Assessing some aspects of the O's with team about to hit 40-game mark

As the Orioles hit the 39-game mark of their 2024 season on Sunday, they lost to Arizona failing to sweep that series. And they lost a game in the standings to the New York Yankees.

But now that they are about 25 percent of the way into the season, we can take a look at a few aspects of a team that is in first place and on a pace to win 108 games.

The starting pitching has sure been solid: Seeing Kyle Bradish and John Means return to the rotation by early May was big for the team. Now we wait to see if they can stay on the field but having them back already and throwing well was about a best-case scenario based on the outlook from March.

Corbin Burnes has been big as expected. His ERA and WHIP are close to what we saw during his 2021 Cy Young Award year. Cole Irvin has come up very big for the Orioles. And when Grayson Rodriguez returns, they will have six starters for five spots.

This unit has gotten the job done nicely and currently ranks third in the AL in ERA and sixth in innings.

What about the ninth inning?: How Craig Kimbrel does and will do this year was always going to be a big question to answer during this season. We still don’t know how this one is going to go.

He got off to such a good start and it was very encouraging. Then somewhere around the O’s games in Anaheim it turned, and he got pulled a few times while trying to get through the ninth.

Closer by committee could work for now in what is a deep O’s ‘pen with several closer options although none with much experience in the job.

But manager Brandon Hyde said it best. They have to get Kimbrel right. Can he do the job for this team? Can he pitch well back-to-back? The answers are we don’t know yet and we don’t know yet.

If he can’t, the O’s are well stocked with prospects to be able to make a trade for ‘pen help during the summer.

The offense has been good too: It sure has with the Orioles among the highest scoring teams in baseball and also among the top clubs in homers, slugging, OPS, extra-base hits and more.

But they are not drawing walks and it’s unnerving some fans who seem obsessed with walk rate. The thing to remember here is that last year the Orioles ranked seventh in runs scored for the year and 20th in MLB in walk rate.

Bottom third in walks, top third in runs. It can be done without a lot of walks. We’ve seen it. Like last year.

In 2023, when they ranked 21st in walks and 16th in OBP, they were the fourth-highest scoring team in the AL. They scored over 800 runs for just the eighth time in 70 years of O’s baseball.

This offense is that good and maybe better. Do you want walks or runs? Some teams give you both. Right now, this one does not.

The manager is having a good year: No doubt some on our message board won’t come close to agreeing with this. Hyde’s every move is analyzed and discussed constantly.

It has been said he defers to his veterans. I don’t buy it.

He has shown he will pull Kimbrel in the ninth and he has already had games where at times he sat both Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. He managed the heck out of his bullpen in the first two games versus Arizona. The clubhouse believes in him and has his back. Been this way almost since his first day on the job.

The outfield might be in flux: For me, Anthony Santander, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins are part of a core that is the heart of this team. Having said that, all three have had struggles at times this year, especially Hays and Mullins. The doubters for that duo are growing.

Fans are getting restless to see more of the young talent, some that is already here and some that may be still to come.

How will the organization handle the outfield for the rest of this year?

There certainly is going to be some loyalty shown to players like Mullins and Hays who saw this team through the bad times into the good. They mean something important to their teammates. But at some point, production and what they are providing becomes a factor.

The outfield could be in a transition period as the rest of this season plays out.

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