday at 11:15 AM at your mothers place.

    • dlgruber1

      October 5, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Hummer, what is your problem? Do you take everything personal that’s said on this site for some reason? Do you believe everyone must see everything the same way you do? Seriously, I don’t see anyone else on here going out of their way to try to find any little way of either proving people wrong or impugning what they say. I can only guess you get some perverse satisfaction out of it. I picture you sitting in a bathroom sending your replies with one hand.

      • Hallbe62

        October 6, 2021 at 11:12 am

        It’s a character flaw of his. Not the only one His Royal Highness has either. This site needs a little redesign. Add a function that allows readers to “block” obnoxious posters like Josephus.

    • CalsPals

      October 6, 2021 at 7:37 am

      Hysterical DL, & very true…go O’s ….

  14. Letsgetmikey

    October 5, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    WOW! You guys are on fire tonight. Much more entertaining than the wild card game. Thanks! See you Tuesday.

  15. Buzz1979

    October 5, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Lurch out at the plate! Youuuuuurrrrrannngggg?!

  16. Icterus fan

    October 6, 2021 at 6:03 am

    Wow.
    The trench warfare is really active already amongst posters. It could be a really entertaining winter with the grenades already being tossed back and forth ………..

  17. garyintheloo

    October 6, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Beyond the obvious with improvements needed in both pitching and infield defense, another issue is the loss of stamina the past three second-halves by supposedly “core” players. This deserves serious consideration in how we roster this team for 2022 and likely the the nutrition/conditioning staff.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 6, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Something to play for may have been enough to get ’em through the last couple of weeks. Playing before crowds of 4 to 7 thousand would hardly inspire anyone.

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