Captain Obvious checked in with me again this weekend. To his credit, he first asked me how I was feeling and then discussed the O’s offense. He told me they were really struggling. This call came before Sunday’s game, when the Orioles scored a season-high nine runs.
It was obvious they had a good day and we didn’t need any Captains to notice that.
But they had scored just three runs combined in the first two games of the Boston series and, as always, the Captain had a valid point.
Here is the good news: Before Sunday, they were struggling so much that the stat sheet and history tell us they will get better, at least to some degree. And then we can look at several key Baltimore hitters and see how they are performing and how when they get it going - and they likely will - that should help too.
First, here is a look at the lowest scoring teams in the majors the last three years in runs per game, and where the Orioles were in those seasons.
2019: Detroit at 3.61 runs per game, O’s at 4.50.
2020: Pittsburgh at 3.65 runs per game, O’s at 4.56.
2021: Pittsburgh at 3.76 runs per game, O’s at 4.07.
This season, through 21 games, the Orioles were scoring 2.95 runs per game, the fewest in baseball. A phrase we hear in this sport from time to time is that a stat is “not sustainable,” and usually it’s in reference to someone playing over their head to a degree that they likely cannot maintain it.
I would contend the Orioles offense, so poor through Saturday, was not sustainable. They won’t finish the year at under three runs per game on average. Just look at the worst clubs over the last three years and they have a ways to go just to be even with the worst teams.
Furthermore, I look at key hitters Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle and feel certain that more offense will soon be coming from all three.
Mullins has a career OPS of .776. It was .878 last year and is .681 now.
Mancini has a career OPS of .798. It was .758 last year and is .590 now.
Mountcastle has a career OPS of .791. It was .796 last year and is .624 now.
For me, their current OPS numbers are not sustainable – there is that phrase again. They have some improving and catching up to do and they will do it. It’s not like the team is asking mediocre talent to play above its head here. The Orioles just need their key hitters to hit more. Even if all three regress a bit on the 162-game stat sheet through the full year and that happens in part due to the new dimensions in Baltimore, some more production is surely coming.
In Mancini’s case, some of his batted-ball data are off the charts good, and yet look at his OPS. He is in the top 17 percent in the major leagues, per Statcast, in average exit velocity, the top nine percent in hard-hit percentage and top six percent in expected batting average. On the down side, his chase rate and whiff percentages are up from last year, and he needs to clean that up. A bit less chasing will help, and then some of those liners will eventually find some grass, or go over a wall.
Mountcastle’s average exit velocity has improved, so has his hard-hit percentage from 2021, and he is in the top four percent of the majors in expected batting average. These are all good numbers. His chase rate, really poor last year, is still not great but a bit better. He was in the top three percent of the big leagues in chase rate in 2021 and now is top 10 percent. He’s actually improved a small bit. His walk percentage is way down, yes, but this batted-ball profile also could be seen as a positive moving forward.
Mullins has four hits the last two days, raising his numbers a bit and providing hope a real hot streak is coming. Mullins' walk rate is a bit down and his K rate a bit up, but his exit velocity equals last year's, his hard-hit rate is up and he is in the top 26 percent in the majors in barrels. A barrel is a ball that requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26 and 30 degrees always garner barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands. Mullins has actually seen a few more fastballs this year as some teams have tried to bust him inside. He’ll adjust.
This big three should get it going enough to help this offense start putting up more consistent numbers. With Sunday’s nine-run outburst, the Orioles have now scored 47 runs their past 10 games after getting just 24 in the first 12.
The team is 7-9 the last 16 games and, as pointed out here yesterday, the next few series are against teams not as good as their first several were. That should help too.