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Baltimore Orioles Series Preview: This series is less fun than 2014

It’s only five years on the calendar, but there’s been an awful lot of losses since the Royals 2014 ALCS sweep.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Aug 18, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles second basemam Jonathan Villar (2) high fives Baltimore Orioles third baseman Renato Nunez (39) along with Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Trey Mancini (16) after hitting a three run home run during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes in baseball will be on Baltimore to see if the Royals and Orioles can be the first teams in baseball history to both get swept in a three-game series against each other. The Orioles are both bad and relatively uninteresting, though they do have some players who are at least borderline watchable like Jonathan Villar, Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander. Offensively they have a couple pieces and on the pitching staff, they’ve had a nice performance from John Means this year, which is good for them, but it’s been pretty much a disaster outside of the few names who haven’t been a disaster. On the plus side, they’ve set records. On the minus side, it’s for home runs allowed in a season and we’re not even to September. But, like the Royals, this season isn’t about wins and losses as much as it’s about development, both at the big league level and the minor league level. And that’s a good thing because there aren’t too many wins to get excited about. Can you believe it’s been just five years since they met in the ALCS?

Meet the Orioles

Royals vs. Orioles Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Orioles
Category Royals Orioles
Winning % .355 .315
Team wRC+ 83 86
Team xFIP 4.87 5.35
Run Differential -113 -261
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 3.4 Jonathan Villar, 2.6

Orioles Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jonathan Villar SS 539 .274 .345 .442 9.3% 24.5% 108 2.6
Trey Mancini RF 515 .277 .346 .535 8.9% 21.2% 127 2.2
Anthony Santander CF 272 .286 .325 .484 5.5% 18.0% 109 1.0
Renato Nunez DH 476 .243 .309 .479 7.4% 24.2% 103 0.7
Jace Peterson LF 87 .222 .264 .358 5.7% 20.7% 59 0.0
Hanser Alberto 2B 404 .319 .341 .429 2.7% 9.7% 102 1.6
Rio Ruiz 3B 306 .244 .311 .360 9.2% 23.2% 78 0.4
Chris Davis 1B 300 .179 .270 .312 10.3% 40.3% 53 -1.3
Chance Sisco C 155 .221 .316 .397 8.4% 32.3% 90 -0.3

Orioles Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Pedro Severino C 267 .257 .331 .426 9.0% 22.1% 100 0.5
Richie Martin INF 262 .191 .247 .290 5.3% 28.6% 40 -1.4
Stevie Wilkerson INF/OF 284 .222 .268 .395 4.6% 32.0% 70 -0.6
DJ Stewart OF 34 .121 .147 .121 2.9% 35.3% -36 -0.6

Orioles Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Mychal Givens 42 47.2 2 5 32.3% 10.1% 4.53 3.80 0.3
Richard Bleier 38 37.0 3 0 10.2% 3.6% 6.08 4.51 0.2
Shawn Armstrong 38 40.1 0 0 27.1% 11.1% 5.13 4.85 0.6

Probable Pitching Matchups

Monday August 19th - 6:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jorge Lopez 30 85.2 1 7 21.1% 8.8% 6.51 4.76 -0.2
John Means 23 105.1 8 8 19.1% 6.8% 3.76 5.54 1.8

The Orioles start their series with their best starter in John Means. It’ll be a reunion for Means and Bubba Starling who graduated from Gardner-Edgerton together in 2011 and were both drafted in the 2011 draft. The difference was that Means went to college because he was a 46th round pick and ended up going to the Orioles in the 11th around three years later. He’s had a solid rookie season, deservedly making the All-Star team, but things haven’t been quite as fun for him since the break, going 1-4 with an 8.34 ERA. He’s thrown just 22.2 innings in five starts and given up 21 runs, 31 hits and seven home runs. Is he growing out of his slipper or just hitting a rough patch? He doesn’t throw hard, but he does spin his fastball well, which can help him, but hasn’t all that much. He’s allowed a .286 average and .460 SLG on his fastball. Through his struggles lately, his slider has remained fantastic with a .150 average allowed and .257 slugging percentage. His changeup is fine but not great and because of that, right-handed bats have hit .261/.321/.445 against him, which bodes well for the Royals with Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler set to take aim at him in this one.

