The writing was on the wall long ago. Every Orioles fan knew that 2019 was going to be a trying season as the club enters a long, arduous rebuild. But as the All-Star break comes and goes, Baltimore’s position in the standings is even bleaker than most expected.
Before accentuating the positives, let’s recap the bad.
At roughly the midway point of the year, the Orioles own a league-worst 27-62 record (.303 win percentage) and a -165 run differential.
The updated win total projection for Baltimore has been set at 54.5, down from 60.5 on Opening Day. And if the Orioles are going to reach 55 wins, they will need to significantly pick up the pace. If they maintain their current .303 win percentage, they won’t even hit 50 wins. To get to 55 wins, they will need a .384 win percentage over the final 73 games of the year.
Yes, everyone and their pet budgie expected the Orioles to be weak in 2019. But they weren’t supposed to be this much worse than the other weak teams.
No other team in baseball has fewer than 30 wins, and only one other squad has a run differential lower than 90 (Detroit at -157). That means Baltimore has played at least 67 runs worse than 28 other teams, including the likes of Miami and Kansas City.
When this team has lost, it has tended to lose big. According to this site, 28% of MLB games are decided by just one run. Yet, only 10 of Baltimore’s 62 losses (or 16.1%) have been by a single run.
Run prevention has been a slightly bigger issue than run creation. Baltimore is dead-last in the majors in runs allowed (6.07 RPG), while sitting fifth-worst in runs scored (4.20 RPG).
Now for the good news.
The Orioles showed some spunk heading into the All-Star break. They went 5-5 in their last ten, including a pair of 13-0 shutouts over a surging Cleveland team.
In a slightly bigger sample size of their last 13 games, they have lowered their runs-against average to just 4.85. That would be 15th in the majors for the season.
The lineup has showed some pop, with Trey Mancini slugging .468, Renato Nunez mashing 20 homers, and rookie Dwight Smith Jr. coming up clutch with 44 RBIs. If the pitching staff can get the runs – in particular home runs – under control, Baltimore should have a better second-half than first.
The Orioles are on pace to allow 309 home runs this year, which would set a new MLB record by 51 homers, leaving the 2016 Reds (258) in the dust.
Playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, Oriole pitchers are usually near the bottom of the league in home runs allowed, but this year is out of control. Baltimore finished dead-last in 2018, as well, but at a (let’s call it) miniscule number of 234.
The more-aerodynamic ball that’s being used this year accounts for some of the increase, but certainly not all of it.
The team’s recent decrease in runs-against has, not coincidentally, coincided with allowing fewer home runs. Over their last nine games, the O’s surrendered only five homers. They have only given up multiple home runs in three of their last 13 games, which is pretty good for a team averaging 1.9 homers against per game.
Playing .384 baseball for the rest of the year is not a tall order. In 2014, 2015, and 2017, there wasn’t a single team in the majors that played worse than .384 for the full season. Unless the pitching staff, as a whole, continues to be historically bad, there is enough talent in the lineup to stay competitive. And regressing at least slightly closer to the mean seems likely for the Baltimore hurlers.