Facebook

Bird Feed

Baltimore Won’t Get the All-Star Game: Here’s Why

sun setting on brick building and camden yards

When Major League Baseball announced last week it was moving July’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta (more accurately Cobb County, Georgia), I could hear the sound of Orioles fans everywhere licking their lips in anticipation. It was kind of gross. Folks were excited about the prospect of the Midsummer Classic making its long-awaited return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time since 1993. I just kind of shrugged, because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

I was a bright-eyed four-year-old kid that hot summer night in Downtown Baltimore when Cito Gaston became public enemy #1 and one my favorite players, Kirby Puckett, won the game’s MVP award. Despite my early age, I actually have fond memories of that night. People are surprised when I tell them that, but it’s true. I remember not even getting the concept of the two leagues competing against one another. I was more interested in which players I liked and rooting for them individually than anything. It was truly one of my earliest and most important baseball memories.

But when MLB said it was taking the game from the Braves in light of Georgia’s new voting law, I didn’t get my hopes up that a home run derby would soon be peppering moon shots onto Eutaw Street in the near future. In fact, days later, MLB announced the game would be headed to Denver. Colorado’s voting laws, despite what some might try to have you believe, are far more inclusive and welcoming to democracy. Coors Field last hosted the game in 1998, three years after it opened and five years after Oriole Park last had the game. Anyone who has been paying attention, however, knows that it wasn’t going to be coming back to Charm City this summer. It won’t be next season when the game goes out to Dodger Stadium (which was scheduled to host it last year before the pandemic had its say). It likely won’t be 2023, 2024 or 2025, and it definitely won’t be 2026 which is already slated for Philadelphia to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Yes, that’s a real thing. The Phillies, by the way, last hosted the game in 1996 at Veterans Stadium, which you’ll note is also three years after the game was in Baltimore. 

I’m not going to chase you away with another debate about politics or cancel culture or being “woke” by moving the game out of Atlanta. But there is another difficult (albeit less important than democracy) discussion that needs to be had here when it comes to the Orioles, and that’s the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Yes, MASN is the exact (and perhaps only) reason the Orioles aren’t hosting an All-Star Game anytime soon. 

You have to go back a full 16 years to get the full scope of the MASN picture, and even then, it may be at least another 16 until it’s all resolved. Anyone who has followed the controversy between the Orioles, Nationals, MLB and the network that airs games for both teams would know it’s complex and without a good answer. That’s why it’s been dragged out for so long. It was only heightened earlier this year with the firing of multiple prominent broadcasters by both the O’s and Nats.

MLB made a deal with the devil back in 2004. That’s merely a turn of phrase and not a dig at the Angelos family, I swear. Truthfully, baseball’s deal with the Orioles is almost too good to be true for the team. The Nationals have every right to be bothered by not getting their fair share while the Orioles have every right to be bothered by attempts to cut into their earnings.

I’m going to push aside, for the moment, the many frustrating things about MASN that stick with fans I’ve talked to. From certain broadcasters who will go unnamed, to the fact that they are just now in the year 2021 getting around to streaming games (and not even for cord cutters), to the lack of programming outside of baseball games, to the lack of coverage during spring training – there are plenty of things to complain about when it comes to MASN. Instead, there are two things that are extremely frustrating as an Orioles fan to watch play out in relation to the MASN controversy. 

The first is the lack of transparency when it comes to how the network is being operated and what kind of windfall it can be for the club. Everyone knows that while having fans in stadiums is an important part of a baseball’s revenue, an even more important part is the deal it has with its own regional sports network. The fact that the Orioles share a network with their neighbors down the road complicates all of this. But they knew that back in 2004, hence the lopsided deal that MLB made. More and more teams are gaining some sort of ownership with the RSN that broadcasts its games, but the relationship between the Orioles and MASN is a unique one that doesn’t have a ton of transparency to it. That lack of transparency leads to a distrust as to how much is actually being invested into making the on-field product any better. MASN of course deserves to be a money-making operation in the way that any business is a money-making operation. The baseball team deserves that right as well. Professional sports are a business, we all know this. But a fanbase starved for competitive baseball also deserves to know that an effort is being made financially to improve the part that they get to watch.

The second part of this that doesn’t really have an answer is how this will impact the team going forward on the field. This is the part that fans will really care about, because they want to see winning baseball. They want to see more of what they saw between 2012-2016 and know that it’s sustainable. The Orioles have obviously made some strides by building up their farm system and spending money in Latin America, but the MASN of it all still hangs out there like a dark cloud that may or may not bring a storm. No one can tell you definitively that the O’s will have the ability or desire to spend some money on free agents when the time comes because no one can tell you what impact all of the litigation surrounding MASN will place on the club. Their financial dealings and front office behavior have triggered major red flags in the last year. Much of that is due to the financial impact of the pandemic, but when you look beyond that cloud, the MASN cloud is still hanging around too.

As the Orioles embark on another season where they aren’t expected to win a ton of games, hosting an All-Star Game is far from my mind. That feels like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that will only show itself after the storm that may or may not be still brewing. I’m not trying to be doom and gloom in early April, when hope is supposed to spring eternal. But the prospect of an All-Star Game’s movement just reminded me of how little we really know about what the future holds for a team that remains in such a holding pattern, waiting for something good to happen both on the field and off.

MLB has made it quite clear that they won’t be doing the Orioles any favors while this thing drags out. The Orioles are going to have to do all the favors for themselves. An All-Star Game is really the least of my concerns, however nice it would be to see it back in Baltimore. When it comes to the MASN controversy, fans deserve to know whether or not this is going to impact them on the field the way it has so drastically impacted them off of it.

Read Full Article

O’pening Day Starting Lineup for O’s Fans

Fans streaming in the Eutaw Street gate on Opening Day.

For the first time in more than two calendar years, Baltimore is about to celebrate a (somewhat) NORMAL Orioles Home Opener. If you ask 10 different people the best way to go about properly recognizing this festivity, you will probably get 10 different responses. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes the “best” Opening Day itinerary, and rightfully so.

Some may base their plans on past experiences and a desire to recapture former partying glory.

Others rely on superstition, recalling their exact location, outfit, and the food and drink they may have consumed during a memorable Opening Day victory in the past.

Many will base their Opening Day venue on their level of loyalty to the host of the celebration – whether it be a family member, friend, or famous local establishment.

No matter the rationale, Opening Day is always a great opportunity to come together as Orioles fans with hope for the season and hate for the Red Sox, Yankees, and Nationals.

Taking into account the variance amongst fans as to what is the “best” way to celebrate Opening Day, I have decided to present my own suggestions in a familiar format. Behold, the Starting Lineup of Opening Day Celebratory activities:

Fans watch the game against the visiting Minnesota Twins at the Baltimore Orioles’ home opener at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun

1. Hydrate for the day with a Hydration Multiplier Packet (or two) from Liquid IV

No free ads, I know I know. But If you don’t start your Opening Day by ensuring optimal hydration, I can personally guarantee you that you will want to forget this Opening Day ever happened. Liquid IV has been something I use every single morning for the last four years, and I suggest you make it part of your day as well, especially on a day as sacred as Opening Day. It’s a simple tool to use – rip the packet open, pour it into a bottle of water, shake it up, and enjoy.

This is a no-brainer for the leadoff spot, setting the table for rest of the lineup to be successful.

2. Get a solid base of food in your stomach with a Chicken, Egg & Cheese sandwich (on a biscuit, obviously) from Royal Farms

Every great day of celebration needs a solid breakfast to set the tone. Royal Farms offers just that, bringing their incomparable chicken to a breakfast sandwich that can be easily grabbed while buying your water that will have the Liquid IV packet added to it. You know you’re not going to be watching the game at home, and it’s almost impossible to go from one location to another in the Baltimore area without passing at least one RoFo on the way.

The two-hole is typically assigned to the hitter with the most consistency, and this sandwich is exactly that.

3. Drink one (or, better yet, many) Gose O’s beers by DuClaw Brewing Co.

Now we have arrived at the heart of the lineup. Gose O’s hits so many boxes for an Orioles fan on Opening Day – it’s (obviously) Orioles themed, it’s local, it is an alcoholic beverage with just enough ABV to get you buzzing while still being light enough to drink all day long, and it is absolutely delicious. Even to those who are typically averse to sours, this beer is a hit.

We all know the notable Orioles of yesteryear who have occupied the 3rd spot in the order – Cal, AJ, and Manny to name a few – so it’s programmed in us to expect big things. Gose O’s should be counted among the greats.

4. VIP at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood’s TailGOAT

Jimmy’s Famous Seafood is a Baltimore institution. A legendary Twitter follow. Savior of small business in the city. World-renowned tailgate party for Ravens games. And on top of all that, they do what is unimpeachably the best Orioles Opening Day pregame party you can possibly imagine. $200 of your hard-earned cash will get you on their VIP list. It includes a ride on a charter bus from their Dundalk location on Holabird Ave. to the tailgate (conveniently just a short walk to the ballpark), a private open bar and bartender, private bathroom access (HUGE BONUS), all-you-can-eat food, live music, celebrity guest appearances, AND a ticket to the game in the right centerfield lower reserves. For the 3-4 hours you’re in attendance at this can’t-miss event, you’ll trade in your Gose O’s for Jimmy’s Famous Orange Crushes, meet awesome people, rub elbows with Baltimore Royalty, and have the time of your life – that is a promise.

There was no other logical choice to hit cleanup on this list.

5. Pregame Beers at Pickles Pub

Carne Cabeza poses with his girlfriend Jess.
photo: Carne Cabeza

Every single person – without exception – who has ever attended an Opening Day at Camden Yards has experienced the mayhem that is Pickles Pub. It’s an atmosphere that some can’t get enough of, while others have had their fill. Pickles Pub is the runaway favorite for pregaming any Orioles game, but Opening Day Pickles is a beast unlike any other. I am not sure this description will win over anyone who may not have had the opportunity to experience it yet firsthand, but I will do my best: imagine 1,000 people sharing a space that would typically have about 150-200 in it, all of them at least seven beers deep, adrenaline pumping for the start of the new baseball season, enjoying (hopefully) a day over 55 degrees and sunny, in the shadow of the leftfield upper deck.

Even if you only go for a single beer, it’s not Opening Day in Baltimore until you’ve sandwiched yourself between two or more drunk, sweaty people waiting to happily overpay for an aluminum bottle of Bud Light on the Pickles Pub sidewalk.

Because Pickles sends more people directly into the stadium than anywhere else, they’ve earned the fifth spot in the lineup where we tend to see a lot of RBI production.

6. Pit BBQ Sandwich from Boog’s

It would be easy to make this list almost entirely about drinking. I, however, do not take the path of least resistance, so it’s important to make sure that food is also well-represented. “Forgetting” to eat on a day during which it is quite easy to get carried away with drinking is a recipe for disaster, but by visiting Boog’s BBQ in centerfield on Eutaw Street you will be treated to a much more preferable recipe. My personal favorite of the pit BBQ offerings is the turkey, dressed generously with hot sauce and horseradish. On many days, you may be lucky enough to see 1970 MVP Boog Powell himself holding court at the stand, where he will undoubtedly be happy to take a photo and probably sign an autograph.

This is another perfect storm for an Orioles fan on Opening Day – a delicious meal inside the ballpark just when you need it, with the added bonus of potentially making a lasting memory with an Orioles legend. Rock solid in the 6-hole.

7. Buy a beer from Fancy Clancy

Clancy pours beer behind his head.
photo: Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum

Clarence “Fancy Clancy” Haskett is on the Orioles non-baseball-personnel Mount Rushmore – that is a fact. Most people know damn well who he is, and others don’t realize they know but as soon as they see him they realize they have been in the presence of greatness. At one point in time, Robot Hand Man tried to make a run at Clancy’s seat upon the throne of great beer vendors, but like all others found that hill too steep to climb. Buying a beer from Clancy is an honor and a privilege that should not be taken for granted. The man even had a beer named after him for his tireless work bringing beer and joy to the people of Baltimore.

No matter what kind of beer he is selling (buy a Bud Heavy), you will buy it and you will like it – is that understood? Clancy owns the seventh spot in the lineup and there’s nobody who can take it from him.

8. Drink at least two beers at the CF Roof Deck Bar*

Until fairly recently, we didn’t have much in the way of options to socialize with a beer and still have a view of the game other than the Flag Court in right field, which does not offer a great visual perspective of the game itself. For years, the rooftop of the concessions/bathrooms in centerfield were reserved only for TV cameras. Someone with at least a moderate level of intelligence then thought to themselves, “maybe we should take advantage of that gigantic space out there and let the fans enjoy it.”

From that realization came what is now known as the CF Roof Deck Bar, an oasis of beer and Orioles baseball that offers one of the most breathtaking stadium views you will find anywhere in any stadium across the league. It can be tricky getting in and out, especially on Opening Day, but it is worth the trouble. Sitting in your seat will get old, and the CF Roof Deck Bar offers the opportunity to stretch your legs, enjoy your friends, make some new ones, drink more beers, and get an amazing view of both the game and do some top-notch people-watching on Eutaw Street from the backside of the bar.

This is my favorite place to be in the entire ballpark, Opening Day or not.

* unfortunately, this option isn’t available on this particular opening day, due to social distancing guidelines.

9. “Cheap Ass Beers” at The Bullpen

Everyone who has been to Pickles (so basically everyone, period) has seen “Cheap Ass Beers” sign guy (ed note: His name is Josh!) standing just to the right in front of another watering hole. I tend to even forget the place is called The Bullpen and refer to it as “Cheap Ass Beers,” and I am sure they are just fine with that. When the game has ended, most people aren’t ready to just pack it up and head on home. They need something to come to terms with the fact that another Opening Day has come and gone, and what better way to satisfy that need than to enjoy a couple “Cheap Ass Beers” at The Bullpen? If memory serves, I believe they sell 16-ounce domestic cans two for $3 but it could be $4.

Either way, that price point absolutely cannot be beat. And at the end of a marathon like Opening Day, you may serendipitously only have $4 in crinkled dollar bills left in your pocket. This is a perfect way to turn over the lineup for next time around, which is always the job of the ninth hitter in the lineup.

**BONUS** Uber/Lyft/cab/someone sober to drive you home

I just laid out a path to consuming an indeterminate number of alcoholic beverages, so I would be derelict in my duties if I didn’t make it abundantly clear that each and every person reading this should make an ironclad promise to themselves and everyone else in their general vicinity to be responsible about arranging a safe ride home. This list is intended to be a blueprint for doing Opening Day right every single year, and it would be a shame if you ruined that for yourself or anyone else by getting behind the wheel and ending up in jail, hurt, or hurting anyone else. Do not be an idiot, use all the resources available and leave your car parked. This is a demand, not a request.

So, there you have it. Follow this starting lineup to the letter and I will personally guarantee you have the Opening Day of your dreams. Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments or on Twitter where I can be found @willthedad.

Read Full Article

Introducing: Mac Sceroler

Mac Sceroler

Those who watched the Orioles-Yankees game last night know that pitching wasn’t exactly there for the Birds, what with the team giving up a grand slam and walking in runs en route to a 7-0 loss. However, there was one pitcher (who happened to be making his Major League debut) who held the fort down quite nicely when nobody else could.

That man’s name is Mac Sceroler.

Mac came in and got the O’s out of a bases loaded, one-out jam, which he entered with Aaron Judge at the plate. A daunting task if I’ve ever seen one.

He pitched 2 2/3 innings and struck out four, walked two, and didn’t give up a single hit. It looked as though his fastball hung around 94 mph and according to baseballsavant.mlb.com, Mac also has a split finger, slider, and curveball in his arsenal. Mac is only 25 (he turns 26 on Friday) which helps his stock as well.

Mac was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 36th round of the 2016 June Amateur Draft. He ended up staying in college at Southeastern Louisiana University for another year, and was then drafted by the Reds in the 5th round of the Amateur Draft in 2017.

The Orioles took Sceroler from the Reds in the Rule 5 draft, so the only way Mac does go back to the Minors is if the Reds have no interest in reacquiring him.

Again, with the current state of the Orioles bullpen, I’d be surprised if they were to get rid of any pitching capital in this kind of season where they’re looking for someone to stand out. He was ranked 45th on the O’s prospect list, and is said to be a long reliever with starting pitching ability at times.

I’d keep an eye out for him if he sticks around.

And hey, he’s Ben McDonald’s nephew, so he has that working his favor in Birdland.

Read Full Article

Birds Sweep BoSox in Beantown

Cedric Mullins in spring training

The unstoppable, infallible juggernaut that is the Baltimore Orioles came out of the gate perfect, starting their season with a sweep of the Boston Red Sox which was capped by an 11-3 drubbing on Sunday afternoon.  Each department of the team took the chance to shine throughout the weekend, so much so that it’s nigh impossible to pick one thing to be impressed by more than the others. 

As an esteemed Orioles fan and Opinion Haver, I came away from this series at Camden North with three main takeaways:

John Bleeping Means

I mean, woof!  My man 47 was in the zone in the opener. Pitching as good as he ever has in an Orioles uniform, Means threw seven shutout frames, allowing only a leadoff single to Kiké Hernandez.  The star of the show was far and away his change-up, that he repeatedly located at the knees of hitters and caused eight Boston swings-and-misses. 

While the fastball wasn’t sitting in the mid-90’s as it was last season, Means still has more than enough velocity, movement, and command of the pitch to make it effective.  Any critique of his performance would be hair splitting to the highest degree; Means showed all the signs of regaining his All-Star form and then some.

The Resurrection of Ced

Two years ago Cedric Mullins entered the season with many projecting him to be entrenched in center field, but a dreadful 6-for-64 start found him all the way back in Bowie by the end of the summer.  However, Mullins took advantage of the team’s lack of major league depth to reinvent himself (quite literally now that he’s given up switch-hitting) and re-emerge in Baltimore, and talk about taking the ball and running with it. 

Or seeing the ball and hitting with it. Yeah, let’s roll with that one. 

Mullins made his name known to the people of Fenway Park this weekend with a ho-hum 9-for-13 output including five hits in the series finale.  Obviously it’s still too early to extrapolate these numbers and pencil Big Ced in for an all star appearance, the early signs are more than encouraging and on a human level, it’s nice to see him succeeding after the tumult he experienced in 2019.

And hey, how fitting that a guy we are talking about being resurrected, on Easter became the first O’s CF with a leadoff 5-hit game since Al Bumbry in 1979 (h/t @HighHeatStats).

Rio, Defensive Genius

Not bad for a guy who only had two (!) Major League innings at second base prior to Friday’s opener, huh?

When Maikel Franco was signed on March 16, most in the Orioles community expected Ruiz to be the corresponding roster move. However, Yolmer Sanchez was the casualty, leaving an unorthodox opportunity that Rio more than capitalized on this weekend. Ruiz played a terrific second base, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Birdland since Steve Pearce manned the position. His newfound prowess was on display several times in the season opener, including one sick play in particular.

Ruiz’s offensive output isn’t going to jump off the page, and he may lose playing time if Jahmai Jones or Rylan Bannon is called up later this season, but if he can display this level of proficiency at second base until then, Rio will see plenty of action.

