It was yet another successful week for our Birds, as they took three of four in Detroit and two of three in Kansas City (though yesterday’s finale in Kansas City felt more like an escape from the Temple of Doom than anything to be celebratory about). The 5-2 start to the eight-game road trip was just what the Doctor ordered, as things get much more difficult from here.
Ryan and Paul discuss that in the latest Give That Fan a Podcast. As for us here, we’ll be looking back on who contributed, and who didn’t, to that 5-2 mark, in this edition of Three Up, Three Down.
Slamtander! We are very pleased to welcome Anthony Santander to our UP group for the first time in 2023. It was an absolutely brutal start to the year for Anthony, as he hit just .205/.277/.352 in April, with two home runs and 28 strikeouts. He finally showed some signs of life in Detroit and Kansas City though, hitting .360/.407/.640 with two homers and four RBI, leading O’s regulars with a 190 wRC+. He still struck out a bit too much (29.6%), and was aided by a big BABIP of .467, but it was great to see some contact-to-damage increase from a guy who is still inserted into the lineup as the cleanup hitter more often than not.
As you can see in Santander’s StatCast numbers above, he is hitting the ball very hard, but his expected numbers are still quite low. In looking for some explanations for this, I found a very low line drive percentage (15.6%, nearly 5% below his career average), and discovered he isn’t using the big part of the park as much as usual (CENT% 26.0, 6.6 off his career average). So perhaps something to be gleaned there. One bit of good news is that his HR/FB% (that’s the percentage of his fly balls that leave the yard) is a dismally low 7.7%. Once that regresses to near his career average of 13.6% (remember, he’s still hitting the ball hard), things should really pick up.
I mean, what else can we say about this guy? Yes, he allowed an inherited runner to score on a single yesterday, but look at this pitch that Bobby Witt Jr. guided through the right side of the infield at 70 MPH .
We tip our cap, and move on.
The other hit he gave up in Kansas City? An infield nubber with an expected batting average (xBA) of .150.
In 5.1 IP, Cano struck out 35% of the batters he faced, didn’t walk anyone, had a .118 batting average against, a Win Probability Added (WPA) of 0.43, added another 0.3 fWAR to his season total, and was, simply, ridiculous yet again.
Cano is at 0.9 fWAR for the season, the highest in the O’s bullpen (Bryan Baker, Felix Bautista, and Danny Coulombe all have 0.5). His WPA is 1.49, more than double the second-highest O’s pitcher (Baker at 0.65), and is fourth in all of baseball.
The baseball gods are finally smiling upon Ryan Mountcastle a bit. The game’s seemingly unluckiest man saw a few bloop hits this week, including bloop doubles! Of course, he mashed as well, with a two-homer game Tuesday and six runs driven in, and an ISO of .344. He led the team in plate appearances with 34, and made the most of them, hitting .313/.353/.656, good for a 174 wRC+, best on the team among players with at least 20 PA.
For the season, Mountcastle is at .256/.279/.504, and a wRC+ of 110. He holds the team lead with eight homers, and is tied with Cedric Mullins with 26 RBI. With some continued evening-out of his luck, Mounty’s numbers will only continue to get better.
A bit of a rough one for Cedric Mullins at the dish this week. Last week, he topped our UP list, and we mentioned that he was tied for the team lead in wRC+ for the season with Rutschman at 139. As of this morning, his season number there has dropped to 119, on the heels of a week where he hit just .160/.276/.280 (wRC+ 59)over 29 plate appearances. On the bright side, he was tied for the team lead in RBI with six, and of course stole another base.
Ced also made a Catch of the Year candidate on Wednesday in Kansas City. We won’t beat him up too bad here. He was just the only Orioles hitter with more than 20 plate appearances and a wRC+ of under 100 this week. The Birds were mashin’!
Unfortunately, all of that mashing was paired with some not-so-good pitching, so we have two arms in our DOWN category this week (and could have had more). Our first is Kyle Gibson, who led the team in innings pitching this week at 11.0, despite being fairly abysmal over those innings. On Thursday in Detroit, he was unable to escape the fifth inning, as he was removed at 102 pitches after allowing three earned runs on eight hits and two walks.
On Wednesday in Kansas City, Gibson was dueling Zach Grienke in a very odd game where it seemed the offenses couldn’t wait to go home. The Birds’ bats were completely silent, while KC managed single runs in the fourth and sixth off Gibson. His pitch count was still so low though, that he went out for the seventh, and could have given his team some much needed length, while also allowing the offense a chance to wake up and come back, should they ever decide to do so.
Alas, the wheels completely fell off in the seventh. Kyle was removed with two outs in the frame, despite still having thrown just 74 pitches, because it was 6-0 Royals at that point. Gibson didn’t walk a batter, but also didn’t strike a single guy out, and gave up 10 hits.
For the week, Gibson’s walks-per-9 was miniscule at 1.64, but so was his K/9 at 2.45. His ERA was certainly not, at 7.36. Lined up to pitch against the ridiculous Rays on Monday, the Birds need better from their veteran leader atop the rotation.
A mainstay in our DOWN department at this point, we have to wonder how much longer Cionel Perez will remain an Oriole.
Though, much to O’s fans frustration, Brandon Hyde keeps giving him chances to redeem himself, he just doesn’t answer the call. In four appearances spanning 2.1 innings this week, Perez pitched to an ERA of 7.71, walked two, allowed three hits, and remains completely unreliable. With more options coming soon (Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens were both on rehab assignments this week), and lefty Nick Vespi still performing well in Norfolk (though his scoreless streak ended last month), and Perez out of options, a DFA seems imminent.