In some ways, the 2019 season felt like it was over before it started. The Orioles entered the year with extremely low expectations, and, well, they met them. Rebuilds aren’t exactly pretty, and neither was the club’s record.
At the century mark last season, I posted a series of Over/Under prompts for the remaining 62 games. With the hot stove frozen and the rebuild still in full swing, I thought it would be fun to check out the totals. If you’d like, you can revisit the questions in greater detail here.
Over/Under 35 home runs for Renato Núñez or Trey Mancini
Lets start things off with a power prompt. Renato Núñez burst onto the scene last season and delivered his first double-digit home run total in four years. But he didn’t stop at 10, or 20, or even 30. Núñez blasted a career-best 31 homers in a career-high 151 games, and could play a large role for the Orioles in 2020.
Absolutely no one that I know predicted Núñez to come even close to 35 homers prior to last season. The fact that he was linked to that number last July is a testament to his strong start at the plate. Unfortunately, the 31 dingers still came up short.
Trey Mancini delivered in a big way for Baltimore last year. The 27-year-old filled a crucial spot in a lineup littered with holes, and became one of the biggest All-Star snubs for the O’s in recent memory. While Mancini missed out on the Midsummer Classic, he kept this one from being a loser. The Notre Dame product blasted 35 home runs to keep this one as a push.
Over/Under .5 complete games for Baltimore pitchers
Let’s keep this one short and sweet. A Baltimore pitcher did not go the distance in 2019. A look back at the O’s starting rotation pretty much explains why, but there was always a chance a guy could have gotten hot for a night.
Asher Wojciechowski nearly no-hit the Red Sox, but was pulled after conceding a hit in the eighth inning. For the record, Wojciechowski still picked up his first win of the season after striking out 10 Boston batters. Baltimore would certainly love to see more nights like that with Wojciechowski a lock to start this coming year.
The last Orioles pitcher to throw a complete game was Alex Cobb on August 18, 2018. Cobb allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and struck out 3. He tossed exactly 100 pitches, and the outing marked the third of seven straight starts with at least 95 pitches thrown. A healthy Cobb serving as a work horse in 2020 would go a long way for a Baltimore club bereft of pitching depth.
Over/Under 55 wins for the Orioles
After 100 games, FanGraphs projected Baltimore to finish at 55-107. Unfortunately, the Orioles came up one game short. The Birds finished 54-108. That’s good for last place in the AL East, but wasn’t quite number-one-pick worthy thanks to our friends in Detroit.
It’s still a little too early to predict how the O’s fare in 2020, but improvement would be nice. Baltimore may still be a year away from getting the loss total back into double digits, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Over/Under .5 Games played by Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo underwent knee surgery in August 2018 and came close to never playing again. Instead, Trumbo returned once the rosters expanded in September of last year. He delivered a two-run double in his first game back, but finished only 5-for-29 in five games.
Still, the fact that Trumbo was able to return and say farewell at Camden Yards made for a feel-good story in my opinion. He certainly won’t go down as an Orioles legend, and his $37.5 million deal did not age well, but the O’s were short on smiles last season and Trumbo delivered one.
Over/Under .200 batting average for Chris Davis
Chris Davis finished the 2019 season hitting .179/.276/.326. He did not record a hit until the 13th game of the season, and his early-season slump served as an unfortunate precursor to the remainder of the year.
There’s a lot more to say about Davis, but lets save it for another time.
Over/Under 3.00 ERA for John Means
On July 18, Means was 9-6 with a 2.50 ERA. A few tough outings down the stretch spiked his ERA as high as 3.76. After back-to-back wins to close the season, Means finished the year 11-10 with a 3.60 ERA. That may have hit the over, but it was still good for second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Looking back, setting the number that low was absolutely ridiculous. Means, a 26-year-old rookie who primarily made the team based off which arm he throws the ball with, had absolutely no business finishing anywhere near a 3.00 ERA. Still, Means gave it a good run. He quickly worked his way into the rotation, and delivered the only winning record by a Baltimore pitcher.
Looking ahead to this season, Means is the closest thing the O’s have to a known-commodity in the rotation. While it’s almost a guarantee that Means will hit some form of a sophomore slump, anything close to his stellar 2019 would be tremendous atop Baltimore’s starting rotation.
Over/Under .300 batting average for Hanser Alberto?
I saved the best for last. Hanser Alberto slashed .185/.241/.422 across 13 games for the Texas Rangers in 2018. Prior to last season, Alberto had played in 117 games. He entered 2019 as a career .192 hitter. And then he hit above .300 over 139 games. Really.
Hanser Alberto is exactly why we still watch a rebuilding team. Alberto absolutely dominated left-handed pitching to the tune of a .398/.414/.534 slash line. The guy hit almost .400 against lefties, and earned regular playing time between second and third base. Alberto can be penciled in as the starting second baseman this season.
Alberto hitting above .300 seemed extremely far fetched at the beginning of the season, and many kept waiting for the magic out. Many wondered if Alberto could keep the lefty-killing magic going, but one Camden Chat reader was absolutely certain he could not. That, or he’s just Alberto’s number one fan.
Your move, Greg.