Sweeping the Red Sox is something of which I will never tire. To be honest, it was a bit of a challenge sticking to three main takeaways, because a bunch of guys did good stuff!  Bruce Zimmermann pitched well.  Trey Mancini hit the ball hard all weekend and displayed some defensive gems of his own.  Cesar Valdez closed out two games.  Ryan Mountcastle had a key double.  Having baseball back was good enough in and of itself, but this season is going to be doubly fun if we continue to witness individual performances like the first weekend in Fenway. 

On to New York!

Read Full Article

Give That Fan a Podcast Ep 14 – Opening Day

Give that Fan a Podcast

In this episode, I return from another unanticipated month-long break to celebrate Opening Day by answering some questions from my Twitter followers. I break down the 26-man roster and my expectations for the guys on the team, give a few hot takes, and talk a bit about the future of the podcast and my plan to open it up to other fans. A few over/unders, my favorite for Orioles MVP, possible prospect debuts this season, and my hope for the June first-year player draft are all answered here.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think John Means will be the Orioles’ best starting pitcher this year.

Read Full Article

O’s Look to Improve on Impressive Opening Day Record

Fans streaming in the Eutaw Street gate on Opening Day.

With Opening Day right around the corner, I wanted to look back at this historic day and see how the Orioles have done historically.

For starters, the Orioles are 43-24 in the season’s first game since comting to Baltimore in 1954. That’s better than both the Yankees and Red Sox in that time period…just sayin’.

The Orioles have played the Yankees then the Red Sox in the last two Opening Day games which obviously is not an easy task. It’s hard to forget the iconic Tommy Milone Opening Day start, with the Orioles as a whole giving up a healthy 13 runs. This onslaught happened at Fenway, and it was a fitting start to that makeshift 2020 season.

The Orioles have had quite a few Opening Day starters. The pitchers with the most Opening Day starts are Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina with six Opening Day starts apiece. In second is Orioles Hall of Famer Dave McNally (five starts) who was a key part of the Orioles’ 1966 championship. In third are three players who are well known around the current Orioles fan community; former ace Chris Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie and Rodrigo Lopez, each with three Opening Day starts to their name.

All in all, the Orioles have been relatively successful on Opening Day, even with their unremarkable history of teams in the recent past. The Orioles are ranked 3rd in Opening Day winning percentage at 58.8% (via David Adler at MLB.com) behind only the Mets and Mariners.

John Means is finally getting the Opening Day start he deserves and I’m excited for this Orioles team to come out for a game that really counts.

Come April 1st, we will finally have consistent Orioles baseball once again.

Read Full Article

Forget Opening Day Lineups, Give Me the CLOSING Day Lineup

Cedric Mullins at bat

With Opening Day a week away, there’s no shortage of lineup predictions hitting the internet. No seriously, even Chris Davis couldn’t swing a bat without barreling a mock lineup around here. Lineup predictions can be fun for sure. But honestly, they’re not really all that interesting.

Ceddy or Hays leading off in center?

Don’t really care…I’m here for it.

Will 2021 ROY Ryan Mountcastle open in left field or at first base?

Doesn’t matter…I wanna see it.

Right field? Third base? DH? 3/4/5 guys?

Any combo is probably gonna get me going honestly.

Look it’s not that I’m uninterested in Brandon Hyde’s strategies (or in how accurate all you lineup gurus are), it’s just that I understand he has infinitely more context to make those decisions than I do, and I’m much more interested in seeing the adjustments made throughout the season than on day one.

What is interesting to me though, is how the lineup might look on the LAST game of the season. As Comeback Player of the Year Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander are both off preparing for playoff runs (hypothetically, calm down) the Orioles’ lineup on October 3rd may not overwhelm you on paper, but it could potentially tell you an ounce more about the direction of the team, and could look something like this:

(yeah, yeah…Adley, not Aldey, you know what I meant)

The late season presence of players such as Rutschman, Diaz and even Jahmai Jones could really help fans more easily triangulate the pins on the re-build road map. By the end of the year we could really have more context on how overall player development is coming along within the new regime. We could know if Ryan Mountcastle’s future with the club is in the outfield or infield. We could know who our long-term centerfielder is. We could possibly even know how many beers can be shotgunned before the end of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.”

Ok so that last one’s a personal thing, but you get it. 

So yeah I’m juiced up about Opening Day for sure. Honestly haven’t seen too many proposed lineups that wouldn’t be fun to watch. But for me this season is going to act more like the first book in a long series, and I’m expecting tons of foreshadowing throughout the final chapter.  

Read Full Article

Who is the gOat of the 2010s O’s?

four all star players posed together with stadium crowd in background

submitted by Michael Vetter

We all know by now that Nick Markakis has officially retired from baseball, and as my fellow ESR blogger Andrew Stetka eloquently stated, Markakis had an immeasurable impact on the franchise and is surely a top 25 Oriole of all time. He was one of the most recognizable O’s during the 2010s, an era bookended by irrelevancy, yet still full of great accomplishments. After all, the O’s won the most games of any team in the AL from 2012-2016, while becoming AL East champions for the first time in 17 years on September 16, 2014. The 2010s were unquestionably better than the 2000s for O’s fans, and we owe many thanks to some incredible players who delivered unforgettable moments for us during the last decade. Still, the question remains: Who was the greatest Oriole from 2010 to 2019? 

I was somewhat surprised when I realized that Markakis has no chance at this title. Unfortunately for him, his WAR summed to only 8.9 from 2010 to 2014, even though he had a significant role in bringing the Orioles to the heights that they reached in 2014.

So who are the real contenders to be the gOat of the 2010s?

Well, Manny Machado and Adam Jones by far contributed the most to the Orioles’ regular season wins during that time frame with WARs of 27.8 and 26.6, respectively. There are some players like Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, and Zach Britton who had great peak seasons, but each of them only deserves to earn an honorable mention. They did not perform as consistently as Machado and Jones in the past decade, which means that only those two could be the 2010s gOat. 

Being the greatest in any sport comes down to contributing the most to winning. Jones and Machado certainly were part of several successful teams, as the Orioles achieved playoff appearances in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Unfortunately, both players did not perform well when they played in the postseason. In his 14 playoff appearances, Jones had an OPS of .397, seven runs and just four RBI. Meanwhile, Machado had only seven postseason appearances with an OPS of .570, two runs and two RBI. In fact, even the “honorable mention” players were poor performers and/or injured during those playoff runs. Based on all this evidence, no Oriole great of the 2010s was able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack by being elite in the postseason. Consequently, the race for the 2010s gOat title is very tight when we only consider the players’ regular-season performance numbers. 

If neither regular season nor postseason statistics can create a clear gap between Jones and Machado, then we must recount each player’s story to determine which of them was the greatest Oriole of the 2010s.

Machado came up to the Orioles on August 9, 2012, when the Orioles were 60-52 (a .536 winning percentage). By the end of the season, the Orioles were 93-69 (.574). Now, we cannot solely attribute that additional .038 of winning percentage to Machado’s entry into the team, but I was at Camden Yards when Machado hit his first two career HRs in his second game. On that day, there was an overwhelming and palpable energy within the stadium, which I had never experienced before as a young Orioles fan. The Orioles had certainly flirted with the playoffs in past seasons, but Machado was the final piece that made it feel like Baltimore was finally going to reach the finish line. Now, Manny did not perform well offensively the last two months of the 2012 season, but he was able to add 1.3 WAR to the team purely by playing excellent defense at 3B, a position which he had never played previously. After that, Machado did not truly develop offensively until 2015, when his doubles turned into home runs. From that year until he was traded in 2018, he led the team with 19.3 WAR. That was 11.7 more than Jones’s 7.6 WAR during that four-year period in which the O’s made a 2016 wild card game appearance.

On the other hand, Jones was an absolute constant in all three of the 2010 Orioles’ playoff seasons, since he only missed a combined 13 games. He followed the example of Cal Ripken Jr. to become the team’s greatest leader since the Iron Man retired. He fully experienced – and grew from – the Orioles’ irrelevancy in 2010 and 2011, as he was already a fan favorite. Then, he was the co-Orioles MVP with Matt Wieters in 2012, when the O’s reached the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Two years later, he was surely team MVP in 2014 when the Orioles finally won the AL East again. Although it was great for the O’s to participate in the 2016 wild card game, 2012 and 2014 were the O’s best two seasons in the 21st century. Both of these seasons made history and allowed the O’s to compete in a full postseason series. Adam was the clear clubhouse leader for those two important seasons as well as the entire decade. He always practiced what he preached by playing 137 games or more in each of his nine O’s seasons of the 2010s. He made the game fun for fans and teammates by always cracking jokes and slamming pies into faces. Finally, even though he was no longer a superstar towards the end of his O’s tenure, I will never forget watching him hit a walk-off HR on his final Opening Day game as an Oriole in 2018. 

In order to come to a final answer, it would be useful to re-frame this blog’s main question to this: If the Orioles were to retire either #13 for Machado or #10 for Jones based on their performances in the past decade, who would the franchise choose?

After evaluating all the evidence, I declare that Adam should be the clear choice. Not only was he a great performer, but he also led the O’s from long-term irrelevancy to turn the team into a true contender for years. He will never be forgotten by Baltimore, and neither will his impact on the community.

Honestly, I was not sure who would take this title when I began writing this blog. I was hoping that I would come to the conclusion that Machado or Markakis would win out, because they were my two favorite players growing up as an Orioles fan. Even so, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Adam Jones is the gOat of the 2010s.

