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Twelve Orioles Thoughts one quarter of way through 2024 season

With the Orioles one quarter of the way through the 2024 regular season and off to an excellent 26-14 start entering Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Through 40 games, the Orioles have dropped three series and lost two games in a row only three times. Media and fans often fall into the trap of nitpicking what could be better, but this club has a chance to be the best Baltimore has seen in over 50 years. 

2. Gunnar Henderson is on pace to hit 48 home runs and eclipse 10 wins above replacement. Only three Orioles — Chris Davis, Brady Anderson, and Frank Robinson — have hit that many in a season while Cal Ripken owns the only 10 WAR campaigns (1984 and 1991) in franchise history. Remarkable. 

3. Many anticipated Jordan Westburg taking a step forward, but nobody expected him to be arguably Baltimore’s second-best player thus far. His average has hovered right around .300 for a month now, and the versatile infielder is on pace to collect 68 extra-base hits. He’s playing at an All-Star-caliber level. 

4. Despite angst over the struggles of Craig Kimbrel, the Orioles rank sixth in the AL in bullpen ERA and bullpen WAR, per FanGraphs. In other words, the rest of the bullpen has been quite good. But acquiring at least one high-impact reliever by the deadline definitely remains a priority. 

5. You always hope for unexpected contributions in the bullpen, and Jacob Webb and Albert Suarez sporting sub-2.00 ERAs certainly qualifies. Both have pitched in some big spots and gotten the job done more often than not. For someone whose future was in doubt in spring training, Webb has stepped up. 

6. We’re not fully appreciating the start Adley Rutschman has had. Not only is he hitting .309 and on track for 30-plus homers, but he’s on pace for 200 hits, a mark only three major leaguers reached last season. No wonder Brandon Hyde doesn’t like giving Rutschman full days off. 

7. One of the bigger mysteries of this Orioles offense has been the decline in walk rate almost across the board from last season. It’s tough to argue with the seemingly altered approach as Baltimore leads the AL in runs per game while maintaining a similar strikeout rate to 2023. 

8. Ryan O’Hearn has been the exception to that trend as he’s walked nearly as many times as he did all last season and has more free passes than strikeouts, which is unheard of in today’s game. He was a great story last season, and he’s been even better in 2024. 

9. What will the outfield look like come September? Cedric Mullins is really struggling, Austin Hays lost his everyday role before getting hurt, Anthony Santander is in a contract year, and Colton Cowser has slashed .132/.266/.189 since his incredible two-week stretch in mid-April. Fluid is the best descriptor. 

10. The early handling of Jackson Holliday was odd and everyone hopes his first stint would go much better, but I still like his chances of contributing meaningfully in 2024. It took him a while to get going again in Norfolk as he works on swing adjustments, but he’ll be fine.  

11. Remember how we lamented 100 pitches becoming the checkered flag for starting pitchers and complete games declining? Baltimore starters have reached 100 pitches four times and completed seven innings five times through 40 games, and this is an above-average rotation with a well-regarded ace. Are these trends good for baseball?

12. The Orioles and Yankees have been the class of the AL East thus far, but I’m not ready to dismiss any team in this division in mid-May. Boston has been the surprise with its pitching while Toronto has been the biggest disappointment. It’s a long season. 

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