When last we left our simulated version of the 2020 Orioles, the team was doing its very best to break the all-time record of home runs allowed in a season, set just last year by the Orioles. It’s not great.
Starting pitchers are doing their best to help break it, especially Wade LeBlanc (now demoted to the bullpen) with 26 home runs allowed in 69.1 innings. Not that relievers like Tanner Scott, with seven home runs allowed in 28.1 innings, are helping much.
What’s worse is that there’s no help in sight... or is there? Through the first couple of months of this sim, I’ve been trying to resist doing things that I can’t convince myself that Mike Elias would do.
Now that mid-June has turned into late June and there’s still no start of a 2020 baseball season in sight - with escalating COVID-19 cases in Florida and other places putting a big question mark on a season even if the owners and players reach a financial agreement - there’s a little more opportunity to get weird.
In the parallel universe where the 2020 season went on as planned, I don’t think there’s any way that Elias would have considered calling up, say, Zac Lowther in June, no matter how well he was pitching in Norfolk. In our sim, Lowther is pitching very well, or at least he’s getting good results, with a 2.34 ERA in 61.2 innings there, with a 10.8 K/9 and a 1.17 WHIP.
That’s interesting. His time could be approaching. We’ve just opened up a 40-man roster spot since backup infielder Jose Rondon was designated for assignment (again) to make room at the end of DJ Stewart’s rehab stint. What do you think?
This week’s games
Game 72: Indians 6, Orioles 0
There was a rain postponement in the simulation so we ended up getting a doubleheader on Tuesday, June 16. The first game wasn’t great, with the Orioles offense picking up just three hits over the whole game. “He just had us in his thrall,” our manager said of Indians starter Carlos Carrasco in his simulated post-game conference. Carrasco went the distance, striking out ten Orioles and walking none. He threw exactly 100 pitches.
In his second ever MLB start, Dan Hammer, last year’s 13th round pick who has raced up to MLB in this sim, gave up six runs in four innings. Tough going. He might be headed back to the minors as soon as our pitchers get healthy. LeBlanc was solid in four innings of long relief, saving the rest of the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. He can be good for something.
Game 73: Orioles 8, Indians 3
The nightcap went to the Orioles as the script flipped. John Means may not have pitched a shutout, but he did toss a complete game for the Birds, mostly scattering six hits. O’s batters dropped 15 hits on Cleveland, including two home runs and four doubles. Renato Nunez hit a two-run home run in the first inning. That’s his 17th of the season, which still leads the team.
Nunez was one of five Orioles with multiple hits in the game. Hanser Alberto led the way, picking up three hits and scoring two runs. The O’s had a 6-0 lead by the end of the second inning, having blown up Indians starter Matt Shoemaker. Though Cleveland scored later, the game was never close.
Game 74: Indians 11, Orioles 3
There are signs that the Indians pitching staff might be better than the Orioles. They got another good one as Cleveland starter Shane Bieber struck out ten O’s over 7.1 innings. The O’s did get three runs against Bieber, though they were already losing 7-0 before they scored. So, you know, it could have gone better.
The unfortunate Orioles starter in this one was Keegan Akin, who’s now got a 6.75 ERA after five big league starts. Cleveland touched him up for six runs on six hits in only 2.1 innings. I would enjoy the experience of this sim more if a couple of the young Orioles were doing well. Austin Hays did get his 15th home run of the year as part of a 2-3 day, so I guess that’s something.
Injury news: Hunter Harvey was diagnosed with tired arm after pitching to one batter in this game. He’s expected to be out for six days. We’ve got three relievers listed as “exhausted,” so we can’t wait around for him. To the injured list, again. And that open 40-man roster spot is going to Evan Phillips, who was accidentally DFA’d in that AI purge a couple of weeks ago. He cleared waivers, stayed in the organization, and is back, for now.
Game 76: Rays 5, Orioles 3
Really a tough stretch of pitchers for our simulated Orioles, who were bested by Blake Snell and friends here. Snell struck out 13 O’s over an eight inning start and only gave up four hits. The O’s were actually winning 1-0 until the top of the seventh inning, with an Alberto solo home run off of Snell being the only offense of the game.
