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Baltimore Orioles Series Preview: They’re bad, but not as bad as they were...or as bad as the Royals

The finish line for their rebuild isn’t exactly close, but it’s getting there.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The final four games of the long homestand for the Royals welcomes in the Baltimore Orioles. A homestand with the Astros, Blue Jays and Orioles should have been about great memories for this club, but the way they’re playing has made that nearly impossible, but the Orioles are the one team of the three who are struggling along with the Royals. That said, they seem like they might be turning a corner. Sure they’re in last place, but it’s also the AL East where everyone but them is good. They have young talent in the lineup and while Adley Rutschman hasn’t hit his stride just yet, many of them are hitting. The pitching staff is still a work in progress for them, especially with John Means out, but they’ve seen some encouraging things from some of their young arms. The Royals can tell you all too well about the roadblocks with that, but if I was an Orioles fan, I’d say I’d be encouraged by what I’ve seen so far this season. There’s plenty of work left to be done for them, but the start to this season has been a nice turn in the right direction.

Royals vs. Orioles Matchup Stats

Category Royals Orioles
Category Royals Orioles
Winning % .327 .421
H2H Wins 1 2
Team wRC+ 90 93
Team xFIP 4.71 4.25
Run Differential -92 -34
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 1.3 Austin Hays, 1.6

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 246 .237 .298 .379 6.1% 18.7% 94 0.8
Trey Mancini DH 227 .303. .374 .448 8.8% 17.6% 139 1.3
Anthony Santander RF 234 .231 .338 .397 12.0% 19.7% 115 0.5
Austin Hays LF 217 .292 .359 .467 8.3% 16.6% 140 1.6
Ryan Mountcastle 1B 189 .257 .302 .429 5.8% 23.8% 107 0.4
Adley Rutschman C 61 .145 .230 .200 6.6% 24.6% 27 -0.1
Ramon Urias 3B 188 .225 .273 .387 5.9% 25.5% 87 0.8
Rougned Odor 2B 176 .221 .273 .417 4.5% 25.6% 96 0.3
Jorge Mateo SS 185 .210 .240 .352 3.2% 31.4% 66 0.7

Orioles Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Robinson Chirinos C 112 .133 .232 .235 9.8% 32.1% 38 -1.0
Tyler Nevin INF/OF 75 .227 .307 .288 8.0% 24.0% 77 -0.1
Chris Owings INF/OF 68 .107 .254 .143 14.7% 35.3% 28 -0.6
Ryan McKenna OF 54 .255 .333 .340 7.4% 37.0% 93 0.4

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 23 27.0 3 3 22.9% 11.9% 1.00 3.86 0.6
Felix Bautista 24 24.0 2 1 24.5% 9.6% 1.88 3.90 0.3
Dillon Tate 24 27.1 0 2 19.1% 4.5% 1.65 3.48 0.5

Royals vs. Orioles Projected Pitchers

June 9 - RHP Jordan Lyles vs. LHP Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jordan Lyles 11 62.0 3 4 19.9% 7.0% 4.50 3.99 1.1
Kris Bubic 7 18.1 0 3 14.3% 15.4% 9.33 5.58 -0.5

There is still plenty of time to go, but Jordan Lyles has only pitched season in his career where he didn’t pitch for the Brewers and put up an ERA under 5.00. For the timebeing, this is on track to be his second. Of course, if he gets traded to the Brewers, that puts an end to that, but for now, it’s something for his family to track. He’s really bounced around and while I’d have guessed he’d be in his mid-30s, he’s actually just 31 years old. He throws a four-seam fastball with velocity that’s down from last year and averages a touch under 92 MPH. He has a slider that’s pretty decent but not great, and then a sinker, changeup and curve. The fastball is a problem for him, getting hit hard with a .329 opponent’s average and .586 SLG. Lyles has been significantly worse against lefties, significantly worse on the road and significantly easier to hit as his pitch count starts to rise. So if he gets to a big spot in the order on his 83rd pitch and it’s MJ Melendez at the plate, the odds will be in the Royals favor.

