Here's why Orioles fans shouldn't be buying into Cole Irvin's early success

Is this for real?
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Cole Irvin
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Cole Irvin / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles fanbase must be on cloud nine. Their team is hanging tough with the AL East-leading New York Yankees, while owning a fantastic 17-7 (.708) record against teams with a winning record this season, and maintaining one of the top farm systems in the league. Life is good in Birdland.

One of the biggest reasons for Baltimore's early-season success has been the night-in, night-out performances from the Orioles starting rotation. Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, and Albert Suarez have all been stellar this season. Baltimore's starters have a combined 3.10 ERA, which is the fourth-best in all of Major League Baseball.

But one pitcher who's flown under the radar — at least nationally — has been Cole Irvin. The O's left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in eight starts this season. But is Irvin's success sustainable or is it just a mirage?

Here's why Orioles fans shouldn't be buying into Cole Irvin's early success

Baseball is a results-oriented business, and while some fans and experts will tell you that wins are an antiquated stat, it does mean that you're doing your job and putting your team in position to win games. Irvin is tied for the team lead in wins and his ERA (as a starting pitcher) is lower than that of Burnes and fellow starter Grayson Rodriguez. But there are some advanced metrics that suggest what O's fans are seeing might not last.

According to Baseball Savant, there's only one statistical category in which Irvin would be considered among the upper echelon. Irvin's 5.4% walk rate is among the 86th percentile in the league. But all the other advanced metrics do not favor Irvin at all.

The southpaw is among the bottom 20% in the league in expected batting average and whiff rate. Irvin's expected ERA (4.32) chase rate (26.1%), and barrel rate (8.9%) are not very flattering, either. Last season, Irvin ranked among the bottom 10% in many of the aforementioned categories while operating as both a starter and reliever for the Orioles.

So are Orioles fans seeing the new and improved Irvin, or is this just the same type of smoke and mirrors that has allowed him to survive in the big leagues since 2019? It could be a mixture of both, and while the Baltimore fanbase need not be dismissive of Irvin's early-season success, the numbers don't lie.

While the Orioles are one of the top teams in baseball, thanks in part of Irvin's early-season exploits, there's still four months of summer on the horizon. The grind of the 2024 season is just beginning. Proceed with caution — but it's okay to enjoy the moment as well.

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