However, in a familiar story, the Orioles bullpen totally crapped the bed in the seventh. Shawn Armstrong was the biggest culprit, giving up three runs while retiring no batters. He came in with one man on base, loaded the bases, then gave up a grand slam before getting yanked.
This became a bullpen game when Alex Cobb had to be removed after two scoreless innings with back stiffness. Six of our eight relievers are exhausted, and due to that earlier doubleheader, there’s no starting pitcher available on full rest. This looks like a job for... emergency starter David Hess. Hold on to your butts!
Game 77: Rays 27, Orioles 2
Oh no... oh no. This box score needs to be seen to be believed:
As Orioles fans, we have the awesome memory of Chris Davis pitching in 2012. The reality, or simulated reality, of position players pitching is often far more grim. Though if you ask me, the biggest culprit was Paul Fry - our only fully rested reliever - stinking so bad that he gave up five runs and got only one out. If Fry could have gone at least two innings, this cascading failure might have been avoided.
Instead, well, here we are. Poor Andrew Velazquez got hurt while pitching. The diagnosis is not yet known. Every reliever other than Mychal Givens is exhausted. It’s time for some...
Emergency roster moves: Sorry to simulated Paul Fry, but that’s the kind of outing that gets you sent to the minors. Fry and Hector Velazquez have been demoted. Our fresh 40-man pitchers in Norfolk are Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate, so they get to come on down to be the next contestants on the Price is Right. Are we having fun yet?
Game 78: Orioles 5, Rays 3
Give it to our simulated Orioles, they bounced back from that butt-whipping. It could have easily gone the other way, since the Rays scored first and led 2-0 through three innings. Those two runs ended up being all that John Means gave up over a 7.1 inning outing.
The sim was unkind to last year’s runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year, but he’s on a good stretch lately, lowering his ERA from 5.33 to 4.71 just since June began. More importantly, he was able to go far into this game and give a little break to the shredded bullpen after that last game.
The O’s scored four of their five runs via the home run. Ryan Mountcastle and Rio Ruiz each had a solo homer, while Jose Iglesias connected with a man on base. Ruiz was the only Oriole with a multi-hit game. The O’s had all the offense they needed anyway, thanks to Means.
Record: 26-52, 20 games behind Rays and 17 games out of WC2
The Orioles now have the worst record in this simulation, one game “ahead” of the Royals, who’ve won seven of ten while the O’s have lost eight of ten. As we learned in 2019, though, sometimes a .333 winning percentage isn’t going to get you the #1 pick in the next year’s draft.
Some depressing minor league stat lines
- Dean Kremer: 4.30 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 7.4 K/9
- Alex Wells: 7.28 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 6.8 K/9
- Ryan McKenna: .232/.306/.321 in 271 AB
- Cadyn Grenier: .211/.222/.254 in 71 AB
- Adam Hall: .214/.309/.313 in 243 AB
- Rotation: John Means, Keegan Akin, Dan Hammer, Kohl Stewart, David Hess
- Bullpen: Shawn Armstrong, Miguel Castro, Wade LeBlanc, Evan Phillips, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate, Mychal Givens
- Regular lineup: Chance Sisco (C), Trey Mancini (1B), Hanser Alberto (2B), Rio Ruiz (3B), Jose Iglesias (SS), Ryan Mountcastle (LF), Austin Hays (CF), Anthony Santander (RF), Renato Nunez (DH)
- Bench: Austin Wynns, Andrew Velazquez, Pat Valaika, DJ Stewart
- Injured list: Pedro Severino (1 day), Alex Cobb (14 days), Richard Bleier (6 days), Hunter Harvey (12 days), Travis Lakins (2 months), Chris Davis (7 months)
- Rehab assignments: Asher Wojciechowski (19 days max), Tommy Milone (19 days max)
Milone is not pitching on his rehab right now due to a strained abdominal muscle.
Full statistics through 78 games
These jabronis have allowed 160 home runs in 78 games. The starter ERA of 6.19 is worst in the AL. So is the bullpen ERA of 5.49. As for the offense, no AL team has drawn fewer walks.