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View from the other side: Orioles questions for Mark Brown of Camden Chat

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San Francisco Giants v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Tonight we start a 3-game series with the other crappy team in the AL East, the Orioles.

The Orioles are 20-45, last in the AL East, 3 games worse than the Blue Jays.

The Orioles are 3rd from the bottom of the AL in runs score per game at 4.02, a little better than the Jays (3.72).

On the defense side they are second from the bottom of the AL in runs allowed per game at 5.92. The Jays are doing a fair bit better than that at 4.90 per game, but if we keep pitching the way we have of late, we will catch them.

This should be an interesting series, we can find out which team is the least bad. I’m thinking all three games end in ties.

I sent off some questions to Mark Brown of Camden Chat.

I guess first I gotta ask how our old friend Dwight Smith is doing?

You aren’t going to see Dwight Smith in this series as he is currently on the concussion injured list. He hurt himself on a hard crash into the fence while making a catch when the Orioles were playing the Rangers last Thursday. In that sense, he is not doing well and I hope that he recovers soon. He has been playing decently for the O’s, one of the team’s better hitters over the first week of the season. Right now his batting line of .249/.296/.462 comes with a lower OBP than I would like, but he’s got 11 home runs so far. Not bad for another team’s spring training castoff. The O’s mined that market pretty well this spring, also collecting catcher Pedro Severino, who currently leads the O’s in OPS with .895.

It looks like the Orioles and the Jays are going to battle to see who is the crappier team all season long. Do you have any feel that the Orioles are going to get better soon? Do you see them competing in the next 2 or 3 years?

I guess that depends on how you define “better.” I don’t think that there’s any way that the current roster, even if it is augmented with a few minor leaguers in the second half of the season, is going to play something that anyone could call good baseball. The best I can hope for is that they might eventually get to a point where most games don’t feature multiple mind-blowing bad plays where you can’t believe that an MLB player just blew that. The 2018 Orioles famously did not win 10 games in any one calendar month. I’d be happy if the 2019 Orioles could at least manage that in like, August.

With the state of the Orioles minor league system, 2021 is the most optimistic scenario for having a good team again, and that depends on a pitching staff coming together from the farm. Developing pitching did not go well in the Dan Duquette time. Maybe Mike Elias and his people and analytics will prove better at that.

Can you give us a scouting report on the starting pitchers we are likely to see?

John Means is the one pleasant surprise of the Orioles starting rotation. An 11th round pick in 2014, he was really something of an afterthought even considering the open rotation competition heading into this season, but he worked hard over the offseason to improve himself and that combined with the new wave of analytics information has turned him into a reasonably successful crafty lefty, at least through 10 starts.

Wednesday’s starter, David Hess, has allowed more home runs than any MLB pitcher this season. It is almost unbelievable that he has given up 20 in 61 innings. Maybe the corner is turning for him at least a tiny bit, as his last three starts saw him give up only one home run each... though he still got bad results over that stretch, with 14 earned runs allowed in 15.2 innings. Oops. As of this writing, there’s no listed Thursday starter. Probably it will be someone who gives up home runs. If you haven’t heard, the Orioles lead the league with 127 homers allowed.

With buck Showalter gone (I can honestly say that I won’t miss him) you guys have a new manager. What do you think of Brandon Hyde? Strengths and weaknesses?

The team is so bereft of talent that it’s almost not even fair to assess Hyde at all. There is little he can do about the composition of the roster he was handed, with a crummy rotation and bullpen left behind by the last regime, a busted Chris Davis clogging up the bench many nights, infielders in the outfield, and an infield defense that shifts between light-hitting and non-fielding players. What I will say about him is that he has done a very good job of trying to keep a positive atmosphere around the team even though they are tied for the worst record in MLB. There is not a lot of bad body language, and the players seem to have good camaraderie with one another. When you’re on pace to lose 112, that takes some work.

You have a rule 5 pick up, Richie Martin, he’s a guy I’ve always liked as a prospect. What is his role on the team? Is he going to be an Oriole going forward beyond this year?

Martin has been the primary shortstop up to this point. He came over with a good defensive reputation. No one’s defense can possibly be so good to balance out batting .182/.243/.314 - though at least he’s out-hitting Davis for the moment, so he’s got that going for him. He hit two home runs during the O’s recent six-game swing through Arlington and Houston, so an optimist might say he’s “turning the corner” or some such. I would like it if that was true. Until he has a sustained stretch of hitting better, though, it’s hard to imagine an MLB future beyond his Rule 5 “must stay on the roster” year.

Two years from now, who is the Orioles MVP?

I think the most likely scenario is that the 2021 Most Valuable Oriole is not on the big league roster right now. My wild guess beyond that is... outfield prospect Austin Hays, the O’s third round pick in the 2016 draft. He raced to MLB in September 2017, then suffered an injury-filled 2018 and early 2019. I’m hoping he will start playing well now that he’s back in action in the minors and force his way to the MLB team in August.

My Jays can’t seem to score early. Who do the Orioles use in for setup and closer? Do you trust them with a late inning lead?

As a team, the Orioles bullpen ERA is 5.67. I trust none of them. There is not really a set closer, although Mychal Givens and his 5.00 ERA, has the most saves, with five. It’s been a mess. Just about everyone is bad. The starting rotation is also bad, so the Jays should be ashamed if they can’t score both early and late against this bunch.

Thanks Mark