What a wild week for the Orioles. After splitting a series with the Angels in disappointing fashion, the team needed a boost, and they got what they ordered in this Blue Jays series. You rarely get three of the season’s best games in one series, but that is the magic of the 2023 Orioles. When you think they are dead or about to go on a struggle streak, they bust out of it and instead reel off some wins. The way this team battles, scrapes, and claws its way to victories is awesome to watch, and they took it to the Blue Jays in this weekend. The O’s are now 31-19 and only 2.5 games out of first place.
It is becoming harder and harder to nitpick the details about how this team was built due to the constant winning, making articles like these harder.
Still, we have positive and negative points to discuss in a sweep, so let’s get into it.
The Gunnar breakout is imminent
Last week we discussed the Idea of a Gunnar Henderson breakout as he was smashing the ball and taking better at-bats. So did he truly break out this week? Yes and no. He continued taking better at-bats, but he did dip a bit in hitting the ball hard, and his on-base percentage slipped. He also raked up a ton of strikeouts this week.
However, this breakout is coming soon for him. On Sunday, he had a couple of hard-hit balls that had nothing to show, including getting robbed against the wall by Kevin Kiermaier, so he is still hitting the ball hard. Eventually, Gunnar will find some luck, and those hard-hit balls will fall for hits and home runs. Let’s see if a trip to a minor league park this week can get him right.
We were too hard on the Orioles this offseason
It’s time for another hot take. This Orioles offseason was universally panned by the media, and you had to search hard for anyone in this fan base who liked it. Maybe that was due to our expectations being too high or people taking those infamous “liftoff” comments too literally. For whatever reason, the media and fanbase didn’t like this offseason, but this weekend showed why they did what they did.
Kyle Gibson was dominant on Friday night, and Adam Frazier was clutch all weekend. Even Ryan O’Hearn played a huge part. No, these aren’t the all-star players fans wanted, but they have been solid contributors, and all made huge impacts this weekend. Even in the universal outlook, who was a free agent helping this team more than Gibson or Frazier? All the pitchers are either injured or got overpaid (except Nathan Eovaldi, who also has a long injury history.) This isn’t don’t-spend-money propaganda, but Gibson and Frazier deserve much more respect for how they have helped this team.
People will bring up how Frazier blocks Jordan Westburg, which is a fair point, but there are more reasons why Westburg isn’t up yet. Put some respect on Gibson and Frazier; people must admit they were wrong.
Please relax with Grayson
Grayson Rodriguez had a weird week. In the most hyped-up start of the year with the Angels in town and a packed crowd, Rodriguez blew up in a big way, allowing eight runs in only 3.1 innings. It was embarrassing, no doubt, and it caused a select few to boo him, but can we not, man?
I get it; he is struggling, and obviously, that isn’t ideal, but he is 23 and is still learning how to pitch in the majors. Would It be awesome if he was Jacob DeGrom immediately and did not struggle? Yes, but just he isn’t and is struggling and is only a handful of starts into his career. Please stop booing him because that isn’t the message we need to send to our 23-year-old pitcher, who might be our Ace one day. He did much better on Saturday, and while he did allow a two-run bomb, it was a big improvement. He, like Gunnar, is on the brink of figuring out the majors, and fans must be patient.
Please stop booing our young players when they struggle, and please, can we stop pronouncing these guys as busts when they have a minuscule amount of at-bats and starts?
Cedric Mullins: Awesome
Enough of the negativity; it is time to praise one of the best players on the team. Cedric Mullins got off to a slow start, but he has been on fire lately. He hit for the cycle last week and didn’t slow down, hitting .370/.414/.741 with an OPS of 1.155. With this, he had two bombs and four doubles, with a five-hit day on Sunday being the cherry on top of this delicious week of raking. When Cedric is hitting, he has but one flaw: his throwing arm. If he keeps this up, he might repeat or be better than his 2021 self. Many fans want Adley Rutschman extended, but Mullins might be a more deserving candidate now.
When Ceddy is on fire like this, the offense can be very dangerous, and he is a difference-maker for this team.
A Conversation about Jorge Mateo
While this topic might seem negative, it isn’t just a suggestion on handling a particular player. Jorge Mateo’s offensive woes are continuing without an end in sight. Every day his at-bats seem to get worse, and the stats he had in April are just going down the drain. Mateo starts because the Orioles love his defense and base-running; here’s the thing, though: what if we had a shortstop who could play defense like Mateo and could hit?
That would be Joey Ortiz, who has been great in a small sample size so far. He hits the ball hard and has the defense that the Orioles covet. Jorge has made many more mistakes this year and had a brutal one on Saturday that could have cost the O’s. So what is Mateo’s value if they have a younger guy who can pick it and hit better than him? His base running. So lean into that, make Ortiz the full-time starter at short, and make Mateo a pinch runner/bench piece. You don’t even have to trade him; just change his role. While a Mateo trade wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, it seems unlikely until July. So for right now, we have Mateo, and he needs a new role with the team because he is killing them with his offense and regressing defense. At least he has that base running to fall back on.
What comes up next looks challenging: we have three in New York and come home for Memorial Day weekend against the Rangers. Both teams have been on fire but have played poor opponents, so who knows?
What we do know is that this team is something special, so go out this memorial day weekend and support the boys in Orange and Black.