Orioles-Royals series preview: Finally, another bad team to play

The last couple of weeks of Orioles baseball has involved a lot of being on the wrong end of a seemingly-unending series of butt-whippings. The brutal YankeesAstros-Yankees-Red Sox gauntlet was even worse than anybody might have guessed that it would be before it started. The only good news is that the Orioles did not break the record for home runs allowed by a team in a season during that stretch of baseball.

Even that good news only stretches so far because the Orioles, with 255 home runs allowed to date, are a mere three home runs away from tying the record and four home runs away from having it all to themselves. They might even break the record in this series against the Royals, although Kansas City has hit only 125 home runs so far this season, the second-fewest of any American League team. Perhaps the O’s can fight off infamy for one more series.

The Royals are certainly not a good baseball team. One of the many ways that you can be sure of this is that they have a 7-9 record against the Tigers, who are currently the worst team in MLB, with a record half a game worse than the O’s at this moment. They are a lot like the O’s in that they have a lot of bad hitters. The Royals rotation is also bad, if not Orioles-level bad. The same is true about their bullpen.

It all adds up to a team that is 44-80 as mid-August starts to turn into late August. They are on pace to win just 58 games on the season. In an ordinary year, the Royals would be waltzing towards the #1 pick in next year’s draft with a record like that. In 2019, they’re in line for the #3 pick next year, and if they have a little hot streak, such as they might get by still having six games to play against the Orioles, they might even drop to #4 behind the Marlins.

Which of these two teams do you think has a more hopeful immediate future, or three years down the road? The Royals have three of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects after turning their top two picks from the 2018 draft, pitchers Brady Singer and Daniel Lynch, into top 100 prospects, plus they got to take Bobby Witt Jr. at #2 in this year’s draft. There is some hope there.

The big league club, though, is in much the same place as the Orioles in that even many of the players who are actually not playing horribly are not guaranteed to be around for the next good Royals team. Of their three best hitters, Hunter Dozier (140 OPS+) and Jorge Soler (133 OPS+) are both already 27, and Whit Merrifield (117 OPS+) is 30. At least their one pitcher with a better-than-average ERA, Brad Keller, is only 23. We’ll see him on Tuesday.

Game 1 – Monday, 7:05

  • John Means: 23 G, 19 GS, 3.76 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 1.215 WHIP, 105.1 IP, 84 SO, 30 BB, 16 HR
  • Jorge Lopez: 30 G, 11 GS, 6.51 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 1.553 WHIP, 85.2 IP, 82 SO, 34 BB, 18 HR

Since the beginning of June, Means has started ten games and has recorded a quality start – six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs – in just three of those games. He has just one in five post-All-Star break starts, and has gone fewer than four innings in each of his last three starts.

As Means has been the only positive story in the Orioles rotation this year, it would be nice if he could rebound over the last six weeks of the season and get back to looking like a guy who might actually stick around until the team is good again. My wanting this to happen does not make it so. Being an MLB pitcher is hard. Maybe the things that have landed Means on the injured list previously aren’t totally better. Maybe in the Statcast era, his arsenal has been cracked.

Lopez, a 26-year-old righty, started off the season in the Royals rotation but was kicked out of it after pitching badly. His last game before this was his first start since that demotion. With Homer Bailey traded and Danny Duffy sidelined with a hamstring injury, it’s his turn again. The only thing there is to say about him is that his performance would fit right in on the Orioles pitching staff.

Game 2 – Tuesday, 7:05

  • Dylan Bundy: 23 GS, 5.25 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 1.342 WHIP, 120 IP, 122 SO, 41 BB, 25 HR
  • Brad Keller: 26 GS, 4.10 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 1.348 WHIP, 158 IP, 117 SO, 65 BB, 15 HR

Keller, 23, seems to have been that rare useful Rule 5 draft choice. It turns out they don’t all have to be Pedro Araujo. The Royals ended up with Keller two Decembers ago. The 23-year-old has 67 MLB games under his belt, more than half of which are starts, and he has a 3.62 ERA at this level. Last year was better than this year, but there’s still plenty to be excited about for a young guy in his second year to have this kind of modest success in today’s crazy run-scoring environment.

One of the more disappointing things about the 2019 O’s season for me is that Bundy hasn’t offered much encouraging. The Mike Elias pitching regime has not magically turned him into the next great Cy Young contender. Even in this home run-crazy year he stands out (if not as much as pitchers like Dan Straily and David Hess) for giving up homers. His strikeout rate is good and his walk rate isn’t bad.

These things just have not translated into success for Bundy, and he is already far enough along with service time that even if he does figure things out he’ll just be a trade piece rather than part of the next good Orioles rotation. Bundy is a free agent after 2021. I don’t think the Orioles will be good by then. Do you?

Game 3 – Wednesday, 7:05

  • Aaron Brooks (A’s + O’s stats): 22 G, 13 GS, 6.49 ERA, 5.95 FIP, 1.429 WHIP, 77.2 IP, 61 SO, 22 BB, 19 HR
  • Mike Montgomery (Cubs + Royals stats): 26 G, 6 GS, 4.63 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.544 WHIP, 56.2 IP, 45 SO, 18 BB, 10 HR

Games started by guys like Brooks are one of the many things that’s made this season such a substantial slog as an Orioles fan. Brooks is 29, and he’s not someone any O’s fan had any investment in six months ago, so even if he has a good game here or there, what does it matter?

Brooks is here, like Asher Wojciechowski is here, because Elias doesn’t want to rush Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, or any other Bowie/Norfolk pitching prospect into this inferno before they’re ready. And so you get… this. Some people will even pay money to see the game on Wednesday. Others will spend hours of their life watching it on television. It’s just not easy to be an Orioles fan right now.

A Royals fan might feel the same way about Montgomery starting for them. One big difference is that he’s been solid in his six starts since being acquired from the Cubs for catcher Martin Maldonado, so at least his games have been more bearable to watch. Will that trend continue here in Baltimore? It’s not like he has to face any fearsome lineup.

**

In the unlikely event that the Orioles pick up a sweep in this series, they would still trail Kansas City in the standings by two games. A more likely outcome is that the O’s end up being mathematically eliminated during the next few days. Their “tragic number” – the number of O’s losses or Rays wins that would eliminate them – is down to five. And there’s always the home runs, too.

The O’s are 3-14 in August and they’ve lost 12 of their past 13 games. It sucks! Better times will be coming eventually. Perhaps over the next few games against another bad team, the O’s can have a mirage of a mediocre baseball team like they did in their .500 month of July.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Royals?

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    1

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    2

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    3 (The Orioles sweep the Royals)

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Mark Brown
DistinctAthlete.com is an entertaining sports site. The site specializes in viral sports content. Content includes controversial and original opinions, news stories, off-beat stories, humorous videos, entertaining photos, exclusive interviews, and witty banter between the writers and commenters. Distinct Athlete was launched in May of 2012 and has been featured and/or cited on several prominent sports sites.