The Baltimore Orioles Defense Made the Difference During the Season, But Can it Take Them Over the Top?
The Baltimore Orioles showed signs of intent this year and look ready to mount a serious playoff challenge next season. Their defense was their biggest strength during the campaign, something evidenced by the fact that they have two players in the race for the Gold Glove.
The award, handed to the best defender at every position in the MLB, has two Orioles fighting for it, plus there are two other players on the team who deserved to have their names announced as finalists too. The pair of finalists are actually not the ones many fans were expecting to get on there. Cedric Mullins was the Baltimore player picked for centerfield while his teammate Ramon Urias won the Gold Glove at third base.
However, Jorge Mateo and Adley Rutschman were just as deserving, with the former posting a career season at shortstop and the latter remarkable with his framing.
All four of the aforementioned had great seasons for the Orioles defensively, while the likes of Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle also made a case, though not as loudly as the others.
Baltimore has every reason to feel proud of the season they had. Given all of the surprises that popped up, solid defending helped them win 83 games, while they were in the chase for a Wild Card spot up until the final weekend. Inbound betting outlets such as Caesar’s Maryland should have some interesting odds on the O’s prospects for next season when legalized punting roles out in the state.
While Mullins had a great season at center, he still failed to live up to the standards he set last term, having produced the first 30-30 campaign in team history. No player had ever hit 30 or more home runs and stole 30 or more bases in the same season for the Orioles. The feat wasn’t matched by anyone else in the MLB last year, nor anyone in the American League since 2018.
It was always going to be a tough act to follow and Mullins fell short by 14 homers this time around.
“Yeah, but in terms of pressure I wasn’t feeling pressure to repeat that, but I had that as a goal. But I think at the end of the day I just wanted to put together a strong season like I feel I have,” he was quoted as saying.
“Being someone that can contribute on a daily basis, no matter the numbers at the end, is kind of my focal point,” he added. “Now I know what I have to make adjustments on moving forward if I want to duplicate that season, so something to look forward to.
“I think the obvious thing is left-handed hitting this year. If anything kept me from being close to the same season, it was that. So past that, a lot of other things stay the same. I feel like I made some strides on defense this year and I feel like I continue to progress there as well.
“We’ll evaluate that this winter. I feel like I had some better at-bats against them lately (late in the year) and need to carry that into the offseason work,” said Mullins.
Urias, meanwhile, suffered a sprained right knee that saw him shut down for the remainder of the season and, earlier in October, said he would need 8-12 weeks to recover. The player won’t be requiring surgery, fortunately, but he will begin the early part of the offseason resting and rehabbing. Urias should be back to normal well ahead of spring training unless he suffers a setback. The player was a full-time infielder for the Orioles last season, playing in 118 fixtures and slashing 248/.305/.414 with 16 home runs plus one stolen base in 445 plate appearances.
All of the players mentioned above had impressive seasons on a personal front but team defense was another story for the O’s, if one considers how they performed as a unit against the other teams.
Baltimore ranked ninth in Defensive Runs Saved, per Baseball Reference, and tied with the Mariners for 38 runs. Fangraphs had them as the seventh-best defensive team in the league with a defensive rating of 15.7, while they ranked fifth in Ultimate Zone Rating and saved the most runs through double plays.
The stats show that the Orioles played certain parts of the game not necessarily considered great to look at very well but have also taken care of the basics, which helped them win 31 more games than they did the previous year.