Fresh off the all star break, the Baltimore Orioles begin the second half of their 2022 season tonight at Camden Yards against the New York Yankees. Birdland is beaming with optimism, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the team’s last playoff appearance in 2016.
The O’s head into the intra-divisional series having won 11 of their previous 13 games and catapulting themselves into the mix for an American League Wild Card berth on the back of an offense that has a higher wOBA than the Mets and Padres since July 1 and a pitching staff that’s had the fourth lowest ERA and sixth lowest FIP in the American League during the same timeframe.
Remaining in the playoff race will be a tall order for the Orioles; they have the sixth toughest remaining schedule in the majors that includes a heavy helping of games against the Blue Jays (15), Red Sox (11), Rays (7), and Yankees (6). These aren’t your Orioles of 100-loss seasons’ past though, and there will be several intriguing storylines to follow in the second half that will determine the fate of a 2022 season that has Orioles fans excited for the future.
Will the Orioles bullpen sustain their success?
The main constant for the O’s throughout 2022 has unquestionably been the bullpen. All Star Jorge López has anchored the crew, allowing just five earned runs since May 22nd. The mountainous Fèlix Bautista has taken his triple-digit fastball and turned it into a sub-two ERA. Cionel Perez, Joey Krehbiel, Dillon Tate, and Bryan Baker are pitching as well as they have in their careers, and it’s paramount that this group continues to hold down the end of games in order for this successful run to continue.
One slight cause for concern is that all of these relievers sans Baker have a FIP over a run higher than their current ERA. Regression is something to watch for, but given all O’s relievers besides Keegan Akin have FIPs below 3.50, it would still be an above average bullpen.
Which Orioles prospects are up next?
One of the highlights of the first half has been the matriculation of prospects to Baltimore, and several baby birds still in the minors are making it clear that they want to be the next.
Lefty starter DL Hall has tortured hitters after a mechanical adjustment in early July and has very little else to prove in AAA. The versatile Terrin Vavra, acquired in the Mychal Givens trade, is slashing .329/.443/.453 for the Tides and could potentially provide an offensive upgrade over Rougned Odor, though it’s hard to imagine he’d be able to contribute the same level of swag and overall sauce.
Aside from those two, Jordan Westburg has a .903 OPS in Norfolk and is another candidate to usurp Odor at second base. And don’t forget about the new number one prospect in baseball, Gunnar Henderson. Mike Elias may not want to start Henderson’s service clock prematurely but if he continues hitting the way he has been, Elias may not be left with much of a choice.
Even if the Orioles slide in the second half, this season has been a clear step forward in the arduous rebuilding phase the front office has undertaken. Following these storylines until October will give Birdland plenty to watch for the remainder of 2022 and even more to look forward to in 2023.