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Friday Bird Droppings: Where the season should be half over

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Had 2020 been a normal year, the Orioles would be at the exact halfway point of their schedule right now. Would we be liking what we saw or begging for the season to end?

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

In a perfect world, I’d be greeting you in Bird Droppings today by pointing out that the Orioles had reached the midpoint of their 2020 schedule, playing game No. 81 in Wednesday’s series finale against the Yankees. Maybe I’d drop in a poll to ask you how you were feeling about the Birds’ season so far. Have those 81 games felt like a slog? Or do they have you excited to see what the second half of the schedule has to offer?

Instead, all I can offer is a bunch of unanswerable questions. What would have happened if the Orioles had actually gotten to play any games — let alone 81 — so far this year? Which players would be surprising us in a good way? In a bad way? Which youngsters would have stepped up, or fallen out of favor? Would the O’s have pulled off any trades yet? Would prospects like Ryan Mountcastle and Keegan Akin have made their MLB debuts? How would Adley Rutschman be faring, and which affiliate would he be playing for now?

There are plenty of other questions we don’t know the answers to, at least until the abbreviated season begins at the end of July (if coronavirus doesn’t ruin that, too). Would an O’s offense missing its two best hitters from last season (Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar) be able to keep the team in games? Would the patchwork rotation be any better at limiting home runs than last year’s record breakers? And how many of those home runs would have been hit by Gleyber Torres so far?

In Baseball Reference’s simulated season through OOTP 21, the Orioles are 32-49 at the halfway mark, in last place in the AL East and the sixth-worst team in baseball. The club’s best hitter, surprisingly enough, has been DJ Stewart, who’s batting a cool .374 with a 1.147 OPS and 12 homers in 38 games. Simulated Anthony Santander already has 20 home runs, as does Trey Mancini (whose cancer diagnosis, obviously, was not programmed into the simulation). Chris Davis and Yusniel Diaz are each batting under the Mendoza line in 17 games, while simulated Hanser Alberto has a meager .596 OPS.

On the pitching side, the club’s simulated rotation consists of Aaron Sanchez, Keyvius Sampson, and Kyle Lloyd — three players who aren’t even on the real-life Orioles — while John Means has stumbled to a 6.43 ERA. Bullpen mainstays Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, and Tanner Scott all have ERAs of 5.84 or worse, while the team’s best reliever has been right-hander Eduardo Paredes — who, again, is not actually an Oriole in the real world.

Of course, all of that is just one simulation. Others may differ, most notably the foolproof PWAG system (see below).

What do you think, Camden Chatters? What would you have liked to see — or expected to see — if the Orioles had played their originally scheduled half-season by now?

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe...

In a universe where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the Orioles hit the halfway mark of the season with what they thought was a 65-16 record, which already would have been the best 81-game mark in MLB history. But further investigation found that, through a series of calamitous record-keeping mistakes, the Orioles actually had 16 extra wins that were erroneously marked as losses. After the correction, the Orioles’ record improved to 81-0.

In a late-night call yesterday, the 29 other teams unanimously decided that continuing to play a 2020 season would be fruitless, as it would serve them no purpose other than to continue embarrassing themselves against the Orioles. “We cannot stop them. We cannot defeat them,” they agreed. “They have utterly mastered baseball, and we can only bow at their feet and proclaim the Baltimore Orioles the best team in the universe, now and forever.”

With that, the season came to an abrupt end, with the Orioles being declared the world champions — not just for this year, but retroactively for all previous seasons (even ones before the Orioles existed) and for all future seasons of Major League Baseball.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Simulation brought to you by the PWAG (Paul’s Wild-Ass Guesses) system.

Links

An all-out assault on everything you hold dear: Inside the Beat, 2015 Orioles – The Athletic
If you haven’t been reading Britt Ghiroli’s year-by-year recap of her beat writing career, they’re worth the price of an Athletic subscription by themselves. Her latest one is particularly emotional, as she had to balance a disappointing Orioles season with the tragic loss of her father.

Some questions and possible answers about Orioles' 2020 season - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff asks (and attempts to answer) a bunch of questions about the upcoming truncated season, including “How much will star players play?” Uh...star players? Does that apply to the Orioles?

Orioles’ return to play guide: How a 60-game season affects Baltimore’s birds – The Athletic
Dan Connolly, too, asks and answers his own questions. Had he known Dubroff was doing the same thing, they could have answered each other’s questions instead. Missed opportunity!

A different pace to the 2020 baseball season - School of Roch
Richard Bleier offers his thoughts on the short season, and it sounds like he wasn’t a fan of the 16-team playoffs idea (which the players rejected). Me neither. It just seems wrong for more than half the league to make the postseason, even if it would’ve slightly improved the Orioles’ chances.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Ex-Orioles born on this day include 2008-09 shortstop Luis Hernandez (36), 1987 righty Mike Griffin (63), and the late 1960 outfielder Gene Green (b. 1933, d. 1981), who was an Oriole for just one on his 408 career MLB games.

On this day in 1964, Boog Powell twice played the hero in Washington, first tying the game in the top of the ninth on a two-out RBI single, then giving the Orioles the lead with a two-run homer in the 13th. The Birds beat the Senators, 9-4.

On this date in 1978, Earl Weaver used two position players to pitch in the Blue Jays’ 24-6 destruction of the Orioles. Outfielder Larry Harlow went first, getting torched for six runs in 1.2 innings, but catcher Elrod Hendricks proved to be an outstanding pitcher, working 2.1 scoreless innings in his first (and only) professional experience on the mound. The Jays scored in only four innings that game, but plated nine runs in the second, four in the third, six in the fourth, and five in the fifth.

And on this day in 1983, the Orioles’ Storm Davis carried a no-hitter into the ninth against the Tigers before pinch-hitter Rick Leach led off the inning with a home run. Davis and the Orioles settled for a 3-1 win over Hall of Famer Jack Morris, with Cal Ripken and Al Bumbry hitting homers.