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Orioles: 5 Lessons from Baltimore’s ‘Much More Fun’ First Half

Orioles five takeaways: From Baltimore, the "far more fun" first half of the season

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In Minneapolis, The 2022 season will officially reach its halfway mark on Monday when the Orioles play their 81st game of the year. As his team approaches that goal, manager Brandon Hyde is experiencing “mixed emotions.”

"Orioles: 5 lessons from Baltimore's 'much more fun' first half"
Orioles: 5 lessons from Baltimore’s ‘much more fun’ first half

Hyde replied, “I think we’ve become better. I’m content, but I’d also like to succeed in some of these contests.

Baltimore had a record of 23-59 following Game 81 of the 2018 season:

They are 36-44 as they reach the halfway point, which is far better than the level the rebuilding club has been playing at lately. Baltimore had a record of 23-59 following Game 81 of the 2018 season, which served as the catalyst for this procedure. The Orioles were 27-54 at the halfway point of 2021 following the cut-down season of 2020.

In addition to their track record, they have also been far more competitive throughout the games themselves. Despite having a run differential of minus-112 at this point last year, they have been outscoring opponents by 26 through these 80 games.

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The team’s longest-tenured player, Trey Mancini, remarked, “It hasn’t been like in years past, where it seemed like once a series we got blasted out.” “Even if the record isn’t where we want it to be—not it’s the goal, by any means—I believe the gains we’ve seen from years past, especially from last year into this year, have been really, really amazing, and it’s something I wanted to see this year, some actual changes.

The fun factor is much higher. Being a part of this has been extremely fantastic as I’ve enjoyed watching many of these guys mature and become their own people.

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Baltimore is still far from competitive:

Baltimore is still far from competitive, but this improvement suggests that the recovery efforts are starting to bear fruit. Here are five lessons learned from the first half of the Orioles’ season before they are deemed to have finished it.

The pitching staff in Baltimore has significantly improved, especially in the bullpen, which is the most noticeable change. Closer Jorge López, left-handed setup man Cionel Pérez, and two of their right-handed relievers round out their primary relievers. The organization acquired Joey Krehbiel and Bryan Baker off the waiver wire; they were leftovers from the rosters of previous organizations; their combined ERA is 2.57.

Félix Bautista joined the Miami Marlins as a teenager, but it took him ten years to make it to the main leagues. He has a 1.42 ERA and is one of Hyde’s major setup men. Since 2008, he has thrown twice as many pitches at 100 mph or more than the rest of the Orioles combined.

Keegan Akin, a left-hander, has become one of baseball’s best long relievers after failing in Baltimore’s rotation. Only right-hander Dillon Tate from the current group made more than eight relief appearances for Baltimore last season; he lowered his ERA to 2.11 by pitching the final out of Sunday’s victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Just glance at the stat pack, Hyde instructed. “Take a look at the figures they’re displaying. It is quite remarkable.

Additionally, particularly recently, the rotation has improved. Its ERA over the previous two weeks is 1.46, and in the past 13 games, no starter has allowed more than one earned run. Jordan Lyles, a veteran who was given the largest free-agent contract during Mike Elias’ term as general manager, has served as an example for the other starters, who wore jerseys with Lyles’ face and the words “Best Dad Ever” on Father’s Day. Dean Kremer has a 1.29 ERA through five starts after having his self-confidence and pitches battered last season. Within a two-year period, Tyler Wells went from a Rule 5 draught choice to a mop-up reliever, closer, and eventual true major league starter.

Orioles basically switched their positions:

The Orioles basically switched their positions by making Wells the starter and López the closer, and they have since had a 2.63 ERA as a team. Even Hyde didn’t anticipate the outcomes.

From Tyler’s and Lopey’s perspectives, Hyde remarked, “I had no idea how this was going to look.” That was entertaining to see, however, I wouldn’t say it was a surprise.

Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser, two relievers who were expected to compete for the role of closer, were traded to the Orioles by the Miami Marlins with less than a week remaining in the regular season for a draught pick and three prospects. Paul Fry, the pitcher with the longest tenure on the team, was designated for assignment after only a month of the season because he was unable to match his effectiveness from 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Because he needed Tommy John’s elbow reconstruction surgery, ace starter John Means’ season was over before it even had started. While fellow minor leaguer DL Hall is still figuring things out in Triple-A, top prospect Grayson Rodriguez was on the verge of making his major league debut until a right lat muscle strain may have also ended his season. Each of those pitchers anticipated playing important roles for the Orioles when spring training got underway. Baltimore will receive a total of 21 innings from them before the end of the first half.

The addition of Means and Rodriguez to the Orioles’ rotation would be warmly welcomed, and the idea that they might both be there in 2023 gives Baltimore an indication as to what the future may hold. It is reasonable to speculate whether the presence of Scott and Sulser might have prevented the rise of not only López but also Pérez and Bautista, two pitchers who have more years left under team control and are therefore more likely to contribute to what are hoped to be winning seasons in the near future.

Mancini was determined that the burden of turning the tide in Baltimore shouldn’t fall exclusively on the catching prodigy the day the Orioles called up top prospect Adley Rutschman.

However, May 21, 2022, will serve as a milestone for this franchise for a very long time, as Sunday marked the Orioles’ 40th game with Rutschman after playing 40 games without him. They are 20-20 now as opposed to 16–24 before his promotion following a right tricep strain. Baltimore’s batters recorded a.648 OPS and 3.48 runs per game in those first 40 games. With Rutschman on the roster, they’ve averaged 4.58 runs better in total scoring and had a combined OPS of.704 as of Sunday.

