Which American League team had the third-best team batting average during the 2020 season? And, yes, it was a season shortened to 60 games, 102 fewer than normal. It was the Orioles. They ranked 12th in team batting average at .246 in 2019 and were third at .258 in the AL last summer when the league average was .245.
While the Orioles in 2020 produced 4.57 runs per game, under league average of .4.65, they rated eighth in OBP (.321), sixth in slugging (.429) and tied for eighth in team OPS (.750).
In reviewing a few notes, I was reminded how well the Orioles hit last year against most of the National League East teams they faced. They scored 20 runs in three games versus Atlanta, 30 in four games against the New York Mets, 26 in three games versus the Phillies and 37 in six games against the Nationals. They plated just eight runs in four games against Miami.
While the Orioles averaged 3.83 runs against AL teams last season, they plated 6.05 against the NL. They led all AL clubs in batting average (.286), OBP (.346), slugging (.491) and team OPS (.837) versus the NL.
The Orioles went 11-9 against the NL last season and they scored 121 runs to lead the league in scoring versus the NL. Boston was second with 101 runs in its 20 games.
We’ll see how the 2021 Orioles fare as a team on offense. But their hopes to be productive start with getting Trey Mancini back coming off a 2019 season where he hit .291/.364/.535/.899 with 35 homers and 97 RBIs during a Most Valuable Oriole season. That year, most of Mancini’s at-bats came with him hitting in the two-hole.
But this could be how the O’s begin their batting order come April:
That is not a bad one through four spots. And they could stack those three players after the leadoff hitter however they like with Mancini second and Mountcastle fourth or Mountcastle second, Mancini third and Santander fourth.
But I like this arrangement to start. If Hays or Mullins reaches to start a game and a righty is on the mound, Santander will have some room to hit the ball on the right side of the infield. Both Hays and Mullins can steal bases, but perhaps with that big three hitting behind them, they won’t run as much, at least early in games, giving Santander, Mountcastle and Mancini a chance to get their bats going.
Milone finds a team: Left-hander Tommy Milone, traded to Atlanta for two players to be named later last Aug. 30, has a new team. He has signed as a minor league free agent with Toronto, per MLB.com, with a spring invite. He went 1-4 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts for the 2020 Orioles before the trade and posted a 14.90 ERA in three starts after the deal for the Braves.
The O’s got two infielders in the trade in shortstop AJ Graffanino and second baseman Greg Cullen. Graffanino, the son of former big leaguer Tony Graffanino. has played just 44 games in pro ball. He’s hit .316/.342/.380. Cullen, over two seasons, has batted .273/.387/.400. Graffanino was an eighth-round pick in 2018 out of the University of Washington and Cullen was taken the same year in round 15 out of Niagra University.
Graffanino is not currently among the O’s top 30 prospects in either the Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com rankings. But he was rated as the Braves’ No. 25 in 2019 by Baseball America and was No. 27 last year.
Harvey update: Last night on the Orioles’ “Inside the Yard” podcast with Geoff Arnold and Brett Hollander, among their guests was Orioles pitching coach/director of pitching Chris Holt. He talked about right-hander Matt Harvey, one of their minor league pitching signings, and how he has looked thus far at camp.
“Matt has come in and is eager to work and is working on a number of things to just to get himself prepared for the season, just like everybody else,” Holt said. “You know, Darren Holmes (assistant pitching coach) and I have seen some things that he can improve with his delivery and improve with some of his pitches. I think those are the first things first. I really wouldn’t get too in depth. I think where everybody is at this point, everybody is working to get their game going, put their game together. He’s right in that category as well.
“So we look forward to continuing to work with him and again he’s eager to learn. I think the first thing we are working to do is get the delivery back to where he is moving well and can, you know, basically throw his best stuff and get it through the zone. And be able to attack with a plan.”