How the Orioles Stack Up Entering the 2023 MLB Postseason

Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson of the Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles joined the Rays, Dodgers, and Braves in the playoffs this past week, when the O’s a postseason birth for the first time since 2016. And, the O’s are currently in first place in the AL East and could have home-field advantage throughout the ALCS if they can clinch the division. With two weeks before the start of the playoffs, here’s how the O’s stack up.

Related: How the Rays Stack Up Entering the 2023 MLB Postseason

A Look at the Orioles Offense

The Orioles would not be in this position had it not been for Baltimore’s potent lineup. As of September 19, the O’s ranked eighth in the Majors in OPS (.751)

Much of that can be attributed to a well-balanced collection of hitters. Outfielder Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins have both played major roles for the O’s, while switch-hitter Anthony Santander hit 27 home runs in what’s been yet another strong campaign.

Catcher Adley Rutschman‘s bat and .365 OBP have been critical to the O’s ability to drive in runs. And, the addition of James McCann has helped keep the former top MLB Draft pick in the lineup on a regular basis. Baltimore’s routinely placed Adley in the DH slot on days he doesn’t catch.

But arguably the most critical piece to the O’s has been infielder Gunnar Henderson. Henderson, the likely AL Rookie of the Year, hit 27 home runs and drove in 79 across his first 139 games and has played steady defense at third to boot.

There are a couple of other players that have played key roles for the O’s. Infielder Adam Frazier, who was signed this past offseason by the O’s, has never been a power hitter, but he’s cracked a career-high 13 home runs with Baltimore this season. Outfielder Aaron Hicks (.838 OPS, seven home runs and 14 extra base hits in 57 games) rejuvenated his career in Baltimore, and then there’s Ryan O’Hearn.

O’Hearn was acquired and DFA’d by the O’s this past offseason, but he stuck with the organization after being outrighted and has since proven to be a reliable bat against right-handed pitching. The ex-Royal hit .309 with 13 home runs in Baltimore this season, just one year after he hit .239 in 145 MLB plate appearances.

A Look at the Orioles Pitching

While the O’s offense has been dominant in 2023, the same can’t be said for Baltimore’s pitching staff. Baltimore entered play on September 19 eleventh in the MLB in WHIP (1.26), 12th in wOBA (.309) and ERA (4.03), and 16th in opponent’s batting average (.245).

The O’s bullpen has been far from the team’s weakness. Entering play on September 19, Baltimore’s relievers owned the fifth-best ERA (3.60) and best FIP (3.60) in all of baseball. Left-handers Danny Coulombe and Cionel Perez both own sub-3.20 ERA figures, while Yennier Cano‘s risen to be one of the best setup men in the game.

The crown jewel of that pen has been Felix Bautista, who took over as Baltimore’s closer last summer and hasn’t looked back since. The flame-thrower posted 1.48 ERA through 61 innings, and struck out an absurd 110 (16.2 K/9) batters in that time. The only thing that stopped him was a UCL injury that’s clouded his availability for the remainder of the season.

The starting rotation, on the other hand, has been a boondoggle. Tyler Wells pitched very well in the first half, but gassed out in July and was subsequently set down to the Minors. Dean Kremer and Kyle Gibson have been up and down, and Jack Flaherty‘s posted a 7.11 ERA since the trade that sent him to Baltimore earlier in the summer.

The two bright spots in Baltimore’s rotation has been Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez. Bradish owns the fourth-best ERA (3.12) among qualified AL pitchers, while Rodriguez’s pitched to the tune of a 2.59 ERA since he returned to the Majors in mid-July. Opposing batters have only hit .219 (.585 OPS) off the rookie righty in 66.0 second-half innings.

How the Orioles Can Win it All

It sounds like a broken record at this point, but the primary question that Baltimore will need to answer come October is whether the O’s pitching staff can get the job done.

Granted, that job would be easier if the O’s can get Bautista back in time for the first week of October. But even if the All-Star closer does come back, how will the likes of Gibson, Flaherty, Bradish, Kremer, and young Grayson Rodriguez hold up?

At this point, it’s very much unclear which starters Brandon Hyde will go with come the AL Wild Card or ALDS. One could assume that Bradish and Rodriguez, the latter of whom has obviously performed much better since being recalled in the summer from Norfolk (AAA), will be in the playoff rotation. But aside from those two, a lot is up in the air.

A second, but not as significant as the pitching, question to ponder is how these O’s hitters will perform come playoff time. For the vast majority of the team’s starters, 2023 will mark the first time that these young Orioles will play in the postseason.