Even if Rutschman’s productivity has fluctuated, there is a correlation-cause argument to be made, and his addition has broadened Hyde’s lineup. In his first 64 plate appearances, he recorded an OPS of.408, followed by a mark of 1.147 in his following 54. In his final 18 at-bats of the road trip, he was hitless.

Without breakouts, the offense has improved:

Cedric Mullins was becoming a staple for the Orioles at this time last year and was on his way to the first 30-30 season in the team’s history. He was also only days away from being named an All-Star. That kind of breakout from a batter has not yet occurred for Baltimore this season.

Ryan Mountcastle established a rookie record for home runs for his team last year. He is currently leading the American League in extra-base hits since the beginning of June, but his overall statistics aren’t all that different from those of the previous season.

Despite an improvement from his last 2021 record of.769, which required a strong September to attain, Austin Hays will start Game 81 with an OPS below.800. At this point last year, Mancini was displaying greater power, however, this was mainly a result of the new left-field wall at Camden Yards depriving him of five home runs. However, he is striking out considerably less and demonstrating that he is a player who can contribute to a competitive team in his final season before free agency.

Mullins’ bat has stayed around league average for much of this season as pitchers have adjusted following last year’s performance, but he has been playing better of late, and Hyde expects him to “have a fairly solid second half.” Anthony Santander has already walked almost as much as he did in the combined 2020 and 2021 seasons in half as many plate appearances, yet his slugging percentage is the lowest of the past four seasons.

None of these players have particularly advanced, but the acquisition of Rutschman and the combination of their cumulative gains have resulted in a significantly improved upper area of the lineup.

A distinct story unfolds in the bottom part of the lineup. Through 80 games, the Orioles have started their second baseman, third baseman, or shortstop exactly two-thirds of the time, with the majority of the outliers being a catcher other than Rutschman. Baltimore’s infielders at those positions hit.192 (worst among 30 teams) entering Sunday, had a.257 on-base percentage (29th), a.333 slugging percentage (28th), and struck out a league-high 28.2 percent of the time.

However, there is a quick fix available. According to Baseball America, the organization’s top three, seven, and thirteen prospects are the infielders Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and Terrin Vavra. All had Triple-A Norfolk OPSes above.900 as of Sunday. Mancini’s likely trade might also make room for No. 9 prospect Kyle Stowers, who made his debut earlier this season in Toronto as a substitute player, resulting in a late-season lineup that resembles this: Mullins, Hays, Santander, Mountcastle, Rutschman, Henderson, Stowers, Westburg, and Vavra.

Rutschman is in the center in front of four other players who were acquired as part of the rebuild, and there are four players up top who have established themselves as significant players. Certainly, the organization could gain traction by 2023.

What will happen?

The Texas Rangers, a team to which their experienced players have connections, are the Orioles’ first opponent during a seven-game homestand. There, Lyles had spent the previous two seasons. From 2013 until 2018 and one more in 2020, catcher Robinson Chirinos played for Texas.

The first seven years of second baseman Rougned Odor’s career were spent with the Rangers. Baltimore then hosts four contests against Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels, and Shohei Ohtani. Phil Nevin, the father of Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin, is the Angels’ temporary manager, but he will miss the opening two games of the series as he serves a 10-game ban for getting into a fight last week against the Seattle Mariners. Phil has not yet witnessed Tyler play in the major leagues due to his responsibilities as a major league coach.

What did you like?

The Orioles’ rotation has been strong for a few weeks now, as mentioned, but last week was especially strong. The starters for Baltimore gave up five earned runs in 33 1/3 innings over six games, for an ERA of 1.35. With solid starts from Kremer, Lyles, and Spenser Watkins in between, Wells concluded the week with a pair of outings in which he struck out 10 in 11 innings while giving up only two runs.

Wells’ performance on Sunday included going at least six innings and allowing no more than one run, just like each of those three. One fewer than they had going into it, the Orioles made four such starts last week.

What was absent?

The Orioles had a strong week, but it could have yielded two more victories. Against Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, López finally experienced a glitch in an otherwise flawless season, blowing saves and allowing walk-off hits. López is the Orioles’ closer, but Hyde gave him a day off on Sunday even though a save opportunity presented itself. They believe he will transform back into his dominant form.

For the past three months, Lyles remarked, “He’s been wonderful.” Two excursions are two excursions. He’ll get better.

On the farm: Hall, the Orioles’ fourth-ranked prospect, got a lot of attention following Norfolk’s one-hitter on Friday, in which he bounced back from a rocky week with four scoreless innings, eight strikeouts, and just one walk. With five hitless innings and six strikeouts after Hall, Chris Vallimont was undoubtedly the night’s standout player.

Vallimont, 25, who similarly to Hall is listed on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, was acquired from the Twins in late May after having a difficult time with their Double-A affiliate. Vallimont, a fifth-round choice of the Marlins in 2018, has a 2.86 earned run average in 22 innings pitched at the top levels of the Orioles’ farm system, with six of those runs coming in his Triple-A debut. I

n that time, he has walked six times and struck out 28 times after pitching 19 innings this year in Minnesota’s farm system and issued 23 walks and 20 strikeouts.

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