With the end of MLB's regular season coming next week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with a look at what happened in 2021 and what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Baltimore Orioles.
What went right
• Trey Mancini came back from testicular cancer to make the All-Star Home Run Derby and bat .257/.330/.444 with 32 doubles and 21 homers in his first 136 games.
• Cedric Mullins started in center field for the American League in the All-Star Game, and he has a great chance to finish in the top 10 in MVP voting. He's among the top-5 percentile in outs above average as a center fielder. He's fifth in the AL in wOBA. He's 20th in isolated power. He's second in stolen bases.
• John Means threw the 10th no-hitter in Orioles history on May 5, coming a wild pitch away from a perfect game.
• The Orioles already have surpassed 47 victories, which means they can't finish with the highest loss total (115) or worst winning percentage (.290) in Baltimore history.
What went wrong
• The Orioles are 26th in runs scored and have allowed more runs than anyone else. They're middle-of-the-pack in home runs but fourth from the bottom in walks. Their pitchers are next-to-last in strikeout percentage and eighth-worst in walk percentage. They are 26th in defensive runs saved.
• A shoulder strain forced Means to miss several starts and limited his effectiveness after the no-hitter. He has a 4.17 ERA over his past 17 starts.
• They had a 15-16 record after Means' no-hitter and have gone 33-87 since, a stretch that includes a 19-game losing streak from Aug. 3 to Aug. 25.
• Over the past three full seasons, they're averaging 109 losses. They were on a 94-loss pace in the shortened 2020 season.
• They went 1-18 against the Tampa Bay Rays (winning July 19 thanks to a strong performance by right-hander Spenser Watkins.)
Mullins is so self-aware that he hit two home runs on his own T-shirt giveaway night at Camden Yards. If only they could make the entire team of players like Cedric Mullins.
Ryan Mountcastle has 30 homers and is slugging nearly .500 in his first 133 games.
Reasons for optimism
• The farm system is one of the very best. Adley Rutschman, a power-hitting catcher, is the top overall prospect in MLB. A switch-hitter, he's batting .283/.398/.513 with 22 homers and 74 walks in 413 at-bats, including 33 games at Triple-A. If the Orioles don't want to hold him back to save a year of free agency, he could break spring training with them in 2022. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez is a top-10 prospect as well, and the O's have three other top-100s.
• Camden Yards remains one of the best ballparks in MLB nearly 30 years after it opened. Who wouldn't want to play there 81 times a season?
• Despite their recent pitfalls, the O's have one of the more tradition-rich franchises in the big leagues. They have a long history of success and even averaged 89 victories from 2012 to 2016, making the playoffs three times in that span. It can be done, and has been done, within the past 10 years.
What needs work
• The Orioles need to spend more money on established players. Baltimore alone is hot a huge TV market, and the success of the Nationals in nearby Washington D.C. has been a burr in the bonnet of O's owner Peter Angelos. Still, he has plenty of capital to spend. Start by luring one of the top free-agent shortstops to Baltimore.