Finding spots to back Baltimore won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. The Orioles are locked in a division with two teams that could very well win 100 games and a Rays team that should be a fixture in the Wild Card race. The Blue Jays are a more comparable foe, but Toronto went 14-5 against Baltimore last season.
Everybody knows how bad the Orioles are. When they play good teams, they’ll be a significant underdog. When they don’t, they’ll still likely be an underdog.
Here’s a good prop bet for you: Will the Orioles be a favorite of -150 or higher at any point this season?
It happened three times last year. Kevin Gausman was -151 against the Tigers on April 29. Dylan Bundy was -155 against the Royals on May 8 and Gausman was a -153 favorite against the Marlins on June 15. The Orioles were 1-2 in those games. They won’t play Miami again and Gausman is gone to Atlanta.
Money Line Spots
Situationally, the Orioles might sneak up on some teams. For example, if the Yankees or Red Sox come off of facing each other or the Rays. Other visiting teams may swing through Washington D.C. for interleague or head down the east coast from Boston or the Bronx. A lot of teams will take games for granted against the Orioles.
Baltimore was 21-33 against left-handed starters last season, which wasn’t great, by any means, but also not terrible. They were 26-82 against right-handed starters. The Tigers, Royals, and White Sox lost 74, 74, and 75 games, respectively, but keep in mind that they also face the Indians’ elite rotation of righties.
The problem for Baltimore is that the team had a putrid offense last season and that was with guys like Manny Machado and Adam Jones. Jones isn’t much of a hitter at this stage, but at least he’s better than what the Orioles will be throwing out there this season. Even with one of the league’s worst starting rotations, the Orioles should be an under team. They slanted that way last season at 83-73-6 to the under. I would expect a bigger split to the under this year.
The Orioles have (finally) embraced analytics. Typically, it is quicker to make gains on the pitching side than the hitting side with analytics. I would expect their pitchers to show strides faster than the lineup.
Individual Players to Watch
Alex Cobb – Cobb is one guy I discussed at length in my season preview. In the first half, he allowed a .310/.358/.541 slash and a .378 wOBA. In the second half, he allowed a .229/.288/.377 slash with a .287 wOBA against. Cobb is mostly a one-pitch pony with a splitter that he needs to throw a ton in order to be effective. The average exit velocity against on Cobb’s splitter went from 86.1 mph in the first half to 83.4 mph in the second half. His overall exit