Saying goodbye to the team last night was full of mixed emotions. A little bitterness at having come so close to the playoffs just to finish 3.5 games out. A little anger that we couldn’t impose our will on the dislikable Blue Jays. A little gnawing anxiety, scanning the faces of the players as they took the field for a collective hat tip to the fans, about who we won’t see back next year. And then, reminding ourselves to be adults, gratitude and pride for what the Orioles did this season: how rare is it, in this data-rich sport of seemingly infinite precise measurables, for a team to blow past the most optimistic preseason W-L predictions by 20 games?
Also sadness, of course, like a kid who’s just finished a big slice of birthday cake and knows there’s no more coming, because we’re to be deprived of Orioles baseball for the next six months. It was a long slog of a season (it always is), so how does it always feel short?
Feeling like we need something to remember this team by, why not a dig into the numbers this season?
83-79 – The team’s final win-loss record, good for a .512 winning percentage. This was a huge improvement over a .321 win percentage the year before, not to mention the Orioles’ best finish in six years. They finished 3.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot, the best AL team to not make the playoffs. They also finished fourth in the AL East, but that gives them little credit, because here’s how many games all the other fourth-place finishers around the league won: 66, 67, 68, 62, 73. All in all, sixteen teams finished with a worse record. Is it soon to proclaim that the Orioles have officially busted out of the tier of bad MLB teams?
62 – The preseason over/under in wins for the Orioles according to most publications (FanGraphs, ESPN, BleacherReport). The Athletic judged that a fourth consecutive Orioles 100-loss season was “more likely than not,” while BaltimoreBaseball said that even a 72-90 finish would be “unlikely,” a .500 finish “stunning.” None of the CC writers predicted a winning record for this team, the most optimistic of the bunch being Stacey, who picked the team to win 72 games and lose 90.
3.97 – The Orioles’ team ERA, almost two runs less than its 2021 mark, the greatest season-to-season improvement by a team in 90 years. The O’s finished 17th of 30 teams in earned run average, next to clubs like Toronto and the White Sox—not stellar, but a surprise for the many who predicted the team to finish dead-last the way it did in 2021, especially with team ace John Means lost to Tommy John surgery back in April. No surprise, though, there’s room for improvement in the starting rotation, which put up a 4.34 ERA that ranked 21st of MLB staffs. The bullpen, however, was a major saving grace of this team, managing an MLB ninth-best ERA of 3.50.
170 – Home runs allowed by the Orioles on the season, 14th best (tied) among MLB staffs (Washington finished last with 242). That’s a lot better than 2021, when with the worst staff in baseball, Baltimore allowed 258 long balls. Or 2019, when the combination of a juiced ball and an uncompetitive Orioles paved the way for a historic 305 home runs allowed. Much more pleasant this year. Thanks, Mt. Walltimore.
3.23 - Dean Kremer’s season ERA over 125.1 innings pitched, the best put up by any Orioles starter since 2014, when Miguel González did it for the AL East champions. Another nice number: 4.32, which is how much Kremer shaved off his 2021 ERA. Kremer, who found more velocity and a cutter this season, is an obvious contender for the single most improved pitcher on the Orioles. So is Spenser Watkins, who also shaved about four runs off his ERA since last season, and hopefully will be a candidate for long relief next year.
12.06 – Félix Bautista’s ridiculous K/9 rate, the seventh-best of any pitcher in baseball. It’s worth remembering that the 6’8 flamethrower is a rookie. And that in 2019, he had a walk rate of 9.0 while pitching for High-A Aberdeen (this means he walked a batter an inning, which is terrible). How Bautista managed to find the plate consistently this season (he cut his BB/9 to 3.2) and still hit 103 mph on the radar gun may be one of life’s great mysteries.
1.43 – Cionel Pérez’s ERA over 56.2 innings, which, according to The Sun’s Nathan Ruiz, is the lowest by any Orioles reliever (min. 50 innings thrown) since Zach Britton put up an 0.54 in 2016. Pérez is another of several astonishing dark horse pitchers on this team, along with Bryan Baker (2.79 ERA in the second half) and Austin Voth (3.04 ERA in 17 starts for Baltimore). How did the team find these guys?
23 – The Orioles’ rank out of 30 teams in total offensive WAR. Of all the factors that this team could tweak next season in a push to the playoffs, here is one. In particular, ensuring some production at second base wouldn’t be bad. It’s the position of greatest need, with Orioles’ second basemen managing just a lowly 78 OPS+ this season. By that same measure, other positions that produced at below-average levels were SS (84), 3B (86) and RF (93). I still think you forgive Jorge Mateo a few (or many) off days at the plate, given what else he brings to the table.
33 – Anthony Santander’s career-best home run total, which ties him for fifth in the AL after Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Yordan Alvarez and Shohei Ohtani. Vlad Guerrero, Jr. hit 32. So, uh, not bad company.
35 – The number of doubles Adley Rutschman hit in 115 games. Considering that the MLB leader, José Ramírez, hit 44 in 157 games, it seems we may have a special hitter on our hands. On that note…
5.4 – Adley Rutschman’s team-best WAR, giving him the third-best season by a rookie catcher after Mike Piazza (7.0 WAR in 1993), and Carlton Fisk (7.3 WAR in 1972). Rounding out the rest of the Orioles Top 5 in WAR: Cedric Mullins (3.9), Ramón Urías (3.6), Jorge Mateo (3.3), and Dean Kremer (2.9).
69 – The number of bases that Jorge Mateo (35) and Cedric Mullins (34) stole combined. This marks just the fourth time in franchise history that an Oriole has led the league in steals (Luis Aparicio did it twice and Brian Roberts once in 2007). It’s also the first time two teammates have led their league in steals since the Montreal Expos’ Marquis Grissom and Delino DeShields did it in 1992. Further proof that this is not your 2016 Orioles (except for the plus-.500 record, that is).
18.1 – Defensive runs saved by the Orioles according to FanGraphs, which makes them technically the sixth-best fielding team in the majors this year. Whether or nor Jorge Mateo sews up the Gold Glove award at shortstop, it’s been a pleasure watching him play thrilling defense day in, day out, and also to finally have an Orioles outfield team of Hays/Mullins/Santander that can catch, field and throw.
13 – Prospects who debuted for the Orioles in 2022: Adley Rutschman, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Nevin, Gunnar Henderson, Félix Bautista, Terrin Vavra, Kyle Stowers, Rylan Bannon, Logan Gillaspie, Yusniel Díaz, DL Hall, Cody Sedlock, Nick Vespi. Not every one of them crushed it (will we see Yusniel Díaz in an Orioles uniform again?), but many of them really did, auguring a strong future for this team to come.
Are there any other statistical oddities/anomalies that stood out to you about the 2022 Orioles? Let us know. I miss them already.