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Baltimore Orioles Series Preview: Finally a team on the Royals level

The Orioles rebuild looks like it’s about to head into better times, but they’re still bad for now.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a reasonable opinion to believe that the 2018 Baltimore Orioles didn’t intend to be one of the worst teams of all-time. They opened their season with Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach. Say what you want about any of those guys, but that’s a team you expect to win some games. Instead, they were 28-69 at the break and they decided to tear it down to the studs. They still had Chris Davis because, well, you know. But anything that wasn’t bolted down pretty much was moved. And it’s been rough. They lost 115 games in 2018 and then 108 more in 2019 and then 110 more last year. And they’re on that 100-loss track again this season. But it feels like it’s different.

Now they have the number four farm system as ranked by Baseball America. It’s number one on MLB Pipeline. Adley Rutschman is close. Grayson Rodriguez is close. D.L. Hall is close. They have some pieces in the big leagues already, who look to be solid supporting cast or even better in the case of someone like Cedric Mullins or Bruce Zimmermann with as good as he’s looked. And they’ve built a solid back of the bullpen, mostly with retreads such as Jorge Lopez. Yes, that Jorge Lopez who is hitting upper-90s with his fastball. So no, the Orioles are not good yet. And they might not ever get there. Rebuilds are finicky. But it feels like they’re about to enter that building stage soon and if their ownership is willing to spend a little money to supplement, this might be the last year of pure misery in Baltimore.

Oh yeah, and check out that new left field in Baltimore when you flip on the game if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s…interesting. But it’ll help with home runs.

Royals vs. Orioles Matchup Stats

Category Royals Orioles
Category Royals Orioles
Winning % .348 .385
2021 H2H Wins 3 4
Team wRC+ 80 93
Team xFIP 4.37 3.95
Run Differential -39 -21
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 0.7 Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Bruce Zimmermann, 0.7

Orioles Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Cedric Mullins CF 116 .243 .322 .447 6.0% 20.7% 128 0.7
Trey Mancini DH 96 .253 .302 .333 7.3% 24.0% 88 0.0
Anthony Santander LF 107 .241 .402 .373 16.8% 18.7% 138 0.5
Austin Hays RF 106 .287 .358 .457 9.4% 18.9% 142 0.7
Ryan Mountcastle 1B 100 .250 .280 .396 3.0% 26.0% 96 0.3
Rougned Odor 2B 77 .214 .273 .357 5.2% 31.2% 84 0.1
Ramon Urias 3B 88 .207 .250 .280 5.7% 23.9% 56 0.0
Robinson Chirinos C 61 .135 .262 .173 13.1% 31.1% 40 -0.4
Jorge Mateo SS 89 .241 .284 .373 5.6% 30.3% 93 0.4

Orioles Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Anthony Bemboom C 36 .129 .229 .161 11.1% 30.6% 22 -0.1
Tyler Nevin INF/OF 17 .143 .294 .143 5.9% 17.6% 49 0.0
Chris Owings INF/OF 21 .111 .238 .111 14.3% 57.1% 16 -0.3

Orioles Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jorge Lopez 12 13.2 3 1 27.8% 11.1% 1.32 3.07 0.5
Dillon Tate 11 13.0 0 1 21.7% 4.3% 2.08 2.72 0.4
Felix Bautista 11 11.1 0 1 28.3% 10.9% 2.38 3.73 0.3

Royals vs. Orioles Pitching Matchups

May 7 - Carlos Hernandez vs. Jordan Lyles, 6:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Carlos Hernandez 4 18.0 0 1 9.5% 11.9% 6.00 5.53 0.0
Jordan Lyles 5 26.0 2 2 17.6% 8.4% 4.50 4.28 0.1

On one hand, things have been pretty bad for Carlos Hernandez this year. He’s had trouble getting swings and misses. He’s given up way too many hits. And he’s obviously given up too many runs. But on the other hand, he hasn’t completely imploded. He’s gotten into the fifth in three of his four starts, which is sort of damning with faint praise, but we’ve seen the alternative with his rotation-mate in Kris Bubic. I’m not trying to say he’s been good, but he hasn’t given up more than four runs in any of his starts. It’s just frustrating to watch because the stuff is better even though it hasn’t been as crisp this season as last year. I wonder a bit if he’s holding back knowing that he wore down in September last season. I hope that’s not the case, but it would at least make some sense. The Orioles have struggled with velocity, so I hope he has it in this one. They have about a 25 percent whiff rate on pitches 95+ and that jumps to 30 percent on pitches 97+.