Career vs. KC: 6 GS, 40.0 IP, 3-1, 2.25 ERA

Kris Bubic returned to the big leagues with five shutout innings against the Houston Astros. While that’s a very positive statement, it’s where the positivity ends from his last start. He did throw a lot more changeups, which I think made sense, but I wouldn’t say the changeups were especially good. I think he got away with quite a bit. The game plan might work against the Orioles who have had their struggles with lefty changeups, hitting .221 with a .320 SLG heading into their action on Wednesday. If Bubic does want to use his fastball a little more, I’ll keep harping on the fact that his fastball works so much better when he’s throwing it a little bit harder. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it would help all of his pitches work better if he could maintain some of that velocity that we see in spurts from him.

Career vs. BAL: 2 G, 1 GS, 11.1 IP, 0-0, 2.38 ERA

June 10 - LHP Bruce Zimmermann vs. RHP Jonathan Heasley, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Bruce Zimmermann 11 57.1 2 4 17.5% 4.6% 4.87 4.18 0.2
Jonathan Heasley 5 25.1 0 3 12.8% 15.4% 4.62 6.25 -0.3

The good for Bruce Zimmermann is that he throws strikes. His walk rate is down significantly from last season when it wasn’t extraordinarily high or anything. The bad is that he doesn’t get the strikeouts and with the ball starting to fly a little more than earlier in the year, he’s getting hurt by it and a lot of the numbers are starting to look like the ones the Orioles got from him last season with tons of hits and home runs. The biggest culprit is his four-seam fastball. Opponents are hitting .423 with a .712 SLG. It makes the .310/.540 opponents are hitting on his changeup seem almost good by comparison. And he throws those two pitches about 63 percent of the time. Now, in his defense, nine of the 13 home runs he allowed were in back-to-back starts against the Yankees in New York and the Red Sox in Boston. And in his last four starts, he’s faced the Yankees twice, the Red Sox once and the Guardians once and has gone 21 innings with an ERA of 8.57 with 10 strikeouts, 10 homers and two walks allowed. So a good offense can get to him, but he’s done well shutting down bad offenses, which is what the Royals have.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 1-0, 3.00 ERA

I don’t know if Jonathan Heasley is starting to get it or if he’s just had a couple of decent starts, but things are looking better for the righty lately. He’s gone six innings and given up three runs in each of his last two starts and in his last start, he walked just two batters. That’s much more the Heasley that I had seen in the minors before his callup. I don’t see any kind of frontline potential from Heasley necessarily, but rotations need guys in the back half as well and he looks the part if he can throw strikes and give innings. His slider, changeup and curve have all been generally pretty successful while his fastball is the pitch that’s gotten hit. I think there’s some offseason work he can do to give his fastball a little more oomph, but in the interim, I’d suggest backing off and adding in more sliders to his repertoire to help get some swing and miss and find a little more success.

Career vs. BAL: First Appearance

June 11 - RHP Tyler Wells vs. LHP Daniel Lynch, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Tyler Wells 11 47.2 2 4 15.3% 4.7% 3.78 4.66 0.7
Daniel Lynch 10 48.2 2 5 19.3% 9.9% 5.36 4.95 0.1

When you see the name Tyler Wells, the first thought is Minnesota Twins, and that does add up because the Orioles took Wells in the Rule 5 draft from those Twins last season. He pitched pretty well in relief with some outstanding peripherals, so he’s now in the rotation where he has a better ERA, but I think probably a fair amount of fear that it won’t last because of a lack of strikeouts. Typically, guys with the lower strikeout rates who succeed are ground ball pitchers, but Wells doesn’t get many of those, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep both his ERA and strikeout rates low or if one will have to come up. Wells is very tall at 6’8”, which is why I think it’s so interesting that his extension is just 6.4 feet on his fastball. He seems like a candidate to work to get a bit more extension and turn his 93-95 MPH fastball into one that looks like 95-97 to hitters. And that pitch has been hit pretty hard, partially because there just isn’t much deception. He’s not a starter you’ll see going deep into the game, having gotten into the fifth in just seven of his 11 starts and the sixth in just two. So even if he’s good, the Royals will get a crack at their bullpen.