Adam Jones walking by fans in stand holding champion flag
Read Full Article

Keegan Akin Should be in Opening Day Rotation

Keegan Akin throws a pitch

Every year, baseball fans across the country discuss the merits of their teams’ Opening Day roster. The reality is that the Opening Day roster matters very little to teams that aren’t really contenders. The roster that you really look forward to as a non-contending team is the post-trading deadline roster. Who has been traded? Who has been brought up from the minors? Who is playing every day? Are you starting to see glimpses of the future that can carry into the next season? Those are the important questions, not “who will start the 4th game of the season?”

That being said, when you are a team going nowhere and you have young players that are already in or about to be in the majors, they should be brought up immediately (unless of course you are gaming the service time system for a few weeks).

Last year, the Orioles gave us a potential glimpse into the future by bringing up a lot of young players and giving them playing time in a shortened season. One of those players was Keegan Akin.

Akin has been a guy who has certainly come through the system with question marks attached. For the most part, those question marks have centered around his command and control. Akin, a second-round pick out of Western Michigan in 2016, threw 376 minor league innings. In those innings, he only gave up 327 hits. His K rate was 9.9 and his HR rate was 0.9. His career ERA was 3.78 and that was hurt by the 4.73 ERA in the 2019 AAA season, which saw inflated offensive stats throughout the league. In fact, that 4.73 ERA was 6th best in the league. His MiL walk rate was 4.1 – obviously too high and cause for concern.

Last year, he started eight games for the Orioles and appeared in two others, throwing 25.2 innings total. 22.1 of those came in his six starts and the remaining 3.1 in his two relief appearances. As a starter, his ERA was 4.03 and as a reliever, it was 8.10, for a combined ERA was 4.56.

However, when you look deeper into his stats (and we are, of course, talking about a small sample size, so you have to take that into consideration), his numbers look a lot better. His K rate was 12.3. His walk rate was a very respectable 3.5 and his HR rate was about 1.0. He had a FIP of 3.27 and an xFIP of 3.85, so his “actual ERA” was unlucky and that was also evidenced by a .358 BABIP. He had a fWAR of 0.8 in just 25 innings, which is really solid for such a small sampling of innings. He also threw 64.4% of his pitches for strikes and had a swinging strike % of almost 22%, both well above average.

This spring, we have seen Akin struggle. His ERA is 10 and he struggled mightily to get through a few innings in yesterday’s start vs Pittsburgh. There has been a growing sentiment amongst Orioles fans that he should start the season in the minors. I just don’t understand this thought process. First of all, he isn’t blocking anyone from being in the rotation. Some want to mention Bruce Zimmermann and that’s fine but Zimmermann should be in the rotation regardless of the presence of Akin. Jorge Lopez shouldn’t even be in consideration for the rotation and we certainly shouldn’t do irrational things like make decisions based off of a few meaningless spring training innings. We don’t know what he is working on. We aren’t seeing the games to know how the wind is affecting things or how poor the defense is, etc.…We also haven’t seen him throwing on the side or in the B games or anything like that. These are all things that enter into the decision.

Akin has nothing left to prove in the minors. He performed well down there and did it at the highest levels. By all accounts, he performed well at the camp last year and came to the majors and more than held his own. In a year where the team is going nowhere, you give him the ball every 5th day and see if he can do it or not. If, at some point, we have five better starters than him and those guys are part of the future, you then can determine what to do with him but even at that point, he should be in the bullpen, not AAA. There is a fallacy amongst fans that you can only learn at the minor league level. That’s just wrong. And that is heightened by the fact that supposed pitching guru, Chris Holt, is the pitching coach for the Orioles now. We should want Akin working with him.

Many scouts have pegged Akin as a reliever, the belief being that he doesn’t have enough command and control to get through a lineup multiple times and that he isn’t pitch efficient. All of these things are very valid concerns and could play out to be his downfall. There isn’t any denying that but we aren’t close to being able to make that decision as of yet.

Leave the kid alone, make him your 3rd or 4th starter and just let him work things out.

In a season going nowhere, this is exactly what you should be doing.

Read Full Article

Interview: Zach Peek Excited & Humbled After Trade to O’s

Zach Peek

It’s 2012 in Frederick Maryland and I just traded in my non-camera phone for one that takes pictures and videos so I can film Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy at his Keys debut.

The first pictures in my current phone are from that start so many years ago, but now there are new ones. That rebuild of about a decade ago didn’t last so there’s a new movement going forward. Looking full circle, Bundy turned into a fine pitcher but his value to this current recycle is in trade.

In December 2019, the Orioles traded him away and received four exciting arms back from the Angels. Kyle Brnovich, Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish and Zach Peek represented a substantial return.

I’ve long held the stance that this was a very good trade for both clubs as the Angels got a proven innings-eater to keep them in games at the major league level but the Orioles got talent and a jolt of improvement in their constant pitching competition happening throughout the minors. A true win-win.

But what exactly did the O’s receive in that four-man return? In 2019 at minor league camp I had a chance to see Bradish’s big 12-to-6 curve and Mattson’s two pitch mix out of the pen. I got to meet Brnovich and his family and see the young strikeout artist carve up some organizational hitters too. But I only saw one day of Zach Peek which included some windups and some light fielding practice. Then Covid, the accompanying quarantine and no more action at the O’s complex.

Among dozens of guys I was eager to get eyes on, Peek would have to wait.

I have remained curious about Peek and what he brings to the table. Despite not having much on field action in his two-year career, there’s some deserved hype around the Winthrop product and his right arm. Fortunately I had a chance to chat with Zach and get some answers to a few questions I had been thinking about. What came across to me is that he enjoys competition but is driven more by winning and striving to do so. A high effort fighter with a rocket arm and good stuff seems a very good start for a pitching prospect. Here’s my discussion with a young man who is highly ready to get up on a mound and get his pro development on track and pointed towards Camden Yards.

Starting things off, I estimated he was pretty amped to get back to baseball and a familiar routine.

“You’re exactly right man,” he said. “I cannot wait to get off the mound and face live bats! Being someone who loves competition it’s been hard to get a fix for quite some time. It’s been a tough time for me to be away from the game and I just watch it.”

I can only imagine a guy like Peek who has yet to get substantial headway in his profession being frustrated by the extended and unplanned pause but he seemed OK knowing he’s getting back to work and has been waiting patiently. Zach has learned to value rest but aches for the “hotel, field, hotel, field, hotel” regimen that makes he and his teammates forget which day it is rather quickly.

Getting back to minor league camp in late March means being back on a schedule that’s no longer his own, but also playing baseball against talented teammates and opponents. According to Peek, what he’s looking forward to the most is having “somewhere to go out and get some competition.”

Zach seems like a typical youngster: playing video games to get some juices flowing, and heading outside to rest and relax.

“I like video games that are competitive and take genuine skill,” he tells me. “It’s a way to compete even when you’re not on the field…..I need that.”

He would have attended lots of concerts in the last year to fill in the time vacated by no baseball but missed out on that too.

As far as his craft off the field, he follows the game closely.

“I watch a lot of baseball, especially pitchers.”

Interestingly, Zach follows European Soccer leagues so he’s not a baseball only sports fan.

Not every baseball player knows what it’s like to be part of a trade, but Zach already does being part of that four-for-one swap with Anaheim.

“I was drafted and then traded so I got used to one organization and had to switch it up so that’s an interesting aspect of my career. The trade was the last thing on my mind in November after instructs with the team (Angels). What you don’t understand unless you’ve been traded, is just how quick it is. It was tough leaving a lot of the new friends I had met, but I’ve fit right in over in Baltimore no problem.”

Getting dealt can be viewed from many angles. It seems apparent that Zach looks at his move from the west coast as a positive as far as opportunity is concerned. When I asked him about that unique feeling of being dealt for a quality starter like Dylan Bundy, he had an uplifting perspective.

“It’s definitely exciting, almost humbling,” Peek explained. “You just know the O’s wanted me. Obviously it’s makes me excited to know that my team gave up a big arm for us four. They didn’t trade for this group by accident, there was some thought behind it and if they were giving up Bundy they wanted each of us.”

Also, Zach let me know another Angel teammate that he became close to at his previous stop, saying that Garrett Stallings, who came over in the Jose Iglesias trade, “was one of my better friends over there, he can do big things and that’s my guy.”

I added in Jahmai Jones, cited his infield athleticism and we tried without success to figure out why the O’s front office was so keyed in on the Angels.

With a young and talent filled organization like the Orioles there’s competition for so many spots. At the end of the day, stuff is what separates pitching talent and Zach has the kind of movement that scouts notice.

I’ve seen each pitchers from the Bundy trade throw but not Zach. Curious, I asked what’s in his arsenal and what/when he likes to use it.

“I pitch quite a bit off of my fastball. I love to establish that first and allow the rest of the arsenal to play off of the fastball.”

Without getting into details, some situations call for a 12-to-6 curve and some need something more horizontal-moving, so Zach has worked on crafting a slider, and a slurve. Out of nowhere, Zach decided to add in some music to my ears as I grew up a huge Mike Mussina fan.

“I also throw a circle change. It’s got good arm side tail. The changeup attacks hitters on both sides of the plate. I’ve been working on its depth leading up to camp, and my curveball has over 3000 RPM.”

It looks like as far as stuff Peek represents a talented athlete for the player development staff to work with as his game grows. This is the kind of exciting progress that’s happening throughout the system at multiple levels.

I’m getting star-crossed visions of future pitching rotations and lineups at this point so I wanted to get his perspective on some of the talent that he’s seen in his short time as an O.

O’S FANS PAY ATTENTION HERE

“The Orioles are getting so stacked,” Zach said. “It’s cool to be wanted by an organization with the depth they have. From my observation and through playing catch with different guys, we have a LOT of young arms coming up. Kyle Bradish is going to be big; someone to watch this year, and it helps that he’s my guy over there. I really love what DL and Grayson are gonna do, and it’s gonna be fun to watch. Dan Hammer/Drew Rom should be huge this year too!”

