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Three Up, Three Down: Darth Elias – Unlimited Power?

Darth Mike Elias
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Just after publishing last week’s Three Up, Three Down, I was a bit nervous about how today’s edition would turn out. The Birds were facing what looked to be a very tough road trip, with six games in Toronto and New York.

Oh, me of little faith.

The O’s swept the Blue Jays, then bounced back from a heartbreaking loss in game 1 against the Yankees to take two of three from what had been an extremely hot Evil Empire. That’s a 5-1 road trip. The good guys have now won back-to-back series in Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2014, and four straight series against AL East opponents for the first time since 2016.

As Kyle Gibson put it after the game last night, “we’re one of those juggernauts.”

Three Up

Mike Elias

An odd choice, perhaps, to go with the GM? Stick with me here. When you go 5-1 against those two squads, more than three players likely had very good weeks. So this is a way for me to spread some more love around, while also giving a nod to the man who made it happen.

(A man who, by the way, showed up in the home of the Evil Empire, Yankee Stadium, looking very much like a Sith Lord himself, hood and all. Who really has unlimited power here, Yanks?)

Elias’ biggest two offseason acquisitions were widely derided by O’s fans. Kyle Gibson? Maybe a TINY upgrade over Jordan Lyles. Adam Frazier? Barely better than Rougned Odor, and blocking Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, and/or Connor Norby needlessly.

Don’t we have egg on our faces?

Frazier was the Birds’ best hitter on the road trip, going .370/.370/.741 with two home runs and a team-leading seven runs driven in, good for a 205 wRC+. That included a huge three-run shot off the McLouth pole in New York that kicked off the O’s pivotal eight-run seventh inning Wednesday night, when visions of getting swept by the Yankees were starting to dance in our traumatized heads.

Frazier currently sports a 113 wRC+ for the season, which would be the second best of his career, along with a 1.2 bWAR. That puts him on pace for about a ~3.0 bWAR season, which would tie his career high.

As for Gibson…

In Toronto Friday night: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, and the victory.

Last night in New York: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, the victory, and became the first Oriole pitcher to throw seven shutout innings in Yankee Stadium since Kevin Gausman in 2016.

Gibby’s six victories are tied for third in MLB, and his 0.9 fWAR through 66 IP has him looking much more like the 2021 version of himself (3.0 fWAR in 182 IP) than the 2022 version (1.8 fWAR in 167.2 IP).

Throw in that he keeps blessing us with quotes like the one above, and “It’s not a DONG BONG,” and it’s very hard to not love this year’s version of the Team Dad.

Cedric Mullins

Cedric Mullins‘ hot May continued on the road trip, as he went .333/.385/.708 with two homers and five driven in, for a 198 wRC+. After posting a .794 OPS in April, Mullins’ May number now stands at .947. For the season he now sports a hefty 140 wRC+, which would eclipse even his “career year” number of 136 in 2021. He leads the Orioles in fWAR at 1.9, good for 10th best among AL batters.

Ced was out of the lineup last night for “personal reasons,” and Brandon Hyde said that he hoped it would just be a day’s absence. Hopefully everything is good with Mullins and his family, and we’ll see him back in centerfield – in his City Connect uniform – tonight.

Gunnar Henderson

While Gunnar Henderson just barely had enough plate appearances to qualify here (18; most O’s regulars had 25+), I will admit to some personal bias. I’ve been waiting to put him in the UP category all season, eagerly anticipating the breakout that we all know is coming. Gunnar’s luck finally turned a bit this week, as his BABIP was .364, helping him post a .313/.389/.563 week with a home run, three driven in, four runs scored and a stolen base (164 wRC+). He also thumbed his nose at Aaron Judge‘s ridiculous arm the other night, scoring from third on a shallow fly ball to right.

Henderson’s batting average FINALLY got above the Mendoza line, and at .210 is at its highest all season, and his .739 OPS is the highest it’s been since the first week of the campaign. Henderson has a 127 wRC+ in May, fourth on the team behind Santander, Mullins, and Frazier.

He looks much more comfortable at third base having gotten regular starts there since Ramon Urias went on the IL. With Urias looking to be back sooner rather than later, let’s hope his presence doesn’t jostle the rookie’s current good vibes.

Honorable Mentions (go 5-1 in those parks, and we have a lot of contributors!)

Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez, Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano, Felix Bautista, Anthony Santander, Ryan O’Hearn, Mike Baumann

Three Down

Adley Rutschman

In Adley Rutschman‘s sophomore campaign, he’s become a bit of a streaky hitter. He scuffled badly to start May, then found himself in our UP category last week after a 205 wRC+ week. Now this week, he is back DOWN, after posting a 24 wRC+ over a team-high 31 plate appearances on the road trip. The BABIP dragon roasted him: a team-low .136.

He still walked twice as much as he struck out (six to three), but managed no extra-base hits, and drove in just a single run.

No need to belabor it. It’s Adley. He’ll be fine. As sometimes-ESR-contributor Dillon Atkinson points out, Adley prefers Camden Yards.

But this week, he was down.

Jorge Mateo

Jorge Mateo, on the other hand…

We are, unfortunately, getting more and more data coming in that suggests Mateo’s scorching April was indeed an anomaly, and not an indication that he had figured it out at the plate. In 21 plate appearances, Mateo hit .105/.190/.105, struck out seven times while walking twice, didn’t manage an extra-base hit, and continued to look generally lost. BABIP also bit him (.167), but his outs weren’t nearly as loud as Adley’s.

For the month of May, Mateo’s numbers (brace yourselves): .106/.155/.121. No XBH. 21 K to 4 BB. OPS has dropped from 1.062 to .689. And a wRC+ of -27. That’s NEGATIVE 27.

His glove is keeping him in the lineup, for now. But there is a Gold Glove 3B coming back soon. Joey Ortiz can play shortstop at a Gold Glove level. The logjam of infielders continues in the minors.

Mateo could find his role on the team changing very soon.

The Other Starters

We had three starters either UP or honorable mentions. This one was a toss-up between the others, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells, so we’ll just go with both.

Wells was a victim of the gopher ball (somewhat excusable in NY, but all three were homers in most parks) while Bradish was nickel-and-dimed to death on Tuesday night. Tyler allowed five runs on five hits and three home runs, walking two while striking out eight, for an ERA of 9.00.

Bradish started off his own worst enemy, walking the first two Yankees his faced, but wiggled out of trouble with a strikeout and double play. He allowed just a solo home run through four, and took a 4-1 lead into the fifth before the wheels came off. The Yankees went single, single, lineout, double, single, sac fly, to tie the game at 4-4. He exited after five, his ERA for the week 7.20.

No real worries about either pitcher here. Wells was probably due for a little bit of regression, while Bradish seems to be lights out against everyone not in the AL East. Of the next 11 series, only two are against division opponents, so let’s hope that bodes well for Kyle.

Dishonorable Mentions

None, zippy, nada. Great week, boys!

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