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Three Up, Three Down: Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back

John Means vs Cincy
photo: Baltimore Orioles (
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Since we last checked in, the Birds lost a disappointing series at home to the surprising Oakland A’s, but bounced back nicely by taking three of four from the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, then sweeping three from the Reds in Cincinnati.

Let’s see who was up and who was down over the nice little 7-3 stretch.

Three Up

Adley Rutschman

It was a nice week-plus for backstop Adley Rutschman, who slashed .317/.349/.610 with three doubles, tied for the team lead with three homers, and led the O’s in RBI with seven. That was good for a 174 wRC+, bringing his season number there to a robust 143. Adley’s .324 batting average is currently good for fourth in the AL. Rutschman’s assault on left-handed pitching continues, as he’s up to .482 against southpaws this season, with 27 hits in 56 AB, four of his five homers, four of his six doubles, and 18 of his 22 RBI.

It’s fun to think about how his numbers might look once he gets it going against righties again.

Cole Irvin

Swirv! Cole Irvin kept his recent hot streak going in a big way, turning in two stellar starts. He helped the Birds notch their only win in the Oakland series by stymieing his former squad to the tune of four hits and no runs over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. Cole followed that up by going 6.1 in Cincy, allowing two hits to Elly De La Cruz and nothing else, striking out four.

Irvin has now gone three straight starts totaling 20.0 IP without allowing a run, and his season ERA now sits at a cool 2.86. I understand it’s still tough for a lot of Birdland to completely trust him after his disastrous start to 2023, but right now Irvin is refusing to be the one squeezed out of the rotation with the returns of John Means & Kyle Bradish.

Speaking of…

John Means/Kyle Bradish

A two-fer here. The pair of O’s starters returning from injury both did so with exclamation points last week. Bradish went 4.2 against the Yankees Thursday afternoon, and could have probably gone deeper if not for some weirdness in that extended first inning. While he didn’t qualify for the win, he struck out five and looked generally like the Kyle Bradish we remember. The velocity, the movement: it was all there.

Bradish wasn’t the only one about whom you could say that though. John Means was dotting that dancing change-up from the first inning at Great American Ballpark Saturday, striking out eight Reds without a walk while allowing just three hits over seven full innings on 85 pitches.

A quick glance at Means’ pitch usage (c/o BrooksBaseball), shows an interesting trend we may want to watch.

(Note these show all levels of his starts, not just MLB)

That’s a lotta change-up and slider, and not much four-seamer. John Means, crafty veteran lefty? Sounds great to me.

Regardless, welcome back, boys!

Honorable Mentions

Ryan O’Hearn (194 wRC+ in 20 PA), Jorge Mateo (129 wRC+ in 27 PA), Jacob Webb, Yennier Cano

Three Down

Craig Kimbrel

After being a pleasant surprise for the first month or so, we Baltimore fans got our first tastes of The Craig Krumbel Experience, something our Philly friends to the north warned us about when it comes to Craig Kimbrel. Craig single-handedly torpedoed the Oakland series, turning a potential sweep into a series loss with blown saves on both Friday and Sunday. Kimbrel had gone a stretch of nine straight appearances without allowing a run, dating back to April 1 against KC. But, nursing a 2-1 lead Friday night, he helped extend the City Connect Curse by going Double, Walk, Double, Walk, Walk before being removed.

Sunday was no better: Four-pitch Walk, “What the hell is matter with you?” Mound Visit, Home Run

Kimbrel then avoided the IL, but was unavailable for a few days with upper back tightness. He returned on Friday to lock down the 3-0 O’s win in Cincy with a 1-2-3 ninth, but threatened to Krumbel once again on Saturday. The Birds led 2-0, and Kimbrel went Single, Walk, Strikeout (of De La Cruz), Single before being removed. Yennier Cano thankfully got out of it to salvage Means’ gem.

At this point, the Birds really need to reevaluate their usage plan for Kimbrel, who turns 36 this month. As long as he gets plenty of rest, he’s shown he can still be an effective reliever. But when the guy can’t pitch more than two-three times a week without melting down, he can’t be the primary closer on a team with 100-plus win aspirations. Jacob Webb looked quite nasty in his chances last week; perhaps a Closer-by-Committee with Webb, Kimbrel, and maybe even Cano (assuming Saturday helped him get over his ninth-inning mental block) is in order.

And Mike Elias absolutely needs to make back-end bullpen help his priority as the trade deadline approaches.

Cedric Mullins

Cedric Mullins has already appeared in the DOWN category too much this season. While he appeared to break out of it for a bit, other than about a 10-day stretch there in mid-April, Mullins has been awful at the plate. Last week he posted a line of .138/.194/.276 (36 wRC+). Four hits in nine games ain’t gonna cut it, no matter how good the defense is. I’ve been of the mind that you keep running Mullins out there every day just for the glove, and let him find his level with the bat. But he can’t keep hitting .206.

The options are limited. Ryan McKenna is back and oddly hitting the cover off the ball. However, we know that won’t last, and we already saw a few balls fall in front of him that Mullins very likely catches. Jorge Mateo is hitting well, but the experiment with him in center needs to be shelved.

Baltimore needs Ced to figure out how to be roughly league average at the plate.

Colton Cowser

After an April that was good enough to see him named American League Rookie of the Month, Colton Cowser has cooled considerably. The Moo Man went just .148/.233/.222 last week (39 wRC+), with a whopping 43.3% K rate.

It’s clear that opposing pitchers are game-planning a little more intently for Cowser. He earned that. Now he has to show that he can adjust himself and start getting the bat on the ball regularly once again (look at those blue bars in Whiff & K% above). Hopefully the laced double in Cincy Sunday is a good omen.

As far as the AL Rookie of the Year race goes, Cowser still has a sizeable lead in fWAR at 1.4 over both Boston’s Wilyer Abreu (1.1) and Texas’ Evan Carter (0.7).

Dishonorable Mentions

Jordan Westburg (77 wRC+), Yohan Ramirez (DFA), Grayson Rodriguez (IL), Dillon Tate (Optioned to AAA)

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