The 2022 Orioles have been a great pleasant surprise. They only won 52 games in 2021 and have won 70 with 31 games left including 19 here in Baltimore.
How do they compare with two other Orioles teams that were surprisingly good? Will this team have a good future?
1989 is known at the “Why Not?” season. the 1988 Orioles were terrible. They set a record by losing the first 21 games and finished 54-107. The 1989 Orioles went 87-75 and contended for the division championship until the last game of the season. They only scored 22 runs than they allowed and their expected record was 83-79.
The 1990 Orioles fell back to 76-85. Their expected win total was 77. Third baseman Craig Worthington, a rookie of the year candidate in 1989, didn’t do nearly as well in 1990 (or any other season).
Jeff Ballard was 18-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 1989. He was 2-11 with a 4.93 ERA in 1990.
Bob Milacki was 14-12 with a 3.74 ERA. He was 5-8 with a 4.46 ERA in 1990.
They did get good seasons from Pete Harnisch and Dave Johnson.
The Orioles were 67-95 in 1991 before improving to 89 in 1992.
We had a clue that the 2012 Orioles would be good because they finished well in 2011 under new manager Buck Showalter. They finished 69-93. The 2012 Orioles went 93-69. They only had a positive run differential of 7 which should have produced a record of 82-80. The team won their last 16 extra-inning games and went 29-9 in one-run games. They played well through 2016.
The 2022 Orioles are currently 70-61 with a run differential of 20 which should lead to a 68-63 record. Last year, they were 52-110. I think this team has a great future. They got high draft picks in recent years because of their terrible records and these players are reaching the majors. Catcher Adley Rutschman has been great. He’s a fine catcher and disciplined catcher. He didn’t come up until May but will finish among the top rookies. Infielder Gunnar Henderson has only played three games but has shown he can field and hit. Outfielder Kyle Stowers has potential but they aren’t playing him much.
Moving the left field fence was a good idea. It has hurt some hitters but has helped the pitching staff.
GM Mike Elias participated in the Astros rebuild. Almost all of the players who were there for the bad seasons were gone by the time the Astros were good.
I thought that would happen here, too. The Orioles have churned through a lot of bad players since this regime took over in 2019. I assumed that players like Rougned Odor, Jorge Mateo and Ramon Urias were just placeholders until the draft picks were ready. However, they have shown they are major league players and will be regulars here or somewhere else. There may actually be a log jam of talent since the prospects have done well. This applies to both the infield and outfield.
The pitching staff is largely composed of castoffs from other teams who have done much better than expected. I am skeptical that starters like Austin Voth, Dean Kremer, and Spenser Watkins are really this good and can do it year after year. The Orioles do have two top prospects, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, who should be in the rotation next year. Top starter John Means will be back and Tyler Wells looked good before he was injured.
The bullpen is almost all waiver guys and is beginning to wear down. I am doubtful they can do this year after year.
I think they will have to trade some prospects or current regulars for more pitching. Since they are doing well, this will also be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers.
I expect the Orioles to finish with a winning record. They may even claim a wild card spot. I think this team will wind up more like 2012 with a multi-year period of success than 1989. They should be playoff contenders for several years. I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do.