As we get into the brand new yr with a brand new season simply over the horizon, hope for a profitable 2023 marketing campaign begins to flood the minds of all of Birdland. In any case, Orioles followers are coming off the excessive of having fun with the primary profitable season of O’s baseball in what felt like an eternity. (In actuality, it was about six years.)
Nevertheless, reaching a profitable season is not going to be as simple in 2023 for the easy proven fact that the peak of expectations surrounding this Orioles crew has risen—considerably. Heading into final season, most sportsbooks had the Orioles simply barely squeaking out 60+ wins. As an alternative, the O’s put up 83 Ws and now head into 2023 seeking to end what they began final yr.
To say 2023 is a “playoffs or bust” yr for Baltimore appears somewhat disingenuous on condition that this crew was on the very backside of the league lower than 18 months in the past. And but, many members of Birdland certainly share my sentiment in believing these Child Birds ought to make it into the postseason in ’23.
An enormous motive the Orioles didn’t make the playoffs final yr was offensive inconsistency that plagued the crew throughout the latter half of the season. The O’s 2022 offense peaked in June, placing up 4.77 runs/sport to provide Baltimore its first profitable month since April of 2017.
Whereas the wins stored coming in July and August, the offense started a gentle decline post-All-Star break. The July runs/sport common dipped to 4.44, earlier than falling even additional to 4.37 in July after which fully bottoming out at 3.97 in September/October. And whereas 0.8 could not seem to be an enormous drop, primarily based on Pythagorean Profitable Share, it may account for as a lot as 15 further wins. The 2022 Orioles solely wanted 4 extra wins to make the postseason.
So, if the important thing to a profitable season is larger offensive consistency, what do the important thing members of this Orioles lineup must do to have a profitable season? I’m right here to reply precisely that query!
Cedric Mullins: Elevate the On-Base Share
We’ll begin with the very high of the O’s lineup. After bursting onto the scene of nationwide relevance with a 2021 season that earned him a begin within the All-Star sport and a Silver Slugger award, Mullins’ 2022 was… nicely, quieter. That is to not say it wasn’t profitable, both; Mullins nonetheless led the Orioles in hits and runs scored, put up 52 extra-base hits and completed second within the AL with 34 stolen bases—all whereas enjoying Gold Glove-caliber protection in CF. These are all constructive numbers to your leadoff hitter to place up.
Nevertheless, it was nonetheless somewhat onerous to disregard Mullins’ drop from a .291 common in 2021 to .258 in ’22. Or the 115-point drop in slugging share—which got here as the results of his HR whole being nearly lower in half. Positive, he wasn’t going to win the Silver Slugger yearly, however it might’ve been good if Mullins’ 2021 season did not really feel like an outlier so usually in 2022.
Probably the most worrying pattern we noticed from Mullins’ 2022 season was the steep drop in his on-base share. OBP is probably a very powerful stat for a profitable leadoff hitter as it’s extremely onerous to set the desk for an offense in the event you’re not really on base. Of 20 AL hitters with at the very least 150 at-bats out of the leadoff spot in 2022, Mullins’ .324 OBP on the high of the lineup ranked twelfth. For him to be the leadoff hitter the Orioles must make the playoffs, that quantity has to go up—manner up.
An enormous step for Mullins to enhance his OBP in 2023 may come from remaining extra affected person in his leadoff spot. To be clear, Mullins won’t ever have a Rutschman-esque stroll fee as even his 2021 season noticed his stroll fee rank within the forty seventh percentile throughout the MLB.
Nevertheless, in 2022 Mullins did develop into noticeably extra aggressive early in counts, to his detriment. In 2021 Mullins had 181 plate appearances that ended after two pitchers or much less, together with 72 that ended on the primary pitch. In these 181 appearances, he posted a .374 BA with a .370 OBP. In 2022, Mullins had 201 plate appearances of two pitches or much less—together with 100 that ended on the primary pitch. That improve in aggression led to a lower in manufacturing, as his batting common slipped to .314 and his OBP dropped to .323.