It’s great to bring in a talented pitcher (or four) who’s eager about the organizational talent of which he is a part. Nothing says TEAM like supporting your guys. The O’s young and quickly-forming nucleus is supportive and highly competitive at the same time. He’ll fit right in.

It was tough to get a scouting report or see video on Zach and the other players acquired in that deal due to the Angels being one of a handful of teams that basically rests their college draftees in the first year of their career. He didn’t seem to mind, instead seeing the benefits of this introduction to the pro baseball lifestyle and routine. Giving a detailed answer highlights that some organizations do things differently.

” [In Anaheim] guys coming in off of college seasons with 100+ innings, high school guys that will need special attention, and just basically anyone who they think will have an impact early. I was in a group of 12 players, with myself Garrett Stallings and Kyle Brnovich were all a part. Instead of sending you to rookie ball, we stayed at the spring training complex for 12 weeks, doing an extensive six-day strength and conditioning routine, as well as a throwing program. It’s done this way to allow us to progress as fast as possible, like coming out of spring training in low-A fast. It’s modeled after Griffin Canning who had an incredibly fast path to the big leagues, and it was interesting to be a part of. It was cool as a young player being told I had a shot to fly through. I can understand both ways that organizations to do it, but I think the on-boarding was more beneficial for me at the time than more innings on my arm.”

But now Peek is property of the Baltimore Orioles and despite his relative newness with the staff, he knows the rebuild is in full swing and he’s all in to play a role in future success.

“To be part of a situation with so much talent around you and people to learn from, everybody brings something to the table. Pitch crafting, grips, counts it’s all going to make a huge difference.”

Zoom has made things unconventional but he’s open to learning that way and in fact had his intro and Spring camp protocol review the night we spoke finishing out this interview. Communicating and interacting this way is just another example of the Orioles being ahead of the curve comparatively among other clubs.

Women in the field, executive offices and the training rooms is another one. We talked about a few rising throughout the ranks and Zach said that strength trainer Liz Pardo was an example who stood out to him.

“Pardo brings A LOT of energy to the weight room and is cool to be around. She does different, innovative stuff and knows how to get us going.”

Liz is one of the many resources available to him and the Orioles crop of future stars as they make their way up. It’s thrilling for him to have them helping his education in the sport he loves. Zach’s climb will take significant steps forward this year and the competitor in him came out when I asked him what he’s out to accomplish in 2021.

“I’m going to come out and pitch my ass off. Bring it every single day no matter what happens. We’ve missed so much baseball, it’ll be great to be out there regardless. I plan to beat as many hitters as I can and bring my best stuff every day I can.”

I have to say, it’s very difficult not to grin when you hear that on the other end of the phone. Great to know that with a developing stuff package, Zach can mix in plenty of desire and fight up on the mound.

“What I’m trying to establish the most is any-pitch-any-count. I don’t like to be crafty and drop stuff in the zone. If I can get the fastball by you, I’m throwing heat.”

Realizing his intrinsic pitcher-ness, I crossed off the question about interest in playing other positions. Zach went on to describe the difference between his simulated innings in the offseason and game situations.

“You can throw lives (BPs) and indoors, but it doesn’t really come out until you’re on that mound. The competitor shines through and that’s where you see guys hitting 100.”

Discussing his education in baseball, it’s apparent Zach has lots of pride in being part of a team and mentioned his Alma mater Winthrop more than once. He even recalled a lesson from his coach there, Tom Riginos, about his best ability being availability.

“I hated it back then but it didn’t take long to learn about health being foundational for my success.”

Zach is a proud alumnus and his brother Brady is a member of the school’s ESports team where he’s known as The Hitman according to the school’s website. Excelling in the Rocket League, trying to keep up with Brady is something Zach has trouble with.

There are a lot of names throughout the Orioles system and so many of them represent stories that fans would support and follow if they knew them all.

I’m going to find as many as I can and share them. The internet helps and there are plenty of stats but they don’t tell the whole story. In Zach’s case there’s so little to go on professionally due to his on-boarding in Anaheim and then Covid. Talking to him, he’s as eager to get back as every other player I’ve talked to since the pandemic started. It’s great to hear.

The O’s will have no shortage of motivated and ready players and staff to get back to work.

Here’s hoping that Zach has a great and healthy 2021 and we hear plenty from him in the future.

Read Full Article

What is this New O’s Dominican Academy?

submitted by Braden Kletz

As some of you may have seen, the Orioles announced the creation of an Orioles Dominican Academy in the Dominican Republic. As described by the Orioles Senior Director of International Scouting Koby Perez:

“This complex will play a vital role in our ability to attract international talent to the organization, but the impact will extend far beyond the field. The young players we recruit and sign will learn valuable life skills off the field, including leadership, civic and community service, English as a second language, and basic American culture. These development opportunities will serve them well for the rest of their lives.”

So by the description given, this won’t just be a playing field. The buildings attached will be a learning space for up-and-coming talent. There will be over 100 dorm rooms for athletes, classrooms and computer labs for educational purposes, a state of the art cafeteria, and obviously the things attached to baseball with weight rooms, playing fields and a turf field that will be used for strength and conditioning. The artificial field is also a big selling point because there aren’t very many places in the Dominican that offer this kind of care.

As described in the press release by GM Mike Elias, this will help the Orioles increase their presence abroad and make the Orioles a destination where this foreign talent will want to come. Elias also said that he understands parents might be concerned for their child in these kinds of situations, so he believes this facility will make certain that their child is in good hands and they have nothing to worry about. Here is the exact quote:

“We have made tremendous strides over the last couple of years in establishing our international presence and revamping our baseball operations infrastructure, and this project may be the most momentous step yet.”

Orioles Senior Director of International Scouting Koby Perez also mentioned that this facility will somewhat mirror what the Orioles have in Sarasota, so these kids have the same opportunity to develop as those who are in Sarasota. Also, it was briefly mentioned that this facility will be home to many foreign prospects, not just those in the Dominican. Because of that, the facility will be about 20 minutes away from their airport which makes things very convenient for those coming into town.

All in all I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. An international presence is key to building a great farm system and eventually a great pro team. We see many other teams that seem to get every big name Latin American prospect, and it sounds like the Orioles are trying to change that cycle. The facility will reportedly be up and running in about 12-16 months after construction has started and is said to be around 22.5 acres. It is good to see Mike Elias making strides to bring winning baseball back to Birdland.

Read Full Article

O’s Ready to Surprise in 2021

I’m a bit of a self-described homer when it comes to my sports teams. Every football season I believe the Ravens will win a Super Bowl – and you’re not going to convince me there’s a better front office out there.

And that’s what’s made it hard for me over the past couple of seasons as an Orioles fan. I’m out here practically begging for a reason for short-term optimism, and over the last few seasons, I haven’t been able to find it.

That’s what makes this Spring a little surprising for me. After watching games, listening to podcasts, and reading article after article about the O’s, I’ve found that I’m optimistic – and not just for the long term. It’s certainly not anyone’s telling me I should be – in fact, it’s all the opposite.

Sports Illustrated tells me it will be a long summer and projects the Orioles to get 62 wins. FanGraphs gave the O’s a 0.0 percent chance at making the playoffs – and they’re the only team that FanGraphs gave a zero percent chance.

No, I don’t think the O’s will be playing in October. I don’t think it’ll even be particularly close. But there’s so much short-term pessimism about the O’s they’re acting like this is year one of the rebuild.

Baltimore fans and pundits alike act like the O’s are at the same point the Pirates are in their rebuild. But they’re not.

They’ve improved every year since they started this rebuild – and if you extrapolate last season’s record to a full 162-game season, they would’ve had 68 wins. And I fully believe that this is a better team than last year.

The outfield is stacked – Cedric Mullins is raking in Spring Training, Ryan Mountcastle is a rookie of the year candidate, Austin Hayes is looking phenomenal, and Mike Elias thinks DJ Stewart is going to have a breakout year. Up and coming, they have Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna champing at the bit.

Oh, and they still have that guy everyone’s worried about them trading in Anthony Santander. It’s not just stacked in the outfield, it’s getting crowded.

In the infield, they got Trey Mancini back, competent infielders in Freddy Galvis and Yolmer Sanchez, and they upgraded offensively with Maikel Franco at third.

With Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco behind the plate, you have two competent catchers before potentially throwing Adley Rutschman in the mix later in the year.

The offense is better – but the big question has always been the pitching. Still, I like their options there. I like John Means. I’m a big fan of Keegan Aiken despite his rough Spring, and I like Dean Kremer too. I think Bruce Zimmermann deserves a shot, and we’ll probably see some Zac Lowther this year.

It’s not like the pitching was all that great last year, but I think they’re better this year too. No, I don’t think this team is making the postseason – but is 75 wins really out of the question? I think a 65-to-75-win season is the most likely outcome, but DraftKings has the Over/Under at 64.5 and FanDuel hast it at 63.5 – for me, those are two easy overs.

Yeah, I know we’re in the toughest division in baseball – and you’ll never convince me otherwise. But I think in a weaker division, we’d be playing .500 ball.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like we’re on the cusp – the edge right before the breakout, and I think that breakout is coming sooner than people think – and 2021 might be the year that clues everyone else in.

Read Full Article

Nicole Sherry’s Infield a Talent Draw for O’s

Oriole Park at Camden Yards infield

Oriole Park at Camden Yards holds a reputation throughout the league as a favorite for MLB hitters. It’s a reputation with statistical backing. Since 1992 the stadium at 333 W Camden St has also carved out a favorable reputation with fans, both home and away. The stadium repeatedly dominates in fan surveys and social media polls as one of baseball’s premier spots to catch a game. But last Saturday, new Orioles infielder Freddy Galvis shone light on another jewel in the crown at Camden.

