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O’s Report Card: Bats Carry the O’s in Historic April, but Defense Disappoints

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With a win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, April 30th, the Baltimore Orioles are sitting at a comfortable 19-9 record as they end the first month of play. It has been a wild April for the Birds, with some exciting wins and soul-crushing losses. No doubt they have dropped the ball (literally) in some spots and have suffered some pain early on, but this team’s best quality is that they never quit. It doesn’t matter how down they are or how finished the other team thinks they are; this team is scrappy and will always bounce back.

They currently have the second-most wins in the American League and the fourth-best winning percentage in team history. There is just something special about this team, and no, this doesn’t guarantee they make the World Series, but the way they battle to get these hard-fought wins is exhilarating.

They aren’t a flawless team; they have issues, so today, we will rank the team by their performances over the past month.

The article will be split into four sections; the offense, the starting pitching, the relief ritching, and the defense/baserunning. These sections will list the most surprising and disappointing players, and an overall synopsis of how the Birds rank among the rest of the MLB.

This is going to be a lot, so let’s get started.


Most Surprising: Jorge Mateo

Most Disappointing: Anthony Santander

Overall grade: A

The Offense got off to a blazing start to begin the season, and while it has slowed down a bit, they are still hitting very well. The Orioles rank top 10 in all facets of the triple slash line, at 10th in batting average, and slugging percentage, and 6th in on-base percentage.

This, by proxy, makes them a top-10 offense in the league. The better news? The advanced numbers say they should be higher than that.

The Birds are top five in wRC+, 3rd in line drive rate, 4th in walk rate, and 7th in fly ball rate. All of this is to say that the offense has been very unlucky. They have a low BABIP of .297, and all those line drives and fly balls are just finding the fielders’ gloves right now. Think about how many amazing catches we’ve seen made by opponents this year – and that’s just against Ryan Mountcastle!

What needs to happen, however, is that they need to start hitting the ball harder. They have a HardHit% of 31.4, which ranks in the middle of the pack. Not bad, but maybe if they were hitting the ball a little harder, those line drives and fly balls might be finding some gaps or leaving the park.

The most surprising offensive contributor has been Jorge Mateo. Whether Mateo could hit this year and build upon his good second half last year was a mystery, but he has taken it to another level. He is hitting .347/.395/.667 with six home runs. He also is still bringing it on the base paths, and he looks like a star.

The most disappointing has to go to Anthony Santander. Remember when we all thought he would kill it again after an impressive WBC? While his bat is showing a little life towards the end of the month, he is still slashing .213/.280/.362 with only two bombs and a disappointing .642 OPS.

Overall the offense has held up their end of the bargain, and while a late slump did hurt their numbers a bit, they still rank in the top 10 in the most important categories. All they have to do is start hitting the ball harder, and that bad luck will go the opposite way.

The offense receives an A.

Starting Pitching

Most Surprising: Tyler Wells

Most Disappointing: Cole Irvin/Dean Kremer

Overall grade: C

The starting pitching has been a big target for disappointment among the fanbase. It isn’t hard to see why, as they rank middle of the pack or towards the bottom in most major pitching stats: ERA 4.18 (17th), WHIP 1.29 (16th), FIP 4.04 (21st).

No doubt about it, they have to do better. The rotation does have a 9.48 K/9 which is 8th in the league, but they haven’t been as sharp as some would have hoped. They have put together a solid string of starts lately, but those overall numbers aren’t pretty.

Here’s the crazy thing, though: some of them haven’t even been that bad. It is just a couple of pitchers who are killing them right now.

The most disappointing right now is Dean Kremer. He was arguably one of the best pitchers the O’s had last year, but his numbers showed he was due for some regression. Unfortunately, that bill has quickly come due.

He has an ERA of 6.67, a WHIP of 1.58, and a FIP of 5.88, allowing the fourth most hits and the fifth highest number of home runs. While he isn’t walking batters, he isn’t walking them because they are hitting him instead. He has been a disaster and has shown no signs of getting better, other than that one start in DC.

He isn’t the biggest disappointment in general, though, because that would go to Cole Irvin, who isn’t even with the team right now, as he was sent to Triple-A after after three disastrous starts. Irvin was acquired to be the innings-eater of the rotation, and right now is eating exactly zero of those at the MLB level.

