An Orioles Postseason – Unusual Territory

NOTE: This is another fantastic post from our intrepid Baltimore correspondant, Gross!

*Writer’s Edit:  This was written prior to Mounty landing on the IL.  If his injury lingers and he starts the postseason down, I still don’t want Hicks on my roster.  Give me the kid who is just mangling the ball….Heston Kjerstad!

Now that BSB is back, let me re-introduce myself.  My name is Gross and I am a diehard O’s fan.  I’m not talking about 2023 we’re here now diehard.  I’m talking about the dog days of August watching the likes of Eric DuBose, Brad Bergensen, Brian Matusz, Daniel Cabrera, Matt Riley and Jake Arrieta…..the Orioles version.  I could sit and write a laundry list of bad Orioles play I have had to watch over the course of my 36 years, but we are here to talk about the positive.  Barring any sort of disaster (which I do not count out) the Orioles are headed to the playoffs.

Let’s rewind slightly.  Like I said, I am 36.  I was born in 1987.  I have never seen an Orioles World Series.  It haunts me.  I’ve seen all of our playoff shortcomings.  In reverse order, Buck bringing in Ubaldo in 2016.  The Orioles getting swept by the Royals after taking down Verlander, Scherzer and Price with the 2014 Tigers.  Nate McLouth’s home run off the foul pole not being counted against the Yankees in 2012.  It was a home run, alright.  In 1997, taking out the Mariners only to run out of steam against the Indians.  Then there was that little son of a bitch from 1996….Jeffrey Maier.  This is all I know of the Orioles postseason…it is pathetic.  I should have known though.  As an infant my first introduction to Orioles fandom and still talked about today is the “magic” 1989 season where the Orioles came “out of nowhere” to fall one game short of the playoffs.  You know you’re down bad when the magic refers to being knocked out of playoff contention.

But not this year!  This year the Orioles are 91-53 and slowly closing in on a 2023 playoff birth and hopefully an American East title.  For the record, I started writing this on Tuesday, September 12 at 10 pm after watching the O’s drop a tough one against the woeful Cardinals.  Can’t tell I am down bad?  I have convinced myself that if I put this out before we clinch I will have jinxed them, so this will come out in a couple of weeks.

For most of my life as an Orioles fan, I have had this twisted fascination with pretending to be the manager and trying to figure out what kind of team I would put into the playoff scenario.  Which 26 guys would make my playoff roster and lead us to me seeing my first ever World Series.  As you can see from what I have told you thus far, that thought is laughable.  “And here comes Daniel Cabrera to start Game One of the 2007 World Series.” BUT this year, it’s different.  This year we actually get to live that fantasy out and put together our roster.  I’m like a kid on Christmas morning.  So that is what this article is going to attempt.

Brandon Hyde is clearly the A.L. Manager of the Year, without question.  Back in February, the Orioles were +7000 favorites to win the World Series.  As of this evening they are down to +800.  That tells you what the sporting world thought of the Orioles….not much.  Nor should they have.  The Orioles came into the season as an incredibly young team bursting with talent but had done nothing to prove they could consistently win.  Add to that a pitching staff that on paper was far from special.  Fast forward to September and they have proven everyone wrong.  A lineup that can score and a pitching staff that has been pieced together, however, have more than held their own.  All of that being said, Hyde’s managerial skills will be put to the test this postseason as he will have some tough choices.

The Roster

Ever since the pandemic, MLB has transitioned from a 25 man roster to a now 26 man roster, which will carry to the 2023 postseason as well.  Most people would think, hey 26 man roster, pretty simple…13 pitchers, 13 fielders, this managerial stuff is easy!  However, the Orioles are a little different.  The O’s are in a unique predicament where the majority of the starting pitching have hit a career high in innings pitched.  At one point, arguably our best starter at the time, Tyler Wells, had gone so far over his innings max, he burnt out and got sent back to Double A for rest and recuperation.  We have not seen him back since.  On top of the starter situation, perhaps the biggest blow to Orioles pitching was the loss of Felix Bautista, the Orioles closer, in late August.  Being in this unique situation leaves the Orioles no choice but to carry 14 arms to the postseason.  So the obvious next question is which 14 arms?  Here are coach Gross’ choices in no particular order:

