If two hitting coaches can help the Orioles, maybe three can do even more. So far that is proving correct as the co-hitting coaches Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte are in their second seasons together on the Orioles staff. This year they were joined by Cody Asche, named before this season as offensive strategy coach.
The “three-headed monster” as Fuller calls it, must be putting in some great work as the Orioles offense is among the best in the game to start this year.
Fuller was a pregame guest Sunday on the Orioles Radio Network.
“Great start,” Fuller said of the offense on the broadcast. “Obviously comparing it to last year we got off to a slow start. We hit balls hard but they were right at people. Felt really unlucky. But this year we get off to a good start, and have a winning record, that is what we wanted to do. Start fast and go throughout the year. We’re really happy but at the same time there are still guys we are looking to get more production out of. Hard to get all nine guys going at once but that is what we are trying to do.”
And the numbers are impressive for an O’s offense that scored 20 runs over the weekend in three games in Chicago and has scored 28 runs the past four games and 49 over the last seven. In 16 games to date, the Orioles have scored six runs or more nine times.
As of Monday, the Orioles led the American League in team OBP at .357 and are first with 78 walks. They rank second in the AL in slugging (.450) and OPS (.807) and are fourth in batting average (.260).
The club’s 5.88 runs per game was second to Tampa Bay at 7.32.
The Orioles batters see on average 4.09 pitches per plate appearance to tie for first in the AL and they are just a tick behind Cincinnati at 4.10 for the MLB lead. They have 24 steals to rank second in the league. They have 22 homers – that is third best in the league and fifth in MLB.
They have several hitters swinging hot bats right now. Adley Rutschman is hitting .344/.481/.574/.1.054 with two doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs, 16 walks and nine strikeouts. He is batting .364 with an OPS of .955 when hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs. His OPS is 1.336 in AL East games.
Fuller on Rutschman: “I’ve had a front row seat for the past three or four years and this is what he does. The end of the game moments where you need a knock, you want Adley up. He just rises to the occasion but it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal for him. He just goes after it and focuses a little bit more. He’s a special player.”
Austin Hays is hitting .350/.391/.633/1.024 with six doubles, a triple, three homers and six RBIs. Hays has a .978 against left-handed pitching and 1.041 versus right-handers.
Fuller on Hays: “He put in unbelievable work this offseason. Really re-tooled his swing path. Last year it was kind of flat and across, not really in the hitting zone a ton. And now that path chases through center field, where he can go gap-to-gap, right-center field to left-center field. And he just has a really large margin for error in his swing now. Really exciting. If he stays on this course, stays healthy, we are expecting big things out of him.”
Shortstop Jorge Mateo is hitting .372/.431/.651/1.083 with three doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs. As of Monday, he ranked fourth in the AL in batting, fifth in slugging and fourth in OPS. In fact Mateo, Rutschman and Hays were fourth, fifth and sixth in the league in OPS.
Fuller on Mateo: “Think Mateo looks excellent with the work he is putting in. Really focused attention to what he is doing with his swing this year. He has a plan in place when he comes to the cage every day and goes to BP in what he is trying to execute. Fun to see him have this success.”
Mateo ranked in the bottom 10 percent of MLB last year in chasing pitches and now is in the top 30 percent, a remarkable turnaround if he can maintain it. His average exit velocity is way up, from 85.6 to 88.5 mph this season. His K rate is down from 27.6 to 17.0.
Beyond that, he ranks in the 99th percentile in sprint speed and 93rd percentile in Outs Above Average. What a start for Mateo.
We’ll see if the O’s offense continues to hum the next two nights at Nationals Park. Washington is 5-11 and last in the NL East. The Nats team pitching, via ERA, has outperformed the Orioles so far, but ranks 21st in MLB at 4.82.