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.