If there were predictions before the season that the Orioles would be 12-14 at the end of April, fans would probably say that the team had an excellent month.
For a team picked by most to finish in last place, the Orioles are currently on pace to win 75 games, which would be an important sign that the rebuild is working. To be fair, if they blew any one of the close games they won this week, an 11-15 record would be on par with preseason expectations.
Fans should be pleased which has been competitive in the vast majority of games. The Orioles have only been blown out a handful of times, mainly due to a pitching staff that has been better than expected overall. John Means is dealing right now with 1.70 ERA and an ERA+ of 246, and Matt Harvey has been more than serviceable when many, including myself, did not think he would even make the roster.
The real strength, though, is the bullpen. Cesar Valdez has an ERA of 1.42 with six saves, pleasant surprise Adam Plutko has an ERA of 1.20, and Paul Fry has an ERA of 0.90. As a whole, the Orioles bullpen is fifth-best in the MLB with a 2.81 ERA and sixth-best with a .204 opponent batting average.
Where we see some room for improvement is in the rest of the rotation. Rookies Bruce Zimmermann and Dean Kremer have struggled to high ERA’s so far, and Kremer has already been sent down and called back up from the alternate site. Jorge Lopez is in a similar situation, but he looked better last time out.
Where coaches and fans should be concerned is in the lineup. Entering Saturday, the Orioles have six players on the active roster hitting under .200, and Anthony Santander is at .196 with an injury. The part of the team we expected to be most competent, the offense has been quiet in too many games so far, which puts even more pressure on a patchwork pitching staff.
The team OPS so far is an ugly .648, and no one on the bench is over .600. Middle-of-the-order hitters Trey Mancini, Maikel Franco, and Ryan Mountcastle have gotten off to slow starts, which may come as a surprise to some. The trio have been playing better lately, as Mountcastle is on a six-game hitting streak and Mancini is slashing .308/.379/.500 over the past week.
Here is the best part from the Orioles’ April. Cedric Mullins abandoned switch-hitting during the offseason and has quickly become one of the best players in the league. After slumping to a demotion in 2019 and then playing on for part of 2020, Mullins now has an OPS of .932 on the backs of strong contact, patience and power. He is tied for the league lead with 34 hits in addition to four home runs and nine walks from the leadoff spot.
The lineup should not get a total free pass, but offense across baseball was down in April. If Saturday’s explosion is any indication, Orioles hitters are finding a groove, and they will only get hotter as the weather warms up in Baltimore.
Speaking of their home city, the Orioles have curiously played much better on the road, and the splits are not even close. After the first month, the Orioles went 4-10 at home and 8-4 on the road, a difference in record that is hard to believe. There is no explanation for how a team plays dramatically better on the road, but some fans are already half-jokingly wishing for the Orioles to stay on the road the whole season.
To sum up, the Orioles have spots to clean up across the roster, but fans should be pretty happy with what they are seeing overall. The team is on pace for twice as many all-stars as we expected and a not-so-bad record. Maybe they cannot keep this up, but just like last year, fans can enjoy competitive Orioles baseball for a larger portion of the season.