From July 3rd to the end of the 2022 season, the Baltimore Orioles played at a 94-win pace. Naturally, it seems odd that Vegas would set their 2023 Orioles win total at only 76.5 games. However, the Orioles have some flaws that make this line a very good one, and actually one that might be a little too high. Here’s why the Orioles will go under in 2023.
Why the Orioles win total will be under 76.5 in 2023
The Pitching is Simply Not Good
Besides closer and top reliever Felix Bautista, any pitcher the Orioles will throw out on the bump at Camden Yards is shaky at best, and the bullpen is set to regress from last year.
After Bautista, DL Hall is Baltimore’s second-best reliever in Fangraphs’ 2023 ERA projections, with a 3.64 mark. Even projecting that massive improvement from his 5.39 ERA in 2022, that’s still only about 15% better than the league average. Your second-best reliever having a 115 ERA+ is not how you win games, especially in the power-hitting AL East. The rotation is not much better, with the O’s projected for a 4.27 ERA from their starters. Last year, that would’ve been good for the 21st-best mark in MLB.
Even if you believe the projections underrate them, the 1-2-3 trio of Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, and Kyle Bradish is underwhelming at best. Gibson is already 35 and is coming off a 5.05 ERA season that made a World Series contender in the Phillies opt against re-signing him. Is he really your best bet as a number-one starter?
Irvin had his first full season as a starter last year, and while he didn’t have a bad year with the Oakland Athletics, his lack of velocity is sure to get punished by moving to a more hitter-friendly park. Bradish is another second-year pitcher with only 23 starts to his name, hoping to improve on his 4.90 ERA last year. The rotation and bullpen will need to take a big step forward if the Orioles are not to fall backward in the standings this year.
Overreliance on young guys
When the 2022 season ended, Orioles fans were excited about this point in their rebuild. They finally had built a competitive team in Baltimore, and now was the perfect time for the front office to spend and propel this O’s team to the next level in 2023. That didn’t happen.
They let last year’s number-one starter Jordan Lyles walk to the Kansas City Royals, and signed Gibson on a one-year deal to take his place. They gave former Oriole Mychal Givens $5 million to bolster the pen and signed Adam Frazier to an earth-shattering $8 million deal. Not exactly throwing their money around.
The lack of spending in free agency this off-season combined with injuries to potential key contributors like John Means has led to the Orioles looking very much like a young rebuilding team. Top prospect Gunnar Henderson will likely be the starting shortstop and their best pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez should lock down a rotation spot.
While these guys are certainly on track to become incredible players, not everyone has a rookie season like Adley Rutschman, and that could hurt the Orioles short-term at two important positions. In fact, out of the projected Opening-Day lineup, only three players have more than 2.5 years of service time, and only Gibson, Givens, and reliever Austin Voth clear that bar on the pitching side of things.
The Orioles will be a young, hungry team, but won’t have that veteran leadership to guide them when they hit a skid. The inconsistency of younger players is liable to hurt the Orioles as well, especially in the bullpen. And to think, the O’s could have solved both these problems with either Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodon in their ace spot.
The Orioles got flat-out lucky in 2022
Yes, yes, I know. There’s no real way to account for luck in baseball, and calling a team lucky is as subjective as it gets. But bear with me for a second.
The Orioles Pythagorean record in 2022 (expected record based on run differential) was 79-83. They did four wins better than that. In the huge 10-game win streak that turned their season from a 70-win pace to an 83-win pace, they played zero playoff teams. Now, you beat whoever shows up to play you, but that opportunity likely will not happen again with MLB’s new balanced schedule.
Also, the Orioles having the ninth-ranked bullpen last year was extremely fortunate. FIP measures for everything that a pitcher controls themselves, and seven out of the eight relievers that threw 50+ innings for the O’s had FIPs higher than their ERA, indicating they were somewhat fortunate. This is not to say that luck was the reason that Baltimore had such a surprisingly good season last year, but to show how these outlier stats may not repeat themselves in 2023.
The Baltimore Orioles are on the upswing in their rebuild, and the Orioles win total line reflects that. However, their breakthrough year was too early in 2022, and they are primed for a bounce back to Earth in 2023. A lack of spending from the owners has led to too much weight being placed on the young guys’ shoulders, and the Orioles will need significant jumps from their prospects to improve, especially on the pitching side. The safe bet is Under the Orioles win total line of 76.5 in 2023.
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