Orioles' Mullins has set the bar high for 2022 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Mullins has set the bar high for 2022

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Cedric Mullins was named one of the eight outfield finalists for the Silver Slugger Award on Monday. If he’s one of the three outfielders chosen, which will be announced on November 11th, he’ll be the first Oriole to win one since Mark Trumbo did when he led the major leagues with 47 home runs in 2016.

Mullins became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. He started in center field for the American League in the All-Star Game after an injury to Mike Trout.

His play in center field was outstanding. The highlight came on September 16th, when Mullins made perhaps the best catch in Oriole Park’s 30-season history, perfectly timing a jump on which his left shoulder was even with the top of the wall as he reached high above it with his glove to take away a home run from the New York Yankees’ Gary Sanchez. Fans immediately started comparing it to Trout’s exceptional grab of J.J. Hardy’s drive in 2012.

Along with teammate Trey Mancini, Mullins has been nominated for the American League Comeback Player of the Year in the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Choice Award.

It was a remarkable season for a player who abandoned switch-hitting for 2021 to bat left-handed exclusively. Two years ago, Mullins was an afterthought in Orioles’ outfield plans. After a 6-for-64 (.094) start to 2019, Mullins was sent to Triple-A Norfolk, and then to Double-A Bowie and wasn’t recalled in September.

After Mullins rebounded in 2020 (.271 average, .723 OPS in 48 games), manager Brandon Hyde began campaigning for him to win the American League Gold Glove in center field during the 60-game season.

His position on the Orioles for 2021 seemed set, but no one dreamed that Mullins would play as well as he did. He’ll be mentioned on Most Valuable Player ballots next month and has raised expectations.

Any player who experiences a breakout season faces the pressure of repeating it.

Mullins had a far better first half than second half. At the All-Star break, Mullins was hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 16 stolen bases and a .921 OPS.

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In the second half, Mullins hit .261 with 14 homers and 14 steals, but his OPS fell to .822. That second-half OPS was still  better than any other teammate’s full-season mark.

There’s no question that Mullins grew tired down the stretch. He played in 159 games. In parts of his first three major league seasons, Mullins played in only 115. Mullins’ 146 starts in center, three fewer than Cleveland’s Myles Straw, were the second most in the majors.

Mullins stole his 30th base on September 18th, and in the last 13 games he didn’t attempt another one. He hit his 30th home run on September 24th. He hadn’t homered in his previous 11 games nor did he in his final eight.

On August 13th, Mullins was still hitting .322, but lost 31 points on his average to finish at .291. After a third-inning triple on September 22nd, Mullins was just 3-for-35, including that 30th home run.

Mullins had a sore hamstring late in the season, and Oriole manager Brandon Hyde tried to give him some rest.

The Orioles have two other outfielders who can play center — Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna. Itt wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hyde play them more often in center next season to give Mullins more time off.

Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle both hit at least 30 home runs for the Orioles this past season. No one has done it in consecutive seasons since Adam Jones, Mullins’ predecessor in center field, hit 32 and 33 in 2012 and 2013.

Mullins will try to become the first Oriole to steal 30 bases in consecutive seasons since Brian Roberts did it in four straight (2006-2009).

There wasn’t a huge disparity in the left-handed hitter’s splits. Mullins had a .299 average with a .931 OPS against right-handers and a .277 average with a .788 OPS against left-handers.

One area in which he can improve is runs batted in, although that often wasn’t his fault. Mullins had 59 RBIs, and because the bottom of the Orioles’ batting order was weak, there weren’t as many runners for the leadoff man to drive home.

I think my favorite Mullins statistic was that as the Orioles’ leadoff batter, he hit .348 in the first inning with eight home runs and an outstanding 1.014 OPS.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

 

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    October 27, 2021 at 7:47 am

    I hope Mullins has an equally superb 2022. Thanks for the nice review of Cedric’s amazing 2021 season.

    Regarding his RBI total, Baseball Reference stats show there were only 294 runners on base during Cedric’s 675 plate appearances. MLB average is 407 runners on base over 675 PA. Hopefully the bottom 3rd of the O’s line up will improve in this area as prospects arrive and give the offense a boost.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 27, 2021 at 8:47 am

      Am I alone in noticing a kinder, gentler Hummer latey? Even the never ending litany of statistics seem less offensive.

      • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

        October 27, 2021 at 5:32 pm

        I am trying, at least my wife tells me I am really trying at times, not sure what that means but I keep trying!

        You know when I read “I think my favorite Mullins statistic was…” yeah, a tear formed in the corner of eye. Rich is a good guy!

        Now hold on here just a second, how can statistics seem offensive??? I am so confused

  2. Orioles20

    October 27, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Mullins had a great year. The expectations are obviously very high but if he doesn’t hit as many homers or has that high of an average I hope he doesn’t get ripped. Also I hope he doesn’t try to force anything to try and repeat that performance. Just do what you do best.

    • dlgruber1

      October 27, 2021 at 9:25 am

      Orioles20, the least of my concerns for next year is if Mullins backslides a little bit. As Rich pointed out, even with his drop off in the 2nd half of the season he still led the club in OPS during that time. With SO many areas of concern for the club next season, if, say, Mullins hits .275 with 15 HRs and 25 SB, sadly I’m still thinking O’s fans will have much more to be upset about than that. In reality, I think if he stays healthy, he’ll have an even better season. I say that because of the arrival of AR, the continued improvement of Hays and RM, and I expect a solid rebound season by a fully healthy Santander. Those 3 things will take a burden off him. I’m actually very bullish on the offense of the O’s for next season. Now, the pitching, that’s another story.

      • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

        October 27, 2021 at 5:36 pm

        Ackshooolee, Rich said that Mullins OPS during the 2nd half was higher than any Orioles OPS for the entire season. Mountcastle’s 2nd half OPS of 0.853 lead the Orioles, Mullins 2nd half OPS of 0.822 was 2nd on the team and pretty darn good!

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 27, 2021 at 8:51 am

    Just watch the way this young man carries himself. Who says big results don’t some in small packages? You’ve got to love this guy.

    Nice write-up Rich.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 27, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Thank you, Ken. I’m glad you and Joe are getting along better these days.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 27, 2021 at 4:07 pm

        Hmmmm…. I’m hard to get along with … I admit.

        • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

          October 27, 2021 at 5:37 pm

          It’s true, you are hard to get along with 😉

  4. AkronOhioOriole1

    October 27, 2021 at 9:44 am

    I agree, great article. I hope Mullins can maintain numbers close to 2021 next year. I really like our outfield and the prospects in the minors we have, we may have some potential trade chips for pitching down the road.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 9:04 am

      Thank you, Akron.

  5. Orial

    October 27, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Great season,great numbers for Cedric. Deserves all the accolades especially with the SB’s and defense thrown in the mix. Now was his Sept. swoon a sign of tiring out,pitchers catching up to him,or simply wanting to get the season over with? Probably all.of the above. Do I expect him to duplicate that in 2022?—probably not. .280,25 HRs,25 SB’s will suffice. For that reason(2022 drop-off) it will become necessary for Mountastle,Hays to continue to grow as hitters,Santander,Mancini to re-discover their “pop”,and some kind of offense out of catching and the IF. Great season Cedric now all we need is for the others to follow suit.

  6. willmiranda

    October 27, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Coincidence or what that two of the three finalists for Comeback Player of the Year are from a last place team? All due respect to Mancini and Mullins, who are worthy of all the kudos they get. I just hope management doesn’t take too much comfort from this and spend the winter looking for players who had a really bad 2021.

    • cedar

      October 27, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      I find that unlikely. It’s not like Mancini and Mullins were rejects pulled off the scrap pile to play. They are both being recognized for overcoming adversity. Mancini on his return as a productive player after a year off dealing with cancer. Mullins for being willing to drastically change his batting approach.

    • CalsPals

      October 27, 2021 at 3:06 pm

      I always thought comeback player of the yr was from coming back from something, Trey did, in my opinion Cedric did not, he really wasn’t anything that ton of other players were, I guess to me comeback implies you were something & didn’t perform, again not knocking Mullins, don’t think it applies to him though…go O’s…

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 27, 2021 at 5:39 pm

      I sensed some intended humor in your comment! Had a good chuckle here…

      • willmiranda

        October 27, 2021 at 7:57 pm

        Who am I to disagree, NotSo?

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 27, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    Now to throw the wrench into the proverbial monkey and claim Hummer’s “Debbie Downer” award for today. Rich’s reporting of the great Mullins catch on Sept. 16th got me to thinking. (and I’m sorry, I didn’t see the catch)

    First off … let me prep this with, I’ve always, repeat always been a big fan of Mullins. That includes yours truly lamenting his demotion in ’19 when he started 6 for 64 on this very site. There is no bigger fan of his than I am. BUT …….

    Am I the only fan here that see’s his defense as something less than gold glove? Correct me if I’m wrong, but were there not 4 or 5 instances this year where Mullins seemed to get a bit gun shy when the wall came into play? Maybe these plays I remember weren’t considered errors, but they’re plays I consider ‘not made’. And a couple cost the team runs. Can’t tell you the specifics, but I remember the plays.

    Don’t get me wrong, he plays one mean center field and covers massive acreage out there, but I’m not willing to put him into the same category of Blair, Brady and Devereaux just yet. Heck, he may not even be the best defensive centerfielder on the team right now.

    Golly …I wonder what the comparative d-WAR’s would look like?

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 27, 2021 at 5:49 pm

      You are not the only fan here that sees Mullins defense as not quite gold glove worthy. Baseball Reference and FanGraphs both rank Mullins as slightly below average defensively. He rated below average in arm, range, and errors made by FanGraphs. He makes spectacular plays frequently though and that can leave the impression of a Gold Glove fielder for us fans.

      dWARs per 162 games from BR

      Mullins 0.1
      AJ -0.1
      Blair 1.6
      Anderson -0.3
      Devereaux 0.7
      Bumbry -0.2 (74 years old!)

      That will be $6 or a beer…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 27, 2021 at 9:35 pm

        $6 only gets a wee bit more than ½ a beer at OPACY.

    • Buzz1979

      October 27, 2021 at 8:42 pm

      Brady, or roidy, I should say, and Devereaux? LOL!

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 27, 2021 at 9:32 pm

        Laugh clown laugh and say what you will, but those 2 boys covered some ground and climbed the walls in their day.

    • CalsPals

      October 28, 2021 at 7:13 am

      Agree, at least he wasn’t ripping Valaika or Ripken…;)…go O’s…

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