It’s time for another round of dissecting the Orioles season. Baltimore’s ball club largely gets lost in the shuffle with the national media, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some really exciting stuff happening in BirdLand. And yes, some bad. But let’s talk all about it:
The Orioles have maintained a steady .500 pace on the season. That has got to be a promising sign for a club with so many young players. Add in that most of the nation had them losing 100 games, and the Orioles have largely overperformed. Winning games in any capacity is a good thing for a rebuilding club.
Matt Harvey has been competent as a starter. The only thing keeping that from being in the gorgeous category is he hasn’t been able to last deep into games. If he can find that extra gear and not get fatigued early on, he could be a real storyline. The Orioles will have to figure out by the deadline if it’s worth risking some wins now to ship the pitcher off somewhere. Or if he’s part of a possible 2022 rotation.
The bullpen has had its ups and downs, but the potential shines through every night. Current closer Cesar Valdez hit about 85 MPH on the radar gun, yet he still manages to get enough outs and has a sub 1.00 ERA. Dillon Tate, Adam Plutko, and Tanner Scott round out a group of guys who are making some noise. They’re showing why they deserve to stick around for years ahead, and not get dangled as trade chips.
There is much more on the bad side in this week’s edition. We have to start by the disappointing slump that 1B/DH Ryan Mountcastle is in. This guy came into the season with huge expectations as the face of the rebuild. And after a strong debut in a small 2020 sample size, the pre-season hype made sense.
He just looks like a different guy out there, a guy who is trying to do too much. Ryan needs to settle down and let the game come to him instead of trying to win every game single-handedly.
The coaching staff deserves some blame this week. They have been putting out struggling veteran players out there when they could be bringing up some exciting young guys. We understand that there’s a method to this madness, but with some exciting young pitching like Akin and Zac Lowther available, there’s no reason Jorge Lopez should still be out there struggling.
Yes, these young arms will likely struggle, but that’s part of the process. Fans would much rather see the Orioles losing games while seeing the potential in a guy, than losing while a guy who won’t be around much longer is pitching.
This extends past just the pitching. The Orioles offense is the definition of hot-and-cold. One night, they round the bases 10 or more times. Some nights, they can’t even get more than a handful of guys on base. It’s the manager’s job to find a way to ignite the roster.
Why isn’t a guy like Jahmai Jones, who they acquired in the Alex Cobb trade with the Angels, getting some time in? He’s reportedly looked great at the alternate site. Or how about seeing Yusniel Diaz finally?
There’s so much Brandon Hyde could be doing that hasn’t been done. For the record, I am a fan of Hyde, but at some point, it’s fair to wonder if he will be around when the Orioles are expected to win games.
On a more positive note, some gorgeous things went down recently. The Orioles took two of three from the Rangers, beat an up-and-coming Marlins team, and then destroyed the Athletics on Sunday to end their fiery hot winning streak. That win came in large part due to John Means getting the start. He has been one of the best storylines in the early going. His 1.50 ERA is one of the best in the league. He makes hurling baseballs look effortless right now. It’s exciting to have a guy the Orioles can rely on every week in the rotation. Some saw Means as max a number two starter, but he’s proving he can be an ace.
If Means isn’t your best player, it has to be Cedric Mullins. The two are neck and neck. Luckily, they play different positions. Mullins is the best hitter as well as the best defender on the team. He is high on the MLB leaderboards for hits. But he’s also shown power recently with his homers. If he can keep his average at this ridiculous high rate and throw in some power, he could be the franchise center fielder that the Orioles have been looking for.
The only thing surrounding Mullins that isn’t gorgeous is the lack of respect and attention he’s garnered from the national media. He deserves to be recognized, even if he isn’t on the flashiest or most promising team. A guy with this many hits and the kind of defense Mullins shows every night would be talked about nonstop if he were in the Dodgers or the Yankees. Hopefully, that’ll come in due time with his breakout campaign continuing.
Lastly, a gorgeous thing for Orioles fans is that the Yankees are in last place, and thanks in part due to a loss at the hands of the Orioles on Monday night. That is all.