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A few Orioles are having trouble recapturing their early season magic

Pedro Severino and Renato Nunez started the 2020 season red-hot at the plate, but as the summer has worn on their bats have cooled considerably.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles
Orioles teammates Pedro Severino and Renato Nunez celebrate together on the field.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s so hard to draw the same conclusions in 2020 that we would in a regular baseball season. Sample size has always been a loaded phrase in the sport, and with a 162 game schedule shaved down to just 60, we’re trying to judge players on roughly two-thirds fewer games — 60% fewer actually, if my math is correct.

It brings up questions that, frankly, no one really seems to have the answers to yet. How can one ascertain a player’s true value if their statistics are drawn from such a smaller sample? How will it affect free agent contract values in the upcoming offseason? The list of questions like this goes on and on.

When the Orioles offense got off to a hot start in late July, Renato Nunez and Pedro Severino were two notable contributors at the plate during that early surge. The club scored 97 runs in its first 18 games, from July 24th or August 13th. That’s a little over five runs per game.

Severino’s triple slash line over those first 18 games was .333/.407/.625. He had six extra base hits, four home runs, 13 RBI and a 1.032 OPS. At the same time, Nunez hit .313/.395/.627 with 11 extra base hits, five home runs, 13 RBI and a 1.022 OPS.

Here’s another fun exercise: let’s see how these players were doing around the time of the trade deadline, which was August 31st this year on account of the coronavirus shortened season.

A little more than a week before the deadline, on August 23rd, Nunez was hitting .283/.342/.491 with an .832 OPS and Severino was hitting .333/.413/.568 with a .981 OPS.

On August 30th, one day before the deadline, Nunez had an almost identical triple slash line (.282/.348/.516) as he did a week prior, albeit with a higher OPS (.864). Severino was doing just fine himself on the 30th, at .312/.385/.516 with a .901 OPS.

It kind of makes you wonder why one or both of these players weren’t traded at the deadline. GM Mike Elias was wheeling and dealing during the month of August, shipping out relievers Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens, not to mention starter Tommy Milone too.

So why not sell high on a couple of hot hitters who are, arguably, not a part of the club’s long-term future? Corner infield and catcher are actually two spots where the Orioles are not short on solid major leaguers and/or prospects.

In terms of catchers, Chance Sisco is already here and Adley Rutschman is in the pipeline obviously. As far as 1B/DH types, there’s rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle and the much-anticipated return next year of Trey Mancini, to name a few.

But back to Nunez and Severino. There’s one big difference between these two, and that’s the Orioles front office contingent that brought them on board. Nunez was claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers by former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette on May 13, 2018, in his final year running the O’s. The power-hitting Nunez would make his Orioles’ debut on July 20th of that year and has been on the major league club ever since.

Pedro Severino, on the other hand, was a late cut by the Washington Nationals at the tail end of spring training 2019. He was then claimed off waivers by current GM Mike Elias and immediately added to Baltimore’s major league roster.

It’s easy to forget how young these players are too. Nunez is still just 26 years old, and Severino turned 27 on July 20th. According to Baseball Reference, Nunie made $562,000 this year, is arbitration eligible in 2021 and can be a free agent in 2025 at the earliest. Sevy made $563,500 in 2020, is arbitration eligible in 2021 as well, and can become a free agent in 2024.

At the start of play on September 23rd, Severino’s batting line was down to .258/.333/.404 from its pre-trade deadline highs, while Nunez checked in at .250/.314/.489.

Consistency is key, and if the Orioles’ hard work on the farm comes to bear fruit in spades as hoped, there could be — dare I say — an excess of talent in particular areas that could then be used to supplement other deficiencies.

There’s aren’t many things better in sports than seeing a homegrown player succeed for your team. But it’s also good to see guys come in from outside of the organization and grow into dependable professionals. Just don’t get too attached.