A switch-hitting catcher with plate discipline and a little power? Now, where have fans of the San Francisco Giants seen that before...
No, I’m not saying that the Giants have their own Adley Rutschman in Patrick Bailey, I just wanted to touch on the mild similarities between the two players. Rutschman has been a much better hitter over his career (minors and college included) than Pailey, but look! The Giants kinda-sorta are on the same path as the Orioles.
You’ll recall that the Orioles have been in a rebuild since 2018 — they went 47-115! — and that includes last season’s surprise 83-79 record. That happened despite a 21-30 record after May. This year, they’re even better to start the season, 35-21 and they’re doing it with the same degree of pluck and guile that helped them be a fun group to watch.
If you look at their wins above replacement numbers, they’re 13th in pitching, 13th in hitting, and the 2nd-worst fielding team in all of baseball (-10.7 Defensive Runs) — actually the worst in the American League. So, how are they doing it? Is it all just the dynamism of their catcher?
We all know what effect a stellar catcher can have on a team — a franchise! Just last week, Buster Posey entered the Bay Area Hall of Fame.
In year two of his Major League career, Rutschman is already getting the kind of hushed reverence that Posey still commands even in retirement.
Statistically, Rutschman leads the American League in walks with a 17.5% walk rate (top 1% of the leage) and a 12.6% strikeout rate (top 6%). His pitch framing only merits a 50th percentile ranking from Statcast, and FanGraphs has him right at average, too, and that could be connected to the Orioles’ general tomfoolery when it comes to fielding and maybe he just has some more room to grow.
Of course, Posey was never average or worse in his major league career, and in his age-25 season, he won the MVP. This is Rutschman’s age-25 season and as impressive as the walks are, and even the power (8 HR, 7 2B in 246 PA), it’s hard to see how he reaches such great heights. Still, everyone is high on him. Joe Mauer was the last catcher in the AL to win the MVP. Buster Posey was the last catcher to do so period.
Buster Posey won’t hang over this game so much as be a name you, me, and probably even the broadcasters go to pretty quickly. Bailey’s slickness with the glove and Rutschman’s skill with the bat will make it easy to harken back to one of the most dynamic catchers of our lifetimes.
At the same time, Rutschman will probably be the best player on the field this weekend. He really puts that .415 OBP to good use in high leverage situations, with an incredible .935 OPS in 49 plate appearances. He’s 12th in baseball in Win Probability Added.
And that’s really how the Orioles have been doing it — big hits late the game. Their team WPA of +5.85 is 4th in MLB. Then they hand it over to their elite bullpen — tops in Baseball with 3.4 fWAR in 214 IP. Yennier Cano (1.5 fWAR), closer Felix Bautista (1.0) and lefty Danny Coulumbe (0.6 fWAR; 12.2 K/9) are the headliners there.
Tough to get out late and tough to score on late is a potent combination, and the Orioles are riding it to great success.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Baltimore Orioles
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Friday (7:15pm PT), Saturday (7:05pm PT), Sunday (1:05pm PT)
National broadcasts: Friday & Sunday — MLB Network simulcasts
Friday: Logan Webb vs. Dean Kremer
Saturday: Anthony DeSclafani vs. Kyle Bradish
Sunday: TBD vs. Tyler Wells
Where they stand
Record: 35-21, 2nd in AL East
Run differential: +28, 5th in AL
Postseason standing: +2.0 games up in the AL Wild Card, 4 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games
Record: 28-28, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: +3, 7th in the NL
Postseason standing: 0.5 games back in the NL Wild Card, 5.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 6-4 in their last 10 games
Orioles to watch
Anthony Santander: Besides Rutschman, here’s the other real beast in the lineup (Cedric Mullins’ 1.6 fWAR is on the IL). The DH has 9 home runs and a 24.7% strikeout rate, but also a .226 ISO. That’s 14th in the AL. He’s also another switch-hitter in the lineup, and while he does have a split, it’s not like it’s that much of advantage for the Giants. Against righties, he has a .799 OPS (156 PA) and against lefties, it’s .999 (67 PA).
Aaron Hicks: With Mullins on the IL, the Orioles turned to the enemy of their enemy in the recently cut Hicks. His time with the Yankees was nothing but turmoil and injuries. He’s yet another switch-hitter. He’s played just one game for the Orioles so far since they signed him to the prorated minimum, but he went 2-for-2 with a walk in that game. He’s Just 2-for-16 in his career against the Giants with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts BUT this just seems like one of those series where, having been freed from the Yankees, he just goes nuts.
The Orioles starters this weekend (Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells): None of them have pitched against the Giants before. That’s bad. But Mitch Haniger has faced Dean Kremer (1-for-5). You’d like to think that facing a trio of starters with FIPs of 4.66, 4.61, and 4.22 and HR/9 of 1+ would be an advantage, but, yeah... you know how it goes for the Giants in these situations.
Giants to watch
Patrick Bailey: Let’s see how the Giants’ switch-hitting rookie stacks up against Rutschman Year Two.
Casey Schmitt: He’s in a bit of a mini slump: .250/.278/.313 over his last 5 games (18 PA), and it turns out, the Giants really need him for their big hits.
Ryan Walker & Luke Jackson: Their stuff looks like solidly above average compared to the rest of the league but can these guys, who aren’t the primary relievers at the moment (Brebbia, Rogers, Rogers, and Doval would be that quarter), stymie any Orioles rallies in the 6th-7th innings? Could be the key to the series.
Taylor Rogers: His month of May was outstanding: 0.96 ERA (3.18 FIP) in 9.1 IP with 13 K/3 BB. Again, given Baltimore’s propensity for rallying late, can this key arm keep them at bay? Their line against lefties is better than the line against righties (.769 OPS vs. 736). That’s 4th in the AL.
Giants vs. Orioles - How will it go?
This poll is closed
Orioles win, 2-1
Giants win, 2-1