It’s been a few weeks since we last checked in with an edition of Three Up, Three Down. Since then, the Midsummer Night’s offensive drought we discussed has reversed wonderfully. Back then, the Birds had just wrapped up a west coast trip where they’d faced quite the gauntlet of starting pitching, yet still went a respectable 4-5.
As we speak today, they’ve again returned from out west, this time boasting a 5-1 trip and currently riding a five-game winning streak since losing the opener in Arizona. Sandwiched between those long flights was a 9-3 homestand, bringing the O’s total to 14-4 since the middle of August.
Times are good in Birdland. For the purposes of today’s exercise, we’ll focus on the last 12 games – three each against Arizona, the Angels, the Rockies, & the White Sox.
As you’ll see, choosing just three Up wasn’t easy.
Tony Taters has lived up to his name recently, leading the team in most offensive categories over the last 12 games, including HR (3), RBI (13), SLG (.620), wOBA (.425), and wRC+ (176), while racking up 0.6 fWAR.
For the season, Anthony Santander is batting .261/.332/.494 with 27 HR, 82 RBI, and has a new career-high with 2.7 fWAR. He certainly has a shot to match or surpass last year’s home run total (33) with 23 games to play, while he needs just eight RBI for a new personal best there. After his dismal start to the season, he’s bounced back and them some. Something to keep in mind when we’re screaming for slumping players to be DFA’d next April.
Santander combines the best of both worlds of the last two O’s front offices: a Dan Duquette Rule V pick who’s thriving under Mike Elias & Sig Megdal’s big-league player development regime.
We’ve spent so much time in this column this season talking about the Birds’ young gun(n)s, it’s nice to go back-to-back with some of the “grizzled” (comparatively!) veterans, with Santander and Austin Hays. Speaking of Santander and Hays going back-to-back…
Via the Baltimore Sun’s Jacob Calvin Meyer, Hays hit just .180/.217/.250 (.467 OPS) in 100 AB after playing in his first All-Star Game, but in his past 18 games, including last night’s 4-for-4 performance, he’s hit .338/.413/.646/1.059. In 40 PA in the team’s last 12 games (he’s had a couple days off), Hays is hitting .361/.400/.611 with two homers, good for a 173 wRC+, second to only Santander. He’s no longer competing for the batting title as he was in the first half, but he’s pushed his season line back to .288/.334/.465 (117 wRC+), all career-bests.
At 2.2 fWAR, he needs just 0.2 over the final stretch to set a new high-water mark there.
Half of the Birds’ six-man rotation could have found themselves here, honestly. We’ll go with the leader in fWAR and K/9 over all their past two starts, Kyle Bradish. In 12.0 IP (Bradish has now gone exactly 6.0 innings in four consecutive starts), Bradish allowed four ER on 10 H, walking four and striking out 14, lowering his season ERA to 3.03 (it’s been there after his last three starts). Bradish is currently 10th among American League pitchers in fWAR at 2.9, and has pitched about 20 fewer innings than most of those above him.
At this point, Kyle is your game one playoff starter, no questions asked.
Honorable Mentions (deep breath)
While half the Birds’ rotation could have found themselves UP, the other half is, unfortunately, DOWN here. Since his impressive Baltimore debut against the Blue Jays, Jack Flaherty has been the disappointment many O’s fans expected after he was acquired from St. Louis at the deadline. Over his last two starts, Flaherty went 10.1 innings with a 6.10 ERA, 5.68 FIP, and 4.00 xFIP (some bad luck in there), allowing 13 hits and three home runs. Since joining the Birds, Flaherty’s season ERA has risen from 4.43 to 4.84, and the team is just 2-3 in games he starts (glaring when you consider they are 22-9 overall in that time).
Barring a turnaround, Flaherty is on the bubble for the postseason roster.
(By the way: I don’t buy into the gripes from Birdland about Flaherty being a malcontent or the new Trumbo or anything like that. I think he’s a competitor, he wants to win, and he’s disappointed in himself.)
Just as Bradish found himself UP for the second straight edition, Kyle Gibson finds himself DOWN. To be fair to Kyle, the way things worked out, his eight-inning gem against Toronto on August 24 didn’t get included here. Unfortunately, he followed that start up in disgusting fashion. On August 30, the O’s hosted the White Sox for a getaway day game, looking for the three-game sweep. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning off Dylan Cease, and all it would have taken from Gibby was a few shutdown innings, and the ChiSox would have packed it in and started thinking about those midflight cocktails. Instead, he gave up SEVEN runs over the next two frames, and the Birds would go on to lose, 10-5.
Just absolutely inexcusable.
He bounced back a bit last night with a quality start (precisely: 6.0 IP, 3 ER) in Anaheim. But when the team goes 14-4, and it could have been 15-3 had you done your job against one of the worst teams in baseball?
Sorry Gibby. You’re down.
This one is, admittedly, a bit funky. But while most of their teammates have been mashing, the Baltimore catchers haven’t been contributing much.
McCann has been playing a bit more, spelling Rutschman down the stretch, but has just two hits in his past 23 AB after his scorching start to August, a month in which he had hits in each of his first nine starts. Two of his last six starts have come against right-handed starters. That may seem a bit odd when we mainly saw him against lefties for most of the season, but the “problem” is that Adley is hitting southpaws pretty well right now as well.
Unexpected, right? It’s a good problem to have. No need to hide Adley against lefties, and you can spell him more over these last few weeks against righties and not lose much.
For now though, both these dudes could stand to pick it up a bit.