  1. Kyle Bradish
  2. Dean Kremer
  3. Kyle Gibson
  4. Grayson Rodriguez
  5. Jack Flaherty
  6. John Means
  7. Yennier Cano
  8. Shintaro Fujinami
  9. Jacob Webb
  10. Danny Coulombe
  11. Cionel Perez
  12. Tyler Wells
  13. Mike Baumann
  14. Felix Bautista

Notables Left Off:  DL Hall, Cole Irvin

Now that we have the names, who goes where?

The Rotation

  1. Kyle Bradish – this one is a no-doubter, by far and away the best starter for the Orioles this year.  An argument can be made for a Cy Young for this guy.

2.  John Means – probably the next man up.  Originally this was Kremer but I have had the chance to edit as we have gotten closer to clinching.  I guess a few starts were enough to make him feel comfortable.  I just hope the quick ramp up can hold up.

3.  Grayson Rodriguez – full transparency here, I had Kyle Gibson in this spot originally.  I took a pause from writing this to be laser focused on the Rays series and after the performance GRod put up in arguably the biggest game of the year, he gets the ball, no question.

4. Dean Kremer – I’ll be honest, Kremer and GRod are the same guy at this point, to me.  Guys who when on can be lights out.  GRod is clearly the more talented pitcher, no argument, but he is still young, which I do think matters as the pressure ramps up.  Then again, the entire team is young, which I think leads to me wanting to lean on guys like Means, Kremer and I guy we have not mentioned Gibson.  Veterans have been a quietly important part of this ball team the entire year, we shouldn’t forget that in October.

The Bullpen

Let’s face it, nobody really cares about the middle inning bullpen guys, everyone’s focus when it comes to a bullpen is who is handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.  Felix getting hurt is as heartbroken as I haven been as an O’s fan in quite some time.  Watching of all people, Jose Bautista, end our 2016 season and send the franchise into a tailspin is probably the last time I felt the way I did when Felix came out of the game injured.  

I’ll be honest, I am struggling with this decision.  Aside from Bautista and Cano, the bullpen has been the biggest question mark about this Orioles team for the majority of the season.  I’m not in love with the idea of moving guys out of roles they have cemented most the year, i.e. Cano, but we might not have much of a choice here.  Ever since the Bautista injury, nobody has locked in their role.  Guys have been getting called up, sent back, moved into different scenarios, it has been a cluster.  One thing I would like to see Hyde do with the last 14 games is start defining roles for October.

7th Inning:  Mike Baumann

  • Some people might be worried about this choice and I get it but Baumann has been a workhorse for the O’s.  He is second in innings pitched in the O’s bullpen, only behind Cano and he would have been third had Bautista stayed healthy.  All that tells me one thing, Hyde trusts him.  He recently got sent down to get a breather and get ready for October.  Called up again last night and the first game back he saw action.

Others Considered – Danny Coulombe, Cionel Perez

Set-Up Man: Jacob Webb

  • Mike Elias has done almost nothing wrong.  I say almost nothing because he traded for Jack Flaherty….turns out that was a really bad idea.  But what was not a bad idea was picking up Jacob Webb for free.  By the way…the Angels are a disaster.  If you are Mike Trout how do you not scream from the mountain tops trade me.  Story for a different day.  In 20 appearances with the O’s this year, Webb has only given up runs in 3 of said appearances.  His stuff is good, getting away from the Angeles has looked good on him, he doesn’t appear to get rattled, he is the guy!

Others Considered – Shintaro Fujinami, John Means

Closer: Yennier Cano

A bit of a no brainer.  I’ll be honest, I’m not in love with him in this spot.  Bullpen guys are weird, whenever you move them out of their defined roles, things can go poorly, but we have no choice.  You look at the roster and I don’t see any other options.  I honestly cannot see a way in which Bautista returns and is effective, so Cano has the ball when it matters most.