Enough negativity…with Kremer and Irvin stinking it up, someone had to step, and Tyler Wells answered the call.

Wells was seen by many as someone who should return to the bullpen, but he has been one of the three best starters. He has a very good ERA at 2.79, and what is helping him most is his minuscule walk rate. He has a 2.9/9 walk rate, which ranks top 5 in the league, which contributes heavily to his amazing 0.72 WHIP. Wells has stepped up when the Orioles have needed him, and talk of moving him back to the bullpen has gone quiet.

Add in Kyle Gibson, who has been great, an improving Grayson Rodriguez, and Kyle Bradish when he isn’t giving up massive innings, and the Orioles have something cooking.

The problem is that this meal is undercooked due to blow-up innings and terrible starts by Kremer.

If the Orioles are going to continue winning games, the rotation needs to pitch better. And while not all have been bad, the whole class gets punished when a kid acts up.

The rotation receives a C.

Relief Pitching

Most Surprising: Yennier Cano

Most Disappointing: Cionel Perez

Overall grade: A

When discussing the bullpen, it is essential to remember that Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens were both out for the whole month, and Brandon Hyde had to scramble to define the roles of his guys.

Felix Bautista was his usual brilliant self, but others needed to step up. No reliever did his job better than Yennier Cano. Cano has not allowed a hit or a walk in his eleven innings of work, as a HBP is the only thing spoiling his ongoing perfection. He has struck out twelve batters, has been a revelation during this time, and it looks like he is here to stay.

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While the relief pitchers have been very good overall, three in particular have been terrible. Austin Voth got off to a horrific start, but he has been OK since his first six innings. The main problem is with Cionel Perez. One of the Orioles’ best weapons last year, he has been awful. There isn’t a good thing to say about him right now. He walks batters; he gives up hits; he doesn’t strike anyone out. What is scary about Perez is that no one is fooled by his stuff. Nobody is chasing his pitches, and no one is missing the few times they do chase. Add in Kegan Akin, who has also been horrible, and these two are killing the vibe right now.

However, it won’t be enough to kill the grade of the bullpen. The mission for the relievers was to survive while Tate and Givens got healthy. Not only have they done that, they have gone far and beyond that.

The Bullpen gets an easy A.


Most Surprising: Cedric Mullins

Most Disappointing: Everyone

Overall grade: C

Alright, here it is. Let’s start with the baserunning because it has been terrific. Mateo and Mullins are villains on the base paths, with 21 combined steals, and these new rules have worked wonders for the Orioles.

Now, the bad.

Perhaps the biggest issue with this team overall is the decline of the defense. The Orioles were one of the best defensive teams in baseball last year, but they all have regressed. The only starter with a positive Outs Above Average is Mullins. The rest of the team all have negative value defensively.

That is right, the whole team outside of Mullins. While Austin Hays and Santander have never been good defenders, it is shocking to see Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Jorge Mateo rank so badly in OAA. Adley and Mateo are supposed to be great defenders, and Gunnar was a good defender at third in the Minors.

If I have to choose one player that’s been most disappointing here, though, it’s Ryan Mountcastle, who has, in my opinion, legitimately cost the Orioles some wins with his glove. However, he saved a leadoff baserunner after an errant throw by Mateo in the bottom of the ninth yesterday, so hopefully he is getting things turned around.

The pitching might be disappointing, but the O’s gloves were supposed to be better than this (and make up for some pitching deficiencies). Maybe the pitching wouldn’t have to face more batters if the guys on the field could hold their own. What is sad is that there isn’t a good explanation for it. Maybe they are trying something different and putting the fielders into different positions? Perhaps they all have cold feet after the Boston opening series went so poorly from a defensive standpoint? Maybe the shift ban hurt them? Whatever the reason, they need to figure this out.

The baserunning has been awesome, but the defense can’t play this badly; they receive a C.

Overall it was a successful month of baseball for the Birds. Now comes the challenging part. May is an absolute gauntlet for first-place teams, and some struggles could be coming. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them struggle mightily in May, but hopefully they’ll at least go .500 against those first-place teams.

Either way, this month of April was exhilarating and heart-pounding fun that needs to continue.

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