The Royals counter with Jorge Lopez, who has been given a second life in the rotation with the Danny Duffy injury. He was so bad in his first start that he was skipped and not even used in relief between starts (though the starters have been quite good since he defecated all over himself against the Tigers). His 6.51 ERA ranks fifth worst in baseball among pitchers with 80+ innings thi syear, which means there are four guys worse. His biggest issue comes against lefties, and the Orioles can run six or seven out there against him, so while they’re not good, I have very little faith that he can keep them down. I said all that, but last year he did keep them down, allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings against them with eight strikeouts and, you ready for this? NO WALKS. So yeah, baseball is weird and anything can happen and the Orioles are bad enough that maybe Lopez can put together a solid start.

Tuesday August 20th - 6:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 26 158.0 7 13 17.3% 9.6% 4.10 4.89 2.1
Dylan Bundy 23 120.0 5 13 23.5% 7.9% 5.25 4.62 1.3

Remember the last time the Royals faced Dylan Bundy in Baltimore? He didn’t record an out, allowing seven runs on five hits and four home runs. He pitched a little better in Kansas City later in the year, but that was probably the most fun inning the Royals have had since the comeback against the White Sox in the ninth in 2016. Bundy has had a weird year. He had a brutal April, but then had an eight-start stretch where he looked like he might be figuring things out. He posted a 3.09 ERA in 46.2 innings with 44 strikeouts and just six home runs allowed. Since then, he’s gone 45 innings in nine starts and allowed 10 home runs with a 6.60 ERA, but hey, 44 strikeouts again. The guy has great spin rate on his fastball, but, like Means, below average velocity. Spin rate is great, but if you don’t have the velocity, you still have to locate well and he doesn’t always do that. That’s why he’s allowed a .670 SLG on his fastball and 15 home runs. With Bundy, you just don’t know if he’s going to be solid and give you six or struggle to get out of the first inning, which is kind of fun I suppose.

Brad Keller takes the hill after an odd start against the Cardinals where he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning but then couldn’t get a single out in that inning and ended up allowing three runs on three hits. He was sharp and did have his third start start with double digit swings and misses, so hopefully he can get that ground ball magic working in the bandbox that is Camden Yards. Keller didn’t face the Orioles in Baltimore last year, but did face them in Kansas City and went eight innings against them with just two runs on four hits allowed in one of the best starts of his career. He’s been very good since the break but he’s been uncharastertically hit by the home run ball a bit lately, so that’s something to be concerned about even though the Orioles aren’t a great home run hitting team. They do have some pop and a small ballpark to work with, though, so it could be a problem for him if he struggles with the long ball again.

Wednesday August 21st - 6:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Montgomery 26 56.1 3 5 18.4% 7.4% 4.63 4.16 0.1
Aaron Brooks 22 77.2 2 7 17.7% 6.4% 6.49 5.31 -0.2

The finale goes to a former Royals prospect in Aaron Brooks, who has had a way longer career than I’d have ever predicted of him.He’s now made starts in each of the last two seasons, including seven with the Orioles that have gone...poorly. His 9.22 ERA tells the story you really need to know, but he’s struck out just 14 percent of hitters he’s faced and allowed seven home runs in just 27.1 innings. He’s averaging fewer than 12 outs per start. Overall, he’s gotten hit harder by lefties than righties, but righties have hit him plenty hard still. He’s been atrocious with runners in scoring position, allowing a .366/.432/.620 line. He’s actually been better as he’s gone through games with a better OPS allowed the third time through the order. Of course a lot of that is because he only makes it to a third time if he’s pitching reasonably well. He’s posted an ERA of 8.67 in the first two innings, so the Royals will need to jump on him. And that suits them well with their only really quality offensive performers hitting at the top of the lineup.

To finish the series for the Royals, Mike Montgomery will continue to try to make me look silly for disliking trading for him. He had a rough go of it in the first start with the team, but really he likely just ran out of steam in the third after not starting all year and not having pitched in two and a half weeks. Since then, he’s posted a 2.30 ERA in five starts and in his last four, he has a 14 percent swinging strike rate and 2.42 ERA in 22.1 innings. He’s striking guys out, not walking them and limiting extra base hits. That’s a formula for success that can be replicated and one that I’m a little surprised we’re seeing from Montgomery. If he can continue using all his pitches, and his changeup, curve and cutter were all outstanding against the Mets, he can be very successful, especially against a lackluster team.


Both these teams are awful, but I think the Royals have more top end talent while both teams have way too many bottom feeders. Camden Yards always scares me because it’s just so small, but I think the Royals take two of three in this one and get to go to Cleveland on a vaguely high note.


How does the battle of the horribles turn out?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Royals Sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 8%
    Orioles Sweep
    (7 votes)
  • 41%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (33 votes)
  • 20%
    Orioles Win Two of Three
    (16 votes)
80 votes total Vote Now