Baseball is back! We think. Each day, SportsIntel’s Matt DeSaro will take a look at two of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball as we head toward MLB Opening Day in late July and we continue today in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles.
The owners and players agreed in late June to stage a 60-game season, beginning July 24. There are still many hurdles to overcome in this COVID-19 landscape, but for now, the teams are gathering for “Summer Camp,” a Spring Training reboot crammed into three weeks.
MLB Opening Day – Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles | O/U 20.5 Wins | +75000 to win World Series
Would you believe the Baltimore Orioles were actually in the 2016 Wild Card game? I had completely blocked that out of my mind and was surprised to recall such a game taking place. I was surprised because my memory of Orioles baseball coming into 2020 is the team that has dropped 310 games since that Wild Card loss to Blue Jays.
Needless to say, this has been a grueling and long rebuild for this franchise.
This marks year three of said rebuild, with the Orioles going 101-223 over the previous two campaigns. They almost gave up 1000 runs last year, a feat of failure not achieved since the 90’s, while setting a new record for Home Runs allowed. That happened in August by the way and they ended with 305 on the year. The previous record was 258.
A bleak outlook is really putting it mildly. This team is truly the definition of inferior.
So what do we have to look forward to this season? Well, most likely more of the same after the Orioles did little to improve their standing this offseason.
I suppose I should be fair and point out that the Orioles did improve by seven games from 2018 to 2019 and plated 108 more runs. That does make up for a lot of the 89 extra runs allowed, but both are still awful numbers.
This team is also quite young which can be viewed as a positive. Their average aged player is 26.5, which ranks them first behind the Phillies and is two years younger than their 2018 team which lost 115 games.
Truly about all that can be looked at with optimism here is they did have a better 2019 than their previous year. But how much does it count when you barely do better than the worst season in franchise history?
It’s like being the kid at fat camp who only lost 7 pounds. Not as bad as last year Timmy, but Mom and Dad are still disappointed.
Offseason Acquisitions: C Taylor Davis, C Bryan Holaday, 2B Ramon Urias, 2B Dilson Herrera, SS Jose Iglesias, SS Richard Urena, RHP Hector Velazquez, RHP Brady Rodgers, RHP Travis Lakins, RHP Kohl Stewart, RHP Marcos Diplan, RHP Cesar Miguel Valdez, RHP Sean Gilmartin, RHP Cole Sulser, LHP Wade LeBlanc.
Offseason Losses: C Jesus Sucre, SS Zach Vincej, SS Pat Valaika, 2B Christopher Bostick, OF Mason Williams, DH Mark Trumbo, RHP Aaron Brooks.
What Do The Orioles Do Well?
The Orioles actually did make one power move ahead of the MLB opening day that might set them up to actually have a shot at contending in the near future. That move was to sign Jose Iglesias to fill the massive gaping hole they had a shortstop. After the Orioles sent Jonathan Villar to the Marlins they hoped that Richie Martin could stand tall but he was a massive disappointment. Really though, what did the Orioles expect from a guy who hit .208 as a rookie?
This move now gives the Orioles a legit starting shortstop and will allow Martin to go back to AAA and do what rule 5 rookies are supposed to do. Practice before they play in the MLB. Iglesias has suited up at shortstop for at least 119 games each season since 2018 and had a career year in Cincinnati with 11 home runs and a .288 BA.
The Orioles also have what could turn out to be one of the best farm systems in the league. But that does little for them in the short term and has no bearing on my opinion of their season win total.
Where Can They Improve?
Let us start off with the obvious and something I have yet to mention in this preview. The Orioles pitching is horrendous in every way you look at it. Their rotation is bad, their bullpen is worse and their closer is Hunter Harvey. If you are unfamiliar with Harvey, well that is the point. Who is this guy? Who are any of these guys?
Seriously, just look back above at the pitchers the Orioles have acquired this offseason ahead of the opening day. Aside from maybe a name or two, have you ever heard of any of these guys? What if I said I added two fake names up there. Would you be able to tell me which those might be? No, you couldn’t. Because that list reads more like the real names of Mexico’s least popular Lucha libre wrestlers than it does an MLB pitching staff.
This staff amassed the highest ERA in baseball last season and as mentioned before, became the first team in MLB history to allow over 300 home runs in a season. To say they need help is a gross understatement.
Sure, they are hoping to get Alex Cobb back after undergoing hip AND knee surgery. Cool. They signed Kohl Stewart to help. Awesome. They also signed rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey, Jeff Stokes, and Michael Rucker. Orioles fans rejoice! Jk.
No, there will be nothing to celebrate in Baltimore this year if this pitching staff has anything to say about it. They need at least two more quality arms to even be considered a competent pitching staff. I would trust an actual Oriole out there more than some of these guys.
Opening Day Orioles Season Prediction
Ok, so after a page and half or so of burying this team, I finally have a positive take. Here goes.
I think this team goes well over their 20.5 win total this season.
While I don’t feel this is one of my stronger predictions, I have faith as we head into opening day that the Orioles again get a little better in 2020. The fact is, they lost a lot of close games and I think they turn at least a good percentage of those around this year.
Don’t get me wrong, this team will still be horrible to watch. But they might be a good underdog bet early on in the year depending on how things look during spring training.
The Orioles win total this year splits what they did last year and what they should have done based on preseason analytics. They were a 60-win team on paper but vastly underperformed. I think they do a bit better playing up to their minimal potential this year and see that 21st win.
C – Pedro Severino
1B – Chris Davis
2B – Hanser Alberto
3B – Rio Ruiz
SS – Jose Iglesias
LF – Anthony Santander
CF – Austin Hays
RF – Trey Mancini
DH – Renato Nunez