Career vs. KC: 4 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP 1-0, 1.08 ERA

Daniel Lynch has gone from the lone example Dayton Moore could find to defend Cal Eldred to another struggling pitcher Since throwing 5.1 shutout innings in Colorado a few weeks ago, Lynch has an ERA of 8.68 in 18.2 innings over his last four starts. He’s not getting as many swings and misses and it’s just been ugly. Even in his last start, I think he looked about as good as I’ve ever seen him for the first couple of innings, but then absolutely fell apart after he gave up what I think was kind of a fluke home run to Bo Bichette. It was a changeup on the outer third and while it was up, Bichette had never had a single extra base hit on a changeup in the outer third, so that seems like something that you just have to give the hitter credit for. But then it was bombs away from there. That changeup has been a big problem for him lately, so I wonder if maybe he shifts a bit more toward his curve moving forward.

Career vs. BAL: 1 GS, 3.2 IP, 0-1, 4.91 ERA

June 12 - RHP Dean Kremer vs. RHP Brad Keller, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dean Kremer 1 4.1 0 1 15.8% 5.3% 6.23 4.43 0.0
Brad Keller 11 66.2 1 7 13.4% 7.2% 4.19 4.35 0.6

The Orioles acquired Dean Kremer as part of the deal that sent Manny Machado back to the Dodgers in 2018 and he’s seen big league time in each of the last three seasons without very much success. His big bugaboo has been the home run ball with 17 allowed last season in 53.2 innings and he’s allowed one in his lone short start this year. He works with a four-seam fastball and a cutter primarily, which does cut quite a bit, but I think it might be more successful if he paired his slider with it more. The cutter rides up and glove side while the slider rides down and glove side. So if he could learn to tunnel those two pitches, he could be a monster. In his career, Kremer has a reverse platoon split and has allowed a .956 OPS to right-handed batters. That’s kind of crazy. He’s also been about as bad as can be when he’s behind in the count with a .343/.518/.775 line allowed. And there’s been no third time through the order penalty with him. He gets hit hard right away. He’s actually been at his best when facing a lineup a third time because I think he doesn’t get there often and when he does, it’s because he’s pitching well that day.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

It hasn’t been the easiest go for Keller lately with his slider just not quite where he wants it to be, but I thought he looked his best in awhile against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. He had six whiffs on his four-seam fastball, which was a season-high and he threw it a lot. I wish he’d throw that pitch more. His velocity was up on it and it looked like a legitimate weapon for him. The slider was middling again, which is going to be the difference for him just about every time out. But, again, good or bad, he’s giving innings, which has some very real value. He went at least six innings for the the ninth time in his 12 starts. His ERA is elevated in his last six starts, but he’s battling and generally keeping the Royals in games. They just can’t muster any offense to reward him for that, which is very disappointing.

Career vs. BAL: 2 GS, 14.0 IP, 1-0, 1.29 ERA

Royals vs. Orioles Prediction

How can I predict a single Royals win? Boy this is tough because the Orioles, while trending in the right direction, still aren’t good. But wow are the Royals so far away from even being not good. I’m going to say this is a split because four-game series are often splits and two bad teams will even things up the longer they play.

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 -110 moneyline, and an over/under of 9.5 runs scored in the game.


How many wins for the Royals in the least interesting series in baseball this weekend?

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  • 3%
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    (20 votes)
  • 41%
    (77 votes)
  • 34%
    (65 votes)
  • 9%
    (18 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now