Adley Rutschman: Lay off low sliders and changeups
It is value mentioning that the Orioles’ #2 and face of the franchise is about to be one among many O’s this yr that profit from the rule change relating to shifts. Hitting from the left facet of the plate, Adley’s OBP rose 20 factors when not dealing with the shift in 2022. He Now not will seemingly completely positioned rockets to RF find yourself within the glove of a shifted second baseman.
It additionally feels considerably unrealistic to say “hitting lefties higher” is what Rutschman must do to have a profitable season. Sure, hitting above .200 towards lefties would go a good distance in Rutschman’s quest to solidify himself as a real MLB celebrity.
Nevertheless, there are different, extra practical, ways in which Rutschman can present the expansion wanted to assist this lineup succeed. Maybe essentially the most simply identifiable is available in his monitor document towards changeups and sliders. Famend in his rookie yr for his plate self-discipline, Rutschman’s swing-and-miss share towards these two pitches rose dramatically in comparison with different choices. Towards fastballs, curveballs, cutters and sinkers, Rutschman solely swung and missed 14.9% of the time. Nevertheless, towards changeups and sliders, that share rises to 26.8%.
Once you map out all these swings and misses it turns into clear that Rutschman struggled particularly to put off sliders and changeups on the backside of the zone. If he can remove at the very least a few of these whiffs, it ought to drive pitchers to attempt to beat Rutschman with the fastballs he routinely crushes. That, or Adley will merely proceed to attract walks at a really spectacular fee. Both manner, eliminating some swing-and-miss within the star catcher’s sport will go a good distance in making this lineup profitable.
Anthony Santander: Discover your kind towards fastballs
Nobody may argue that Anthony Santander wasn’t an enormous offensive success in 2022. By main the Orioles in HR, RBIs and slugging share, Santander modified his narrative from “almost certainly to be dangled as commerce bait this offseason” to “invaluable member of the center of the lineup for 2023.” The previous Rule 5 Draft choose had at all times proven flashes of being a productive nook outfielder, however 2022 was when he lastly put all of it collectively.
Santander’s spike in manufacturing got here in nearly contradictory vogue when it got here to how he dealt with sure pitches. Tony Taters noticed a marked enchancment final season in his success towards all off-speed and breaking pitches, however struggled far more towards fastballs. Over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Santander put up a excessive respectable .284 common towards fastballs. Nevertheless, throughout that very same stretch, the Orioles outfielder struggled towards any offspeed pitches, combining to hit .176 towards changeups, sliders and curveballs.
Then, like an accountant making an attempt to stability the books, Santander grew to become a significantly better offspeed hitter whereas his efficiency towards fastballs suffered. In 2022 Santander hit .209 towards heaters however mixed to hit .243 towards adjustments, sliders and curves. His dip in manufacturing towards fastballs appears attributable to pitchers constantly attacking him greater within the zone with their fastballs. Mix that with a rise in launch angle and a lower in exit velocity towards four-seamers and also you get an image the place Santander struggled at occasions to remain on high of fastballs and drive them as a substitute of popping them up. If he can right this, whereas sustaining his 2022 efficiency towards offspeed pitches, he may actually assist the O’s offense discover new ranges of success in 2023.
Gunnar Henderson: Get extra comfy in Camden Yards
Gunnar Henderson has each probability to be one of many high 4 hitters within the lineup subsequent yr. Such is his immense uncooked expertise from him. Nevertheless, with solely 116 at-bats in his Orioles profession up to now, it is onerous to search out one thing definitive that’s holding him again from additional success.
The one break up that was obtrusive from Henderson’s transient stint within the majors was his residence and away splits. Maybe fueled by the boldness from hitting a road HR in his first major league game, Gunnar posted a powerful .300 common and 1.007 OPS in 14 street video games. At Camden Yards it was a decidedly completely different story, as he hit on .227 with a mediocre .620 OPS.
Given the historical past of success for lefties at Camden Yards, in addition to the introduction of the Nice Wall of Baltimore, it looks as if a candy lefty swing like Gunnar’s could be tailored for the O’s residence ballpark. The hope for 2023 is that, with a full season on the Yard, Henderson will discover a stage of consolation that permits him to constantly produce the highs he is able to in entrance of the Birdland devoted.