Aa a guest on MLB network radio’s “Home Plate,” Galvis praised the infield at OPACY and called it “one of the biggest things” for him in deciding to come play in Baltimore. “Camden Yards is one of those fields where you want to play, and I really love playing on that field” says the MLB vet who has played on his fair share of infields since his debut with the Phillies in 2012 and concedes that not all fields are created equal.

The endorsement is just the latest testament to the incredible work of the grounds crew at OPACY, led by head groundskeeper Nicole Sherry. Heading into her 15th season at the park, Sherry continues to dominate in a heavily male-influenced field, that sits inside an even heavier male-influenced industry. Serving as an overall beacon for women in sports the award-winning groundskeeper also remains a critical fortifying structure for a team that is otherwise rebuilding from the ground up.  

In a response to Galvis, Nicole tweeted out her excitement to welcome him to Baltimore and promised that the infield would be “prime” when he got there.

That’s a description I’m not only positive that she’ll live up to, but that also describes her and her team’s contribution to the overall experience of baseball in Baltimore.

Read Full Article

Where are the O’s Traded in 2018 Now?

Manny Machado & Jonathan Schoop.

submitted by Braden Kletz

At the start of the 2018 season, I along with many others thought the Orioles had a chance to make – or at least get close to – the playoffs. But instead, the Orioles got out to a miserable start, sitting with an 8-27 record at the start of May. With three losing skids of at least five losses in a row in the first two months of baseball, Dan Duquette and ownership had reason for concern for the team. With that in mind, Duquette felt like it was up to him to make a change.

 So in the month of July, Duquette traded away some of the best talent Baltimore had ever developed in the snap of a finger. By the end of the month, the likes of Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Manny Machado, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop and Zack Britton were gone.

Now, as we approach three years removed from these transactions, I wanted to go and find out how these guys are doing now.

The cork holding this Orioles team together finally burst on the 18th of July, when Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a rental deal to help LA go for a championship run. We all know how that turned out, and Manny had his choice of destination in free agency. A little less than a month before Bryce Harper decided to go to Philadelphia, Manny made the choice to head to San Diego on a massive 10-year $300 million deal. With a little bit of a shaky start in San Diego, Manny and the Padres are starting to turn it around with the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr. and recent pitching signings. Many have the Padres as World Series favorites, and I really don’t blame them. Manny’s glove is as it’s always been, and if his bat comes around he’ll be back to his standard All-Star level in no time.

After Manny got traded, we knew that there was just about nobody on the team that the Orioles weren’t willing to trade. Although upsetting, Zack Britton coming next was not much of a surprise. After getting traded to the Yankees, Britton still seems to be his consistent self, with an ERA of under 2.00 in both of his seasons in NY. The way I see it, Zack is still his consistent self on the Orioles rival team.

I personally remember Brad Brach being somewhat inconsistent on the mound, but when he was on, he was ON. Brach got traded to the Braves and for the rest of that season, he did pretty well. After that, his outings were a bit more shaky. In 2019, Brach signed with the Mets looking for a fresh start. At 34, he signed a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite with Kansas City this spring.

The trade that followed is the one that hurt me the most personally: the Jonathan Schoop trade. If you look up nostalgia in the dictionary, there should be a picture of the feeling I get when I picture Manny and Schoop together. Those two were so fun to watch, and my only wish at the time was that those two stayed together. I personally thought Schoop could’ve stayed around for the rebuild, but Duquette thought otherwise and traded him to Milwaukee. Schoop did not have much success with the Brewers in 2018 or the Twins in 2019, but is having more success in Detroit where he’s currently on a one-year deal. Schoop is only 29, and I see a lot of upside in him in the field as well as the plate.

On the same day as the Schoop trade, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day were sent to Atlanta. O’Day has recently joined Zack Britton in New York, and Gausman just got a one year deal with the Giants worth $18 million. Gausman is coming off of a solid 3.62 ERA season, and O’Day had a nice looking 1.10 ERA over the COVID-shortened season. O’Day is 38, so I’m not expecting many more years out of him, but you never know. Gausman, at 30, could get a big payday if he has a productive 2021, considering how in demand solid starting pitchers are in this day and age.

There’s obviously a lot of debate as to what led up to this blowing up of an entire franchise in a single month, but there’s nothing to do about it now, so I see no point in dwelling on it. All I know is that whenever I see any of these guys playing, I’m rooting for them. Every so often, I check on these guys and see how they’re doing because they were all a massive part of my baseball life just three years ago. There could also be a whole debate as to if these trades got a good enough return, but I think it’s a bit too early to be certain. However, I did see almost all of the prospects the Orioles got on the top 50 Orioles prospects list conducted by Pitchers List, which is the only form of reassurance we have as of this point.

With Mike Elias now at the helm and only two players active that were on that 2018 team, this new era of Orioles baseball will be a journey, and the only way to get by is to have an uncanny amount of hope and patience.

Read Full Article

Five O’s to Add to Your Fantasy Squad

While fantasy owners sit down on draft day with the primary goal of building the best team possible, the inherent bias in most of us leads to trying to work as many of our favorite team’s players into the mix that we can.  I mean sure, Gleyber Torres is an elite fantasy player, but what fun (or shred of morality) accompanies rooting for a Yankee?  The things we do to hit a lick.

One small problem that Orioles fans have encountered in recent years is that valuable fantasy players have been scarce due to the team being, uh, bad.  The Major League team was on the back burner, and there was little value to be found. Prior to his absence last season, Trey Mancini was ostensibly the only consistent fantasy producer. Thankfully, the Orioles have begun to transition out of the “rock bottom” phase of the rebuild, and the 2021 iteration of the team should feature several players who will become valuable pieces that any fantasy owner would love to have. This advice applies to both single-season and keeper leagues, and I will be viewing their fantasy value through the context of the traditional five stats for hitters (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, K, WHIP, SV). Mancini will not be discussed, as frankly I’m just happy to see him back on a baseball field and I don’t care how he does this year as long as he stays healthy, but I certainly believe he will be a useful fantasy player.

Anthony Santander, OF

Always known for his offense, Britain’s favorite Oriole broke out in a big way last summer before falling victim to an oblique injury that cost him the final month of the season. Santander’s 11 HR, 32 RBI, and 24 runs in 37 games made him a borderline top-25 outfielder last year, a surefire starter on any team. He’s a non-factor on the basepaths, but his batting average should remain high enough to justify starting him and may end up being an asset, if like me you believe his .248 BABIP suggests there is room for improvement in that category. 

Santander should slot in as a solid #3/#4 OF with potential to be more, and may even warrant a keeper slot depending on your league format.

Ryan Mountcastle, OF/1B

Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports

Mountcastle was one of the first rays of hope to emerge from the desolate cavern that is the Orioles rebuild and was a reliable fantasy player from the jump. While I do believe that will continue in 2021, there is a chance for regression in some areas. Mountcastle made good contact; he was in the 65th percentile of major leaguers in HardHit%, but his .398 BABIP will almost assuredly decline. Players who consistently hit the ball hard can sustain higher BABIP (DJ LeMahieu being an example), but very seldom do players end up with BABIP numbers that high – only two players, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, have done so from 2016-19 – but that isn’t to say Mountcastle’s production will plummet.  I think .280 with 20-25 homers is a realistic expectation for him, and he’s a player that keeper league owners may want to look towards, though I wouldn’t count on his 1B eligibility making it through this season.

John Means, SP

John Means pitches.
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports

I made my debut on Eutaw Street Report espousing John Means and will continue to do so this spring. Means is probably the only O’s starting pitcher that will be on the radar on draft day, and could show himself to be a solid #4/#5 fantasy starter. Granted, wins will be few and far between for starters on a team whose ceiling is 65-70 wins and that will limit his value, but Means should be able to contribute in other categories. Assuming that his K/9 falls somewhere in the range of 2019 and his truncated 2020 season, he would be an average to above average source of strikeouts, and his outright unwillingness to walk people will keep his WHIP close to 1.00.

I strongly recommend Means as a late-round pick who could very easily perform at #3 fantasy SP levels.

Rylan Bannon, 2B

Rylan Bannon on deck
Derek Arnold

You’re probably rubbing your eyes to make sure you read that right, but this is more of a mid-season transaction for which to keep an eye out. Some of the most important fantasy transactions, regardless of sport, are the waiver wire pickups. 

Did one of your top picks not meet expectations? Is your squad battling injuries? Did you forget you were in the league for a few months? The waiver wire is your oasis, and I think Bannon could possibly become a sneaky good waiver wire pickup later this year. 

Now, most of this is predicated on the Orioles finding suitors for one of Yolmer Sanchez or Freddy Galvis at the deadline, as there may not be a clear path to enough playing time to merit fantasy usage. However, I am absolutely enamored by Bannon’s profile as a hitter and if it translates to the majors, would make for a useful fantasy player. He’s displayed power in the minors despite his smaller frame, a trait not shared by many second basemen. While not an above average runner, his ability to get on-base should lead to enough stealing opportunities to contribute meaningfully in that category, and the ability to play second and third makes him a flexible late-season option if he gets the call-up.

  

Adley Rutschman, C

I had to do it!  I’ve been waiting for two years to be able to discuss Rutschman within the context of actually being on the team, and how he would produce, and now is the time.  Like Bannon, Rutschman is one for the summer in single-season leagues, but he should be viewed as one of the top keeper league assets you can have. It’s clear that a 2021 debut will happen provided he remains healthy, and the feedback we’ve gotten from Mike Elias and co. is that his bat could’ve been playing in the majors already.  With catcher being the thinnest fantasy position, I would snatch Rutschman up the day he gets to Baltimore if I were a single-season owner and expect instant contributions in all offensive categories except for steals. In the meantime, Pedro Severino actually isn’t a terrible option!