Alright, now that we got the staff set up for the postseason, let’s talk about the lineup.  I’m going to give a pretty generic lineup here, obviously things change when it comes to who is on the bump facing the Orioles, but this is the 12 man bench and ideal lineup I would like to see when we get to the postseason.

  1. Adley Rutschman
  2. James McCann
  3. Ryan Mountcastle
  4. Ryan O’Hearn
  5. Adam Frazier
  6. Jordan Westberg
  7. Gunnar Henderson
  8. Jorge Mateo
  9. Ramon Urias
  10. Cedric Mullins
  11. Austin Hays
  12. Anthony Santander

I love these 12 guys, it’s a group that provides versatility and is the group that can be the most dynamic when we get into the postseason.  If you know the Orioles, you will notice that I only have 3 outfielders listed.  That is on purpose.  I am tired of watching Aaron Hicks lallygag all over the field.  He came to us in a time when we desperately needed him with Mullins and Hays injured and we thank him for his service but I am over it.  We have seen Adam Frazier as well as Ryan O’Hearn play in the outfield this year if need be so we are just fine.  Another question mark might be seeing Jorge Mateo make this roster.  Jorge has been a guy who was Baltimore’s beloved shortstop last season, having an emerging year and making a name for himself as the Orioles transitioned from a dumpster fire to a competitive ball club.  This season he has lost a significant amount of playing time, not only to performance but due to the fact that the young core of the Orioles has been called up to the big leagues, so playing time has been scarce. So why does he make the roster?  Simply….speed.  If we need a pinch runner, this is the guy.  If we need a bag stolen or a guy to score from first on a ball in the gap….it’s Mateo.  You just don’t disregard an elite level skill like that when it comes to the postseason.  He is also no slouch when it comes to playing shortstop either.

Now that we have our 12 bench spots, let’s get to that lineup.

  1. Cedric Mullins (CF) – he strikes out a little too much for my taste but he has speed, excellent with the bat can lay down a bunt whenever need be and it gets Adley out of the leadoff spot.

2.  Adley Rutschman (C) – love Adley here.  Switch hitter so it will break up the left handed heavy lineup.  Hits for a ton of contact, smart hitter, can move runners.  He has to be here.

3.  Gunnar Henderson (SS) – dude is a stud.  I’m of the belief that Adley is our best hitter but every time I watch Gunnar I get swayed a little more in his direction.  Power, contact, speed, he has it all.

4.  Anthony Santander (RF) – Sandy is having the best year of his career from a power perspective.  He is also a guy worthy of being in this spot to protect Gunnar.

5. Ryan Mountcastle (1B) – When Mounty’s bat gets hot, he might actually be the best hitter in this lineup.  Was knocked out for a month with a bout of vertigo but is still going to hit 20 dingers and drive in 75 by the time the season ends.  Also a right handed bat to break up the lefties.

6. Ryan O’Hearn (DH) – how god damn good has this guy been.  A guy who the Royals, yes THE ROYALS, did not think was good enough to play for that team, has come in to hit .295 13 dingers and 55 RBIs in 298 at bats.  He has become a hometown favorite and he hits 6th in my lineup.

7. Austin Hays (LF) – Hazy is another guy who is having a career year.  Named an All-Star back in July, not too shabby to have your 7th guy in the lineup hitting .281.  Also another righty to balance out the lineup…I am getting pretty good at this.

8. Adam Frazier (2B) – listen Jordan Westberg is going to play plenty.  This is one of those examples of how the lineup will change dependent upon who is pitching.  Frazier has been an incredible vet to have to show the young guys on this team the ropes.  He has also hit for a career high in home runs this season.

9. Ramon Urias (3B) – See my previous comments about Westberg here.  The reason I am starting with Urias is simple, his glove.  An excellent fielder, I am always going to lean on the defense first so Urias gets a spot.

There we have it, the Orioles postseason roster.  This is great, it makes me feel alive.  I considered dedicating a portion of this blog to who we would play but quite frankly, I don’t care.  I think this team can compete with anyone.  Will it be tough?  No shit, it’s the playoffs.  But this young team is different, they are special.  This team can compete.  This team can make a run.  This team can win a World Series.  This team can win me my first World Series.  LET’S. GO. O’s!

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