The 2022 Orioles have played almost exactly 20% of their schedule. There is a whole lot of baseball still to be played. A month-plus of baseball also feels like enough to start taking stock of what’s been going on, with the understanding that things could still change. It is clear after these first 32 games that the Orioles are not yet a quality baseball team, but they’re also separate from the dregs of the league - for now.
Across the league, there are six teams that are currently on pace to lose at least 100 games. Not only are the Orioles not one of these teams, they’re not all that close to that pace, either. The team is on track, if they continue at this winning percentage, to finish with a 71-91 record. For anyone who has wanted or needed to believe that the Mike Elias-led Orioles would be following the pattern of the Elias-assisted Astros rebuild early last decade, this is great news. The 2014 Astros emerged from three years in the cellar with a 70-92 record.
Over the first couple of weeks of May, I have occasionally had thoughts about how this team is more fun than expected. There have been some stupid games this season, but there have been fun ones, too. We can all feel fairly secure in the knowledge that we’ve yet to see the best possible version of the 2022 Orioles. Adley Rutschman’s arrival feels imminent, and we can hope guys like D.L. Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, and others will be coming soon after.
One thing that gives me pause about thinking this for long is that last year’s Orioles team actually had an even better record than this through their first 32 games. The 2021 squad was 15-17 after the same number of games, one win more than this current team. That’s right in the same range of “Okay, this isn’t good, but it’s not horrible either.”
Last year’s losers, we now know, were on the precipice of the first of multiple steep drops. The Orioles closed out May by going 2-21 after getting within a game of .500 on May 5, and May didn’t even turn out to be the team’s worst month. Over the season, they had separate losing streaks of 14 and 19 games.
The possibility that this could occur again is not eliminated simply because we would not like it if that happened. The Orioles next series is against the Tigers, who have not been good so far this year, but after that is ten straight games against the Yankees and Rays. That could cool off any lukewarm vibes.
The big question
With all of this in mind, are you feeling any differently about the state of the Orioles major or minor leagues right now than you did a month ago? If you’re happier, what is it you’ve liked to see? If you’re still not convinced, what will they have to do to convince you?
Camden Chat’s staff laid out our hopes and predictions before the season began, as did a number of our readers. Let’s see how we’re doing so far.
Hopes vs. reality
As a group, we were anxious to see the Orioles start to promote some of their top prospects. We also were wanting to see some signs of life from some lower-tier pitching prospects, in hopes that the O’s can have some home-grown back-of-the-rotation guys behind Hall and Rodriguez some day.
Reality has mostly gone well for these hopes, so far. Although we still haven’t seen Rutschman, we have had the debut of Kyle Bradish, whose most recent start saw him strike out 11 batters in a seven inning outing against a good Cardinals team. Baltimore’s own Bruce Zimmermann has had a strong first six starts, and former Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells has followed up a rocky first few games with some intriguing results in his rotation experiment.
Concerns vs. reality
Though we mostly all had hopes revolving around the pitching staff, we also all had concerns revolving around the pitching staff. Those fears haven’t exactly been dispelled. John Means going down with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery after two starts wiped the one pitcher fans might have felt like we could count on out of the picture.
Recent years have seen some simply terrible pitchers roll through as the team put up among the worst or the worst ERA in all of baseball. The back end of the bullpen is overachieving so far, but these guys don’t have a track record of MLB success. For me at least, it’s going to take more than one month to believe that the rug is not about to be pulled out from under us.
Projections vs. reality
FanGraphs: 68-94 (preseason: 65-97)
PECOTA: 61-101 (preseason: 61-101)
FiveThirtyEight: 65-97 (preseason: 62-100)
The Camden Chatter who has the best guess so far is Stacey, who was the only one of us to predict 70 or more wins with her 72-90.
Two of the three big projections here are tentatively willing to believe in some improvement by the Orioles, or at least recognizing that they have some extra wins in the bank even if they perform closer than expected here. As you can see, FG and 538 both have bumped their projections up by three wins. The 538 projection still thinks the O’s will have the worst record in MLB. FG’s simulation is now willing to allow that the Reds, and no one else, might be one game below the Orioles by season’s end.
As for PECOTA, I had to go back and look to see what they said about other teams to make sure they have, in fact, made in-season updates to the projection. They have! The Red Sox have dropped from an 86-win projection to 81 wins. The Yankees have increased from 99 to 104. Those awful Reds are still projected at a 73-89 record. Whatever you say, PECOTA.
Once again, Stacey is looking pretty good among the Camden Chat staff, with her preseason wild guess that the Orioles will finish in fourth place in the AL East and it will be the Red Sox who are in last place behind them. The Orioles are currently in fourth, with a 2.5 game lead over none other than those Red Sox. Good job, Stacey. I hope reality continues to make you look like a genius in this specific way.