Read Full Article

Counterpoint: Maikel Franco – Here’s Why

Maikel Franco finishes his swing

This morning at ESR, Danny Majerowicz wrote a terrific breakdown of the potential downside for the Orioles when it comes to signing Maikel Franco. The thoughtful and researched conclusion that a defensive downgrade at third base could have potential negative effects on the development of Baltimore’s young pitching staff is one I agree with. I only hope to offer a quick alternative perspective, if for nothing but the sake of optimism.

While Danny recognizes the potential offensive upgrades Franco holds over Rio Ruiz, I believe he dismisses them too easily. He cites Ruiz’s higher exit velocity (87.9 to Franco’s 86.7) and barrel rate (8.5% to Franco’s 5.8%) as signals that the two may not be all that dissimilar offensively this upcoming season. This is where I start to disagree.

If we’re going to weight the fact that Ruiz makes better contact over a smaller sample size (using barrel rate) then we have to equally weight the fact that he strikes out more over a smaller sample size as well. Ruiz’s K% (22.5) in 2020 is almost a full seven percent higher than is Franco’s (15.6). We then have to consider the fact that in 2020 Franco also bested Ruiz in wOBA (.329 to .303) and in wRC+ (106 to 90).  

These numbers are not insignificant. Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) are two of the most effective metrics we have in measuring offensive value. Even while conceding that Ruiz makes better contact (not accounting for hard hit rate) he still gets on base significantly less than Franco, strikes out more, and created fewer potential runs than the average MLB player by 10 points, where Franco was above the average player by six.

As Danny noted, the potential downside of this signing is in fact a defensive liability that eats into precious development of a young pitching staff. But another pitfall to consider is a lack of offensive production. Run support can be equally critical to the overall well being of a young staff’s development.

Hopefully both Rio Ruiz and Maikel Franco each seize their opportunities to contribute effectively to every facet of the game. Mike Elias’ reasoning behind this signing may not be as obvious on the surface as others, but I have to believe that it flows along the same underlying current.

Read Full Article

Do Spring Training Stats Matter?

It’s the same every spring…your favorite player’s success, mediocrity or outright failures are quickly draped in a caveat heard by each MLB fan every single year:

“It’s only spring training.”

Whether being weaponized by rivals or stockpiled for self-comfort, this swiss-army phrase comes in handy to most of us at one point or another. But the answer to the question of whether spring stats matter, like so many other things in baseball, is extremely contextual.

Every player’s approach to the game is his own. Sure, things follow a general pattern based on positional and situational factors, but it’s the minor distinctions a player develops that best fit his biological/psychological profile that sets him apart from others.

In other words, a player’s production can “matter” relative to his approach.

MLB’s John Smoltz recently asked Miguel Cabrera what his goals were for this spring. Miggy told him he wanted to “see everything.” He wanted to get jammed inside, he wanted to see down and away, wanted to hit opposite field, hit ahead/behind in a count. He basically wanted to get at least one look at everything he knows he’ll see in a real MLB season. Nick Castellanos, when asked the same question said, “I just want to get my body ready for a full season.”

As you can see, neither of these approaches are focused on spring production. Roster security allows veteran players like these to take a much more tailored approach in their playing time.

Now contrast that against a guy trying to make an MLB roster for the first time. Or an aging journeyman trying to make a comeback or hold onto his career. The focus is going to be much different. Spring production is going to matter in a different way and tell us a different story. And we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of nuance here. Imagine how much a player’s approach can change depending on intra-game situations and matchups.

What about the young prospect pitching against the veteran hitter, or vice-versa? Coaching philosophies, analytical strategies, position battles, injury rehabs, all can change the field of approaches considerably and in different ways when the final score doesn’t count.

Spring stats matter; to what degree is less definitive and incredibly contextual. Bottom line is you’ll always be able to spot someone’s overall bias on a player/team by how they refer to them in spring training. They may not be considering all the factors and environmental contexts in play.

But when it comes to baseball, like players, every fan’s approach to the game is their own.

Read Full Article

Maikel Franco…But Why?

Maikel Franco

submitted by Danny Majerowicz (@dmajer347)

Of all the technological and statistical advancements made in Major League baseball over the past decade, measuring defensive performance remains troublesome. While statcast has provided new and exciting information on how a player performs with their glove, predicting future value on defense remains difficult. Perhaps, that is the mentality of the Orioles’ front office in signing Maikel Franco, which they are reportedly very close to doing.

At the very least Franco improved from -5 outs above average in 2015 at third base to -1 in a limited 2020. His ultimate zone rating (UZR), a stat that tries to encapsulate an entire defender’s performance, went up by over a percentage point from 2019 to 2020. To further demonstrate Franco’s improvement at the hot corner, his defensive runs saved totaled 0 in 2020, up from -2 in 2019, albeit in 500 fewer innings played. 

All of this to say, maybe, just maybe, Franco is worth a low-risk deal where the possibilities of a resurgence on offense at Camden Yards are better than at most parks. In fact one might even be inspired to bet on it at olybet.

I fear such a thought process to be widely problematic. In 2019, former Camden Depot EIC Jon Shephard on Twitter explained that the “difference between the worst team defense and the best team defense is about 2500 pitches or effectively half a season from a starter.” The Orioles ranked 20th in defensive WAR last year, 18th in UZR, and 18th in DRS. Not the worst, but improvements are needed. Regressing on defense means more pitches thrown which puts more injury risk on the pitching staff, especially on young pitchers like Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, and Bruce Zimmermann, not to mention all the guys who might debut at some point this year as well.

I want to argue that protecting and developing these young arms should be priority number one for the Orioles at this stage in their rebuilding efforts. Pitching injuries are a guarantee in baseball. Take a look at the top ten pitching prospects in the Orioles system; there is a good chance at least one of them will have their career derailed by injury.

Knowing the rate of injury for pitchers, the Orioles should be doing everything they can to mitigate that risk, especially for the arms who have made it to the big leagues, where they not only demonstrated the required talent, but will also have to pitch more in a longer season.

Which brings us to our central problem: does Maikel Franco improve the Orioles team defense or does he hurt it and by virtue hinder the development of our young pitchers?

If Franco is given the majority of innings at third base, which this article assumes he will, then our comparison falls on Rio Ruiz. Quantifying Ruiz’s 2020 campaign on defense can lead to confusion. For example, His UZR plummeted from his 2019 mark of 1.8 to 1.4. However, his DRS was up from -5 in 2019 to 2 in 2020 despite playing 400 fewer innings. His outs above average also saw an improvement from 2019 to 2020, -4 to 2.

In other words, the defensive metrics aren’t quite sure what to make of Ruiz, though they lean towards him being a slightly above average third baseman. His OOA ranked tied for 6th in qualified players at third base with Manny Machado, Matt Chapman, and Alex Bregman among others. Franco was tied for 20th. And while Franco ranked better in UZR and defensive WAR than Ruiz, Rio edged Franco out in DRS.

Now, the next question we would have to answer is, “which of these stats do we trust to be more predicative of future success?” There are a variety of opinions when it comes to this question.

I do not wish to enter into that debate here. But I will venture to claim that Rio Ruiz, if not flat out better on defense than Franco, is at least his equal. If you are willing to accept such a claim, then why sign they guy who is two years older to take over at the position? At best, Franco gives you the same level of value on defense as Ruiz, meaning the same level of protection for your pitchers. More likely, however, is Franco regresses back to his career norms at the position, in which case he is damaging the development of those arms.

But perhaps you are the type of person who is optimistic. You believe in Franco’s improvements on defense and want to argue that his bat provides a sufficient upgrade to off-set the possible minor defensive risk when compared to Ruiz. You’ll cite Franco’s .278 average in 2019 and his 106 wRC+, all far better than Rio’s 2019. Maybe you like OPS, where Franco was sixty points higher than Ruiz, or that Franco’s K% was seven percent lower. All of which I would have to admit is fair, and if you accept my assumption that Franco will replace Ruiz, I must accept your assumption that his defensive improvement sticks thus clearly making him more valuable because of his offensive upside.

However, I deny that Franco provides any real upgrade on offense. Unlike on defense, using our tools to predict offensive performance has a much better track record. Ruiz had a higher average exit velocity than Franco, was much better at avoiding outs on average, and barreled the ball more. Simply, Rio made better contact on average than Franco. But Franco had a .298 BABIP while Ruiz suffered at .244. Of course, Ruiz also needs to make more contact, but considering the contact made, and each player’s BABIP, their batting average and OPS could look quite similar in 2021.

Now that I have considered this assumption, I will take the easy route and deny it outright. Franco will, as far as we can be certain about future defensive performance, be worse on defense than Ruiz, hindering pitcher development, while providing similar offensive production.

Very few moves from the Mike Elias team have felt as if they were just a move to make one. Almost everything has had a sense of purpose, another step in a larger plan. Signing Maikel Franco, seems to be contrary to that plan.

Orioles fans can only hope Elias & Co. have numbers that provide them a better insight into the future than these publicly available ones I’ve cited provide us.

Read Full Article

Nick Markakis’ Simple Legacy with the O’s

baseball player running after hitting ball

The news that Nick Markakis is retiring from baseball was about as understated and nonchalant as his remarkable career. The 37-year-old announced he’d be calling it quits after 15 seasons in the big leagues, finishing with a .288/.357/.423 line, with 2,388 base hits. It was always a long shot, but last season’s pandemic-shortened season probably tanked his effort at the elusive 3,000-hit mark. Markakis spent his first nine seasons in Baltimore, playing for the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2003. He left after the memorable 2014 campaign in which the O’s won the American League East to go play six more seasons for his hometown Atlanta Braves.

