Before last night’s game, the Orioles averaged 3.86 runs per game. That’s good for 25th best in baseball. On second thought, “good” may not be the best word choice.
Despite the low run total, Baltimore has managed to hang around a .500 record. The club’s starting pitching has not lit the world on fire— although John Means could be confused with a pyromaniac in this scenario. The O’s bullpen has impressed, and the team’s 4.17 runs allowed rates in the middle of the pack (14th).
Breaking down run percentages just 30 games into a full season may be a bit premature, but it’s worth speculating on whether the team can trend in the right direction. The Orioles’ -9 run differential (112 Runs, 121 Runs Allowed) produces a Pythagorean win loss record of 13-16. Prior to last night’s game, the team sat at 14-15.
Alright, so they’re not the 2012 Wild Card team. We don’t need Keith Law on the phone just yet. Still, it is fair to wonder how much the team would benefit from a few extra runs. Common sense, and sabermetrics for that matter, suggest yes. So, will the Orioles start to score more as the season goes on?
There is good news and there’s bad news. On the bright side, Fangraphs projects Baltimore to spike in runs per game. FanGraphs predicts 4.67 runs scored per game for the remainder of the season. That ends with a projection of 4.52 RS/game at the end of the season.
Of course there had to be bad news, and that comes in the form of a projected 5.58 runs allowed for the remainder of the season. That number trails only Colorado for the highest total in baseball. FanGraphs projects a season total of 5.33 runs allowed per game.
The team’s pitching appears next to impossible to predict. To provide a projection, one needs to know who will be on the mound. Matt Harvey has emerged as a trade chip, and there is always the frightening possibility that the team could attempt to flip Means in a blockbuster deal.
The Orioles have several prospects in the minors waiting for an opportunity. Any combination of Alexander Wells, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann and others could eventually replace Jorge Lopez in the rotation. It’s silly to look past the trade deadline at this point, so let’s not waste our time.
When taking a look at the offense, it’s a touch easier to speculate on future performance. Ryan Mountcastle dominated last season with a .333/.386/.492 slash line. His .208 average has left a lot to be desired so far this year, but a recent week-long hit streak provided hope.
Mountcastle represents the best individual wish for an uptick in offence this year, but there are plenty of other candidates. Trey Mancini has been celebrated throughout baseball, but he’s a better hitter than his current .234/.289/.414 slash line represents. Mancini holds a career .273 average, and a recent string of clutch hits represent a brighter future on the horizon.
Several other Orioles have struggled at the dish this season. Rio Ruiz has managed to stay in the lineup despite his .157 average and the presence of Maikel Franco. Ramón Urías has slashed just .159/.245/.273 in 19 games of middle infield duty. Chance Sisco, the club’s backup catcher, has hit just .167 in 16 games.
When replacing Sisco comes up in conversation, there’s one name that comes to mind. Unfortunately, top prospect Adley Rutschman still appears set for a 2022 debut. There’s a chance that shifts to a late 2021 call up, but it’s far too early to tell right now. The Orioles do have a few intriguing options at Triple-A Norfolk.
Austin Wynns remains in the organization after serving as catching depth in 2018 and 2019. Over 70 major league games, Wynns has slashed .239/.271/.339. The numbers do not jump off the chart, but it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Sisco could reach those totals this season. Sisco, a second round draft choice in 2013, does still have an option remaining. It’s fair to wonder if he would benefit from a trip to Norfolk now that the season is underway.
Speaking of Norfolk, the Tides also have Brett Cumberland and Taylor Davis on the roster. Davis, a 31-year-old backstop with limited major league experience, profiles similar to Wynns. Cumberland came to the Orioles in the Kevin Gausman deal with Atlanta. The 2016 Pac-12 conference player of the year still holds some potential but has yet to play above Bowie. Wynns is currently on the Orioles’ taxi squad.
One does not have to venture far to find alternative options for the Orioles infield. Former Rule 5 pick Richie Martin could receive another chance, but fans may prefer a glimpse at Jahmai Jones and Rylan Bannon. Jones, the Orioles’ 19th best prospect according to MLB.com, arrived in the organization in a deal for veteran starter Alex Cobb. Jones and Bannon may be limited by an inability to play shortstop, but either could replace Ruiz.
Baltimore’s pitching may remain up in the air, but there appears to be a path for a higher run total this year. If Mountcastle and Mancini perform like they are capable, the team will receive a boost. There is no way to tell if Jones and Bannon would outperform Ruiz and Urías, but the Orioles should be interested in finding out this season.