FanGraphs’ postseason odds do not bode well for the Orioles in 2021, as the preliminary projections gave the club a 0.0 percent chance of competing in October. FanGraphs writer Ben Clemens explained that while the Orioles’ future may be promising, it is incredibly unlikely the team will be competitive during the upcoming campaign.
“We run 10,000 simulations, so they would need to make the playoffs five times to round up to a 0.1 percent chance,” Clemens said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 17. “I haven’t looked through them all individually, but if we ran it a million times they would probably make it once.”
Thus, there is theoretically a nonzero chance at a playoff berth. Clemens said the Orioles’ miniscule odds don’t imply that the Orioles are the worst team in baseball, but rather that they simply have the worst chance of a playoff berth given their division. The American League East is one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball year in and year out.
The simulation takes every single game into account, so the frequency with which the Orioles play games within the AL East hinders their outlook. Clemens emphasized that while the Orioles’ odds aren’t an indictment of the entire roster, this particular team doesn’t stand much of a chance, and a lot of that revolves around the pitching.
“The rotation is most likely John Means and a bunch of guys that you could convince me are fake baseball players,” Clemens said in jest.
Means is the only rotation candidate expected to post an ERA under 5.00 in 2021, according to FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections. The rest of the rotation is expected to be occupied by Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Felix Hernandez, among others. Kremer and Akin were both late additions to the rotation last year. Kremer and Akin had ERAs of 4.82 and 4.56, respectively.
Hernandez had a 6.40 ERA in his last season with Seattle (2019). Another option for the rotation is Jorge Lopez, who was picked up off waivers from Kansas City last season and posted a 6.34 ERA with the Orioles. The high-upside pitching prospects the Orioles do have — such as Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall — aren’t expected to enter the rotation until 2022 at the earliest.
Hitting is where the Orioles appear to be more competitive. Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini have established themselves as legitimate major-league players, and ZiPS projects each to be above-league-average hitters in 2021. Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays should continue to develop as well.
Clemens offered cautious optimism about the state of their lineup.
“They aren’t even remotely the worst offense in baseball. They’re probably the 10th-worst offense in baseball,” Clemens said. “They’ve got a bunch of young, interesting players. Adley [Rutschman] will probably be up this year or next. They’ve got potential.”
When the team elected to trade Manny Machado two years ago, it signaled the beginning of what they are currently in the midst of — a multi-year rebuild. Help could be on the way, with Baseball America indicating the Orioles have the game’s seventh-best farm system, and part of the reason the roster may look the way it does is because it’s simply part of the plan.
“If they were trying to compete this year, they’d have a different pitching staff. There’s guys signing deals for $2 million to $4 million,” Clemens said. “If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that this team would have a zero percent chance of making the playoffs going into 2021, I’d say yeah, that’s kind of what the management is trying to do.”
For more from Clemens, listen to the full interview here:
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