Part of what made Markakis so important to the Orioles (and for that matter the Braves) was his steadiness. He only played all 162 games in a season once (2018 in Atlanta), but was such a presence in the everyday lineup that he probably was taken for granted during most of his stay in Baltimore. For a city that has a legacy of celebrating those who go to work every day, Markakis probably doesn’t get recognized as much as he should for doing just that.

He won two Gold Glove Awards in Baltimore followed by a third in Atlanta, but the advanced defensive metrics never shone a great light on Markakis’ abilities. He never stood out as one of the top defenders in the game, but always seemed to play such an even-keeled right field, especially in Baltimore. Part of his charm in the Charm City was how he mastered the large out of town scoreboard and was able to play the ball coming off that large 21-foot wall. There were a number of times where an opponent would slap a ball off the wall and come out of the box thinking double, but Markakis was there to either make them re-think or throw them out trying to stretch into second. He also had to have great awareness of balls that ducked into that deep corner in foul ground where the groundskeeper’s shed opens up. Markakis was never speedy, but was able to cover ground and make that space in right field his own. He linked up wonderfully for so many years with his friend Adam Jones to provide cover in an outfield that entertained those in the bleachers. “2110 Eutaw Street” might have just been a marketing ploy by the club, but it also put a stamp on two-thirds of an outfield that really meant something in Baltimore for a number of seasons.

Not only did Markakis show up and play right field with such class and consistency, he did it with the bat as well. His steadiness with that left-handed swing was what made him such a stalwart at the top of the batting order. Markakis spent most of his career hitting in the third spot in the order, but also spent a significant amount of time hitting cleanup, or even in the second and leadoff spots. His .358 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter is part of the reason Buck Showalter would play him there, to set the table for others.

Some of those “others” include Jones and catcher Matt Wieters. While Jones wasn’t drafted by the Orioles, those three players were the core of something special the Birds had come up with in the early 2010s that led them back to the postseason. Markakis was part of the proof that the Orioles actually COULD draft and develop a player and have him turn out to be a very good, productive piece of a winning club.

The most heartbreaking moment for Markakis in his tenure with the Orioles was certainly when he took a CC Sabathia pitch off the hand, breaking his thumb in early September of 2012. He’d miss the Orioles’ postseason run that season, which ended their long drought. He wouldn’t get to experience playing in the AL Wild Card Game in Texas or in the Division Series against those same Yankees where he’d seen his season cut short.

But it made 2014 just that much sweeter.

When the Orioles clinched the AL East title on September 16, 2014 by beating the Blue Jays 8-2, “Clinchmas” was born and fans rejoiced. It was made memorable by Steve Pearce hitting a homer, Jones doing a lap around the warning track a la Cal Ripken Jr. and pieing fans, and Ubaldo Jimenez turning in a quality performance on the mound. But the most memorable image from that game for me will always be Markakis. For a guy who never showed much emotion and was the perfect example of a “boring” if not steady ballplayer, Markakis’ smile made the wait worth it. He hadn’t been able to share in the revelry of the moment two years earlier when the Birds were a wild card team and took part in the postseason. But that moment where he looked up at the scoreboard after the final out and realized the Orioles had accomplished something they hadn’t done since 1997 was “magic” personified. You could almost see the relief, joy, and accomplishment all wash over him in one small snippet of video. It’s what baseball players like him work so hard to do each day.

Five years from now Markakis will surely show up on ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and not long after that, his name will surely slip off said ballot. He is extremely unlikely to have a true case at immortality in Cooperstown. He’ll certainly be honored by the Orioles at some point and have a plaque in the team’s Hall of Fame, and it will be a fun day to look back when it happens. He’s cemented himself as a top-25 Oriole in my book, and I’d even go as far to say he could creep into the top 20 or 15 in some circles. He was that important to bringing glory back the city’s baseball legacy in what was a dark timeline. The Orioles are still looking to fully replace him now, more than half a decade after he left. They are looking for more players with his work ethic and attitude toward the game as they try to turn the direction of the franchise back around. My big hope for Markakis and his legacy in Baltimore is that he isn’t overlooked because he wasn’t the outspoken leader like Jones or the steady, stoic leader like Wieters. He was just a presence that didn’t need to take either approach to make his impact.

Markakis’ former skipper Showalter summed it up brilliantly to The Athletic this week, saying Nick’s “substance was his style” while adding that he was someone who had a universal respect and could count on.

Substance was what Nick Markakis was all about. Respect and admiration is what he deserves in return.

Read Full Article

Fangraphs Says 66 Wins – How the O’s Can Beat That

Trey Mancini watches the ball after making contact.

submitted by Michael Vetter

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was not very happy with some of Fangraphs’ projections, especially because they assumed that Chris Davis would be playing more first base for the O’s in 2021 than Trey Mancini. Well, Fangraphs must have read what I said, because they now project Mancini to have more plate appearances at 1B than The Artist Formerly Known as Crush, with Ryan Mountcastle as the main First Baseman. Their projections also now have Mancini as the full-time DH, which would help the O’s to win more games via improved outfield defense. Even though Fangraphs has improved their projections from that perspective, there are still some significant opportunities for the Orioles to beat out Fangraphs’ projections and finish with more than the 66 wins that they are predicted to achieve.

A great way to illustrate these opportunities is by comparing the 2021 Fangraphs’ projections to the three most recognizable Orioles’ past performances. First, Anthony Santander is only projected for a WAR of 1.7 in 2021, despite the fact that he had a 0.9 WAR in only 165 plate appearances in 2020. It is reasonable to expect Santander to have 600 plate appearances in a full season, which would lead to an annualized 2020 WAR of 3.3. This would be an impressive, yet realistic number, especially since his 2020 stats do not seem to be an anomaly. Baseball Savant states that his xwOBA was only eight points lower than his actual wOBA and that he was well above league average in xwOBA, xSLG, Barrel %, and K % in 2020. So, if Santander performs at his repeatable 2020 levels in 2021 to get to a WAR of 3.3, he should add at least 1.5 wins to the 2021 Orioles’ projected total from Fangraphs.

Related: What Could Santander Fetch in a Trade?

Next, Mancini’s 2021 projected WAR via Fangraphs is only 1.4. I understand why Fangraphs projected such a low amount, due to his strenuous physical recovery that has been well-documented and discussed at Eutaw Street Report.

On the other hand, Mancini’s WAR in 2019 was an exemplary 3.7; it could have been even higher if less than 62% of Trey’s defensive innings were in the outfield, which is certainly not his strength. He is still in his prime years at the ripe age of 29, and he did say “In every standpoint of the game, I really do feel just like I did before.” It may seem naive to take Mancini at his word, but if it is even close to true, then there is some real hope for him to reach his 2019 performance levels in 2021. His 2019 performance was sustainable, as his wOBA was merely .012 higher than his xWOBA, according to Baseball Savant. Similarly to Santander, that site illustrates that Trey was above average in Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, xwOBA, xSLG, Barrel %, K%, and BB %. This is because Trey truly matured mentally in 2019 and took his game to a new level. Baseball is most definitely a high-level sport and his physical state is important, but what separates the greatest MLB players from the others is their mental approaches. As Trey plays more DH and 1B in 2021, while coming back with the same mentality, he could reach his 2019 performance levels and add at least two wins to what Fangraphs predicts in 2021 for the O’s.

Finally, Fangraphs would have us believe that John Means will only have a WAR of 1.7 in 2021. To me, this is the most astounding of the projections that I am documenting in this post. Means had a WAR of 3.0 in 2019 when he was only in his first full season and I fully expect him to reach and surpass those heights in 2021 as a veteran. I know that Means only had an annualized WAR of about 1.0 in 2020, but we need to dive further into the underlying statistics behind that performance. Again, I am referencing Baseball Savant, which reveals that while his 2019 opposing xwOBA was only six points higher than the actual wOBA, his 2020 opposing xWOBA was a whole 36 points lower than the opposing wOBA that resulted. Not only that, but Means’s 2020 xwOBA of .268 was .033 lower than the actual wOBA in 2019 of .295.

This makes sense, because Savant demonstrates that John was above league average in xERA, xBA, xSLG, K %, BB % (95th percentile!), Fastball Velocity, and Fastball Spin Rate. He did regress in opponent Exit Velocity and Hard Hit %, but this was mostly due to bad performances in his first five starts within a highly unusual season.

To me, these numbers truly don’t lie and they demonstrate that John can replicate his 2019 season and even improve upon it. I don’t see any reason, other than injury, that would stop Means from finishing with a WAR that is at least 1.5 wins above Fangraphs’ projection of 1.7 (Also, don’t forget about his new dad strength).

Projections are certainly never sure bets, and it is very possible that either Fangraphs is wrong, I am wrong about Santander, Means, and Mancini, or we are both wrong and Chris Davis starts all 162 games at 1B to clinch another top five pick for the Orioles. Still, I think that the stats that I have projected should bring some real hope to O’s fans for the team’s top three stars to really stand out and add about five wins to Fangraphs’ projections, which would result in 71 wins for the 2021 Orioles.

There are also opportunities for this team to earn more wins by calling up prospects (e.g. Adley Rutschman) earlier than expected, developing Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, and Bruce Zimmermann to round out the rotation, and continuing the success that the bullpen found in 2020. We have a lot to look forward to this year as O’s fans and I am just hoping that we can all make it to a game while staying safe.

Let’s hope that the three stars can carry this team to greater relevance, and maybe even earn the Orioles multiple All-Stars in 2021.

Read Full Article