Career vs. BAL: 2 GS, 10.0 IP, 1-1, 1.80 ERA


Jordan Lyles has been around a lot longer than you probably realize. He debuted in 2011 with the Astros and has been kind of bad everywhere he’s gone. Except one place - Milwaukee. He’s pitched there in two separate portions of seasons and has been fantastic there. His second stint earned him a multi-year deal with the Rangers where he was, once again, bad. And now he’s in Baltimore where he has an okay-ish ERA. But you know those Statcast charts that show where guys rank in percentiles? His whole chart is blue and that’s bad. His fastball is 92ish and is straight and gets hit. His slider does get whiffs, but opponents are hitting .308 against it. His changeup has been crushed. His sinker has gotten some weak contact, so there’s that. All of this is to say that he’s probably going to shut down the Royals in a totally infuriating way.

Career vs. KC: 5 GS, 32.2 IP, 3-1, 2.20 ERA

May 8 - Daniel Lynch vs. Tyler Wells, 12:35pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 4 21.0 2 1 22.7% 5.7% 3.86 4.11 0.1
Tyler Wells 5 18.0 0 2 18.7% 5.3% 4.50 4.18 0.2

Daniel Lynch is the beacon of hope this season for the Royals. Sure Brad Keller has been good, but Lynch is the prospect who has looked like he can be a part of a big league rotation for years to come. Maybe he isn’t an ace (but maybe he is). But he’s pitched well to start the season, in spite of a rough first start where he allowed three of the four homers he’s given up this year. What’s impressive is that he’s pitched well to start the year while having literally two plate appearances against left-handed batters. Teams just aren’t willing to let him have that platoon advantage. And I get it. But righties have hit just .241/.302/.430 against him this year. That drops to .182/.262/.273 since his first start. That’s solid. The Orioles will likely let him face another lefty in this one, but probably only one, so it’ll be yet another righty challenge for the young lefty.

Career vs. BAL: First Appearance


There are a handful of pitchers who you are just sure are lefties from looking at their name. Tyler Wells is one of them. But he isn’t a lefty. He pitched last year out of the Orioles bullpen after the Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 draft and he was solid enough. Lots of strikeouts and not many walks and now they’re moving him to the rotation where he’s been okay. The strikeouts are down by a good chunk while the walks are up just a touch. He’s sitting 93-95 on his four-seam fastball and it’s been hit really hard with an average exit velocity of 97.3 MPH. His slider has been less effective than the expected numbers would tell you and his changeup has been good, so he has a chance to turn his season around. I’m intrigued by his sinker, which he doesn’t throw much, but seems to have impressive spin.

Career vs. KC: 3 G, 2.1 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

May 8 - Zack Greinke vs. Bruce Zimmermann, 30 minutes after Game One

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 5 28.0 0 2 6.5% 2.8% 2.57 4.75 0.3
Bruce Zimmermann 5 24.1 1 1 24.5% 7.8% 1.48 3.39 0.7

Zack Greinke continues his march toward Royals history. He currently features the fourth-lowest strikeouts per nine of any pitcher in team history with at least 28 innings and the second-lowest strikeout rate among qualified pitchers. And he’s putting up a 2.57 ERA in the process. I keep saying that one of those two things has to be no longer true, but here we are, about 13 percent through the season and they both are true. The biggest issue for Greinke this year has been that his offense no-shows when he pitches. Sure, they no-show when a lot of guys pitch, but especially him. It helps that he isn’t walking anyone, so even without the strikeouts, he has a WHIP below 1.00. That’ll help to keep teams off the board.

Career vs. BAL: 11 G, 9 GS, 56.1 IP, 3-2, 4.79 ERA


The Orioles picked up Bruce Zimmermann in the deal that sent Keven Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves a few years ago. He was still in AA at the time and debuted in 2020 with some mixed results last year. But this season has been encouraging for him. He’s upped his strikeouts a bit, limited walks a bit and has continued to be stingy with the home run ball. He sort of is the classic crafty lefty, averaging just around 90 with his fastball. And opponents are demolishing it with a .480 average. His slider, though, is the money pitch. Opponents are 0 for 15 on it with 10 strikeouts. They have hit it very hard when they make contact, but that’s rare with a 57.6 percent whiff rate. Opponents are also 0 for 8 against his curve. So basically his breaking balls are electric this season and I have a hunch that’ll be an issue for the Royals.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

Royals vs. Orioles Prediction

I don’t feel good about anything regarding the Royals, but I feel like I should pick them to win two of three at some point, so this is that point. The new wall in left should help Lynch not get rocked and if Hernandez can throw strikes, I think he can get it done against them. I’m just assuming they won’t score Sunday since Greinke is pitching.

SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series. The Royals are a +1.5 run underdog tonight with a 105+ moneyline, and an over/under of eight runs scored in the game.

Poll

Can the Royals win a series?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Yes, and then some. They’ll win all three.
    (13 votes)
  • 45%
    They can. They’ll take two of three.
    (61 votes)
  • 34%
    They can’t win a series, but they can win one game.
    (46 votes)
  • 9%
    Not only can they not win a series, but they’ll get swept.
    (13 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now