Newton’s third law tells us that, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Once upon a time, as I sat in Mr. Barlick’s physics class, I admit to being one of those “when are we ever going to use this in real life?” type of kids. I certainly didn’t picture applying one of Newton’s laws in a baseball discussion, but I never would have imagined back-to-back 100-loss seasons for the Orioles. Ahh to be young and optimistic...
Mr. Barlick retired several years ago, and the Orioles are well on their way to consecutive 100-loss seasons. And yet, Newton’s third law still stands up.
The Orioles have had quite their share of disappointments. And even though the bad outweighs the good, some positive things have come from this season. For many of the negatives, you can poke around and find a bright spot.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve used the term “bright spot” a few too many times this year. When you have to go out of your way to find them, there’s usually not many to go around. Still, Adley Rutschman is far from a 5-5 performance at the Major League level (even with his promotion to Delmarva), so we’ve got to pick and choose.
For a majority of the season, John Means has been heralded as the story of the year in Baltimore. The 26-year-old All Star emerged early, and delivered several quality starts for a team in desperate need of them. After veteran starter Alex Cobb made only three starts before being ruled out for the season, the rookie began to serve as the rock of the rotation.
Unfortunately, Means has struggled to replicate his first half performance. The lefty holds a 1-5 record and 7.48 ERA in six post-break starts, and he managed to lose a game Monday night in which he did not allow a hit in five of six innings. That’s hardly an uplifting story.
With Means struggling mightily, enter Hunter Harvey. The Orioles top pick in 2013 has faced a plethora of adversity at the minor league level, but finally made his Major League debut this week after several injuries.
Sure, the buzz around Harvey has dropped off a bit, but 100 MPH on the radar gun will bring it back in a hurry. The rookie, currently working out of the bullpen, struck out two of the four batters he faced in his MLB debut Saturday against the Red Sox. Last night, Harvey picked up his first Major League win by striking out two-of-three batters in the eighth inning of an eventual 4-1 victory against the Royals.
Few, if any, expected Harvey would have to wait until August 2019 to pick up his first big league win, but they say good things come to those who wait. The Orioles could keep him in the ‘pen next season, and triple digits paired with that curve ball could make quite the closer someday. Nonetheless, a healthy Harvey has a spot on the Orioles roster moving forward. Plus, the hair has to count for something.
The Orioles parted ways with a former Rule 5 pick earlier this year, but they have another getting consistent at bats in the heart of their lineup. When the Birds finally said farewell to Joey Rickard, they began to see the emergence of Anthony Santander. Santander, still only 24 years old, has hit .281/.320/.477 and holds a current war of 1.5. He’s hit .328/.371/.525 in 31 home games this season, and will be poised for a breakout year in 2020.
As an added bonus, this year’s Rule 5 pick Richie Martin increased his batting average every month from May-July, and could continue the trend in August. Martin still has plenty of work to do at the dish, but his progress should not be ignored. Learning on the fly isn’t easy, especially when you skipped Triple-A.
Mark Trumbo has yet to play this season, and could not return quickly enough to muster any trade value before the deadline. On the other hand, Trey Mancini has blossomed into the Orioles’ best hitter, and could serve as an anchor of the Orioles lineup for years to come after avoiding a trade in July.
Any team as bad as the 2019 Orioles has a lot of flaws. Stack up Baltimore’s lineup against an opponent, and you may take the other club’s player at nearly every position. But good things can emerge from some of the deepest holes on this roster. Hanser Alberto is certainly no Manny Machado, but the righty has smashed left-handed pitching in Baltimore’s first full season without the former All Star.
Of course, a top draft pick would be the best thing that could come from another lost season. Whether the Orioles can outlast Detroit and clinch the top choice remains to be seen, but there’s already a few bright spots turning up.