Back in late-March, I submitted my debut article for BSL entitled “The Projections Are Dire.” The projections might have been dire, but the outcome has been lovely. Today, we’re going to look back in an attempt to understand just what has happened.

As you might recall, the popular projection systems at FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus expected between 61 and 64 wins. An alternate approach – counting projected WAR for THE BAT X system was the most bullish method with an implied total of 67 to 71 wins. Personally, I agreed with the THE BAT X but for one important caveat. Since they’d be playing nearly half their games against AL East foes with an expected .555 winning percentage, they would underperform in the standings.

Well, here we are on a Tuesday in mid-August. The Orioles already have 61 wins and 55 losses. That leaves 46 more games before the end of the regular season. Unless they go through a historical collapse the rest of the way, we can confidently say the projections missed the mark. Entering last night, American League East clubs (excluding the O’s) have a .546 winning percentage. That’s close to our original expectation. What we missed is that the Yankees would dominate the division while the other three clubs fell a tad flat. Excluding the Bombers, Baltimore’s divisional rivals have a .520 winning percentage (again, entering last night). Instead of 56 especially challenging games, it’s only been the 11 against the Yankees (they have three more to play).

In March, I posited that the new left field dimensions could help. Originally projected for one of the worst pitching staffs, the Orioles have compiled a 15th-best 3.92 ERA – slightly better than the leaguewide average of a 3.99 ERA. It’s also a sight better than the 5.85 ERA a similar collection of pitchers managed in 2021. If Camden Yards explains a chunk of the improvement, we should expect to find stark home/road ERA splits. Try this on for size.

Road: 4.41 ERA (entering last night)
Home: 3.41 ERA

Yep, they’ve been a full-run better at home. I hypothesized the left-handed starters would most benefit from the new dimensions. Bruce Zimmermann was the poster child with a 3.98 ERA at home and a 7.50 ERA on the road. Northpaw Jordan Lyles profited even more with a 2.73 home ERA compared to a 5.85 away ERA. Austin Voth has been much better on the road in limited work. Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells had only modest home/road splits. It should be noted, such splits aren’t usually helpful analytic tools outside of Coors Field. They’re an interesting description of what happened but rarely have much predictive value.

Besides getting quite a few palatable starts from unexpected sources like Lyles, Zimmermann, Kremer, and especially Wells the Orioles have really benefited from their relief corps. Their 3.06 bullpen ERA is third-best in the league, trailing only the Astros and Yankees. They’ve outpaced the Dodgers and Braves, both of which entered the season with juggernaut relief corps. Erstwhile Oriole Jorge Lopez’s breakout was slightly predictable, especially once it was apparent his velocity played up in short bursts. Felix Bautista stood out in Spring Training as a new pitcher – though nobody could have anticipated a 1.65 ERA. The emergence of Dillon Tate, Cionel Perez, Joey Krehbiel, and Keegan Akin all at the same time is nothing short of incredible. Highly improbable is another way of putting it. I’m still waiting for the regression hammer to drop on one or all of them.

The park dimensions were thought to be a double-edged sword. Indeed, Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, and Trey Mancini have hit fewer home runs than they would have at a neutral stadium. The Mancini trade served as case-in-point. He immediately smacked a trio of home runs after hitting just 10 in 410 plate appearances for the Orioles. Only switch-hitter Anthony Santander has reached the 20-homer plateau, and I have no easy way to see how many of his eight home runs at Camden Yards were hit from the right side.

Cedric Mullins was a potential source of optimism entering the season. Projection systems tabbed him for roughly three-win (3.0 WAR) play. He was a six-win player in 2021, and the performance was largely believable. Importantly, he isn’t affected by the new left field fence – all of his power is to the pull side. Instead of replicating 2021, he’s posted a roughly league average .264/.322/.395 batting line, putting him on pace for a three-win season. Chalk one up for the projection systems.

Adley Rutschman took a little longer to arrive than originally anticipated. His .246/.354/.428 batting line has been a welcome improvement on the struggles of Robinson Chirinos. Incidentally, the Orioles are 44-31 since his arrival. The other impending reinforcements – Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, DL Hall, and Kyle Stowers in particular – have done nothing worthy of mention at the Major League level. Terrin Vavra, Jordan Westburg, and Gunnar Henderson were name dropped in the original article as potential late-season callups. Vavra has taken the spot I thought would go to Stowers, though he’s only performed at a replacement level in 15 games. Henderson played his way to top prospect status, but a 2023 promotion seems unlikely.

The March article concluded with a call for waiver moves and other external additions. The Orioles have largely eschewed those in favor of in-house options. Jorge Mateo – picked up mid-2021 – has been a revelation and a welcome addition at shortstop. Whether or not he can maintain what reminds me of a peak Freddy Galvis season, he’s played a large role in getting the Orioles to where they are today. Austin Voth was the lone impactful in-season addition. After coughing up a 10.13 ERA in 18.2 innings with the Nationals, he’s posted a luck-neutral 3.21 ERA, mostly as a starter. To the angst of some, they subtracted Lopez and Mancini at the trade deadline.

So, how did we get here? Rutschman leads the club with 2.8 WAR. Other contenders tend to have at least one player above or near 4.0 WAR. Mullins and Mateo are the only others to eclipse 2.0 WAR. Lyles, the pitching leader, checks in with just 1.8 WAR. It’s not breakouts carrying this club, but we need to remember that floor can be just as important as ceiling. On the negative side, only Chirinos, Chris Owings, and Tyler Nevin have been outright terrible. Overall, 15 players have negative contributions per WAR. Last season, the Orioles received negative contributions from 27 players including nine with -0.5 WAR or worse. Tightening up the bottom of the roster has clearly provided a benefit in the win column.

Two other factors have greatly aided Baltimore’s unlikely Hunt for Orange October. The surprisingly elite bullpen has allowed the club to overcome glaring weaknesses in their rotation. Lastly, aside from the Yankees, the division has played a LOT softer than expected. That softness not only lends itself with a better Orioles win-total, it also means they now have a plausible path to second place in the division.

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a fantasy baseball analyst for NBC SportsEDGE. He also contributes to “Front Office” content at MLB Trade Rumors. You can additionally find his work and support him directly at or follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam.