13 stats that stand out from the Orioles’ first 13 games – The Denver Post

Thirteen games into their season, the Orioles have lived up to the misfortunate associated with that number.

Their pitching staff has surprisingly excelled early on, though it’s doing so without ace John Means and might be without him for the rest of the season. An offense expected to be a strength has instead regularly missed out on run-scoring opportunities, with some of that incapability traceable to poor luck.

Although 13 games is a relatively small sample, it’s enough of a benchmark to take a look at an accompanying 13 numbers that stand out amid Baltimore’s 4-9 start to the season.

2.5: This figure is sure to dip after Thursday’s 6-4 loss to close a series defeat in Oakland, but the Orioles’ pitchers entered the finale with a value of 2.5 in FanGraphs’ version WAR, tied for the major league lead among staffs with the San Francisco Giants, and still left it with a top-four ERA in the American League. Last season, Baltimore’s arms generated 7.9 fWAR total, a figure that ranked 25th among 30 teams and as the second lowest in the AL.

8: That’s Means’ number of innings thus far this year, and it might be all he throws. The left-hander unexpectedly exited his first home start after only four innings April 13 with left forearm tightness, with the injury formally ruled a left elbow sprain when it landed him on the 60-day injured list. The Orioles and Means are awaiting further tests and medical opinions about the elbow before choosing the next steps, but the pitching staff has largely stepped up around his absence. Before Thursday, the Orioles had a 1.67 ERA in their past nine games, by far their best such stretch since September 2016.

.115: The pitching staff’s efforts to prevent runs have often been outdone by the lineup’s inability to produce them. With runners in scoring position, the Orioles are 13-for-113, a league-worst .115 average, and are also last in the majors in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Almost 36% of their plate appearances in those situations have resulted in strikeouts.

49: “Walk, don’t run” is certainly not the Orioles’ offensive motto, but you wouldn’t know it 13 games into the year. After ranking 28th in the majors in walk percentage in 2021, Baltimore is tied for second in the AL with 49 walks while ranking last in the majors with 28 runs. The Orioles also lead the majors in strikeouts.

-.159: The Orioles put seven balls in play at at least 100 mph Thursday, getting hits out of five of those. That improved their batting average on that level of contact to .485, and although that sounds impressive, the leaguewide average entering Thursday was .559. Before the game, the difference between Orioles’ actual average on balls hit 100 mph or harder and their expected average — a Statcast metric based on exit velocity and launch angle — was -.159, the largest deficit in the majors.

13: The Orioles have played 13 games, and outfielder Anthony Santander has reached base in all of them. His OPS of .853 is nearly 200 points higher than that of any other Oriole. He’s walked almost twice as much as any of his teammates, with his 11 free passes — against 10 strikeouts — already more than he drew in his 2020 Most Valuable Oriole season. But he, too, has struggled with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-7.

1.80: Late in spring training, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said a group of pitchers who had already reached the majors needed to “step up” or risk being replaced by the organization’s next wave of prospects. Thus far, the message seems to have been received. Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann and Alexander Wells have combined to allow five earned runs in 25 innings, a 1.80 ERA; before Baumann and Akin had multi-run outings within the past few days, those four had surrendered one earned run in 21 1/3 frames.

66.1: The Orioles’ pitchers entered Thursday leading the majors in strike percentage, then they threw more than three of every four pitches for a strike against Oakland. Nearly two-thirds of Baltimore’s offerings this season have been strikes, a metric in which they ranked below the league average in 2021. The improvement is partly the product of how their catchers set up before each pitch, giving pitchers a down-the-middle target to encourage them to let their stuff play in the zone.

98: Jorge López struggled in the Orioles’ rotation in 2021, seeing opponents’ success against him skyrocket as he reached the middle innings, and a sprained ankle cut short a late-season look at the right-hander as a reliever. He spent his offseason focused on getting stronger, and he’s come out this season getting results. Now Baltimore’s closer, López’s sinker is averaging 98 mph this season and has gotten up to 99.5 mph after averaging 95.3 mph in 2021. The velocity on each of his secondary pitches is up, as well.

1.73: López doesn’t have much experience in relief, but he’s spent plenty of time in the majors relative to other members of the pitching staff. Eight pitchers who have taken the mound for Baltimore entered the season with less than a year of major league service time, and that group has combined for a 1.73 ERA. Rookie right-hander Félix Bautista has been particularly impressive in his first major-league go, imposing both in height (6-foot-8) and stuff (97 mph average fastball velocity).

4: In the previous three seasons, no team came close to allowing as many home runs as the Orioles. Through 13 games in 2022, no team has allowed fewer. They’ve surrendered only four so far, having that success despite facing three teams that were in the playoffs a year ago and an Oakland Athletics team that has been among the majors’ highest-scoring offenses.

0: The Orioles’ decision to move back Camden Yards’ left field wall ahead of its 30th anniversary season seemingly had the desired effect in the club’s first homestand, with no home runs flying over the deeper fence. There’s only even been one ball — off the bat of Orioles star Trey Mancini — that would have been a home run with the old dimensions, though the true test will come as Baltimore heats up in the summer.

100: Mancini, perhaps more than any other Oriole, has been struck by bad luck this season. He’s hit several balls hard only for defenders to make remarkable plays. Thursday, he hit a 108.9 mph groundball and twitched toward second after the ball went past the first baseman for an error, with that movement enough for first base umpire Rob Drake to rule it as an attempt to advance and declare Mancini out when he was tagged before returning to first. A subsequent dispute resulted in Mancini’s first career ejection, but it’s possible it was simply a case of frustration boiling over. Mancini has put seven balls in play at 100 mph or more, with only one falling for a hit; entering Thursday, only two other players could say the same. Mancini is batting .234, but he came into Thursday with an expected batting average of .324 that ranked in the top 10% of the league.

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