The Baltimore Orioles have a chance to win their first division title since their 2014 season. This comes in the context of a highly competitive division and folding in multiple rookies into the squad. They have been electric when at their best with few downturns this year. Here are three players heating up at the right time to help the Orioles push for the AL East crown.
Four Players Are Heating Up for the Orioles
Henderson is the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year, and for good reason. He is an incredibly athletic, dynamic player who has contributed with good defense and great power at the plate. His hard-hit percentage is in the top 5% of all players in the majors.
He has been hot recently, including a 3-5, three-RBI game in the Orioles’ key division matchup on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Beyond that, he has been consistently performing over the most recent month. In his last 30 games, he has a .333/.360/.636 slash line for a .996 OPS. He has been showing an improved plate approach, as well. From August 1 to September 15, he had cut his strikeout rate to 20.5%, an improvement of nearly five ticks on the season.
As one of the pillars of this franchise’s core moving into the future, Henderson already has etched his name in the history books with a stellar rookie season.
Mullins had a fantastic start to the season but ended up missing most of June and late July. When he returned, he struggled to find his form, posting a 61 wRC+ in August. In his last fifteen games, he has hit for a .279 average and a .768 OPS.
He doesn’t need to do much more than that to be a valuable player on this team. He still rates as an excellent defender in center field. Overall, his batted ball quality is down from his peak seasons, but it is encouraging to see Mullins find better results after sporadic playing time with injuries over the past few months.
We’ll get to Rodriguez’s overall body of work, but his game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday was a masterpiece. It was one of his most impressive starts at any professional level as he went eight innings, only allowing five hits, no walks, and no earned runs. He struck out seven batters, heavily relying on his fastball to beat their division rival. His fastball location was incredibly impressive, dotting the edge of the strike zone consistently. There were only a few sprayed pitches here and there throughout the night, but he never let it cost him a hitter. He was still hitting 98.5 MPH on his last fastball of the game.
Rodriguez is clearly the future ace of this staff, and he has grown much into the role they needed him to this season. He had a 7.35 ERA in his first stint in the majors this year but has returned to pitch with incredible success. Since being recalled on July 17, he has a 2.59 ERA over eleven starts. He has trimmed his walk rate and home run rate, and in turn, has been going deeper into starts. He has gone six innings in six of his last seven starts.
Since his return on July 11, he has cut the barrel rate against him nearly in half. He has used his fastball even more in this second stint, mostly removing his cutter from his arsenal. By Stuff+ on FanGraphs, he has the best fastball and curveball on the O’s staff. His slider and changeup rate highly as well.
Yet another one of the Orioles’ impact rookies, Westburg took a few weeks to find his groove at the plate. He is still providing great defense, and he has had an offensive breakthrough to make this Baltimore lineup even deeper.
Since the start of August, Westburg’s 108 wRC+ has seen his barrel rate tick up and his chase rate drop. There are still some concerns about his ceiling this season, as during this same time his hard-hit rate has dipped and he isn’t elite at making consistent contact. However, in September alone, he has a 164 wRC+ with his zone contact rate jumping from 79% in August to 89%. Simply making contact that frequently could be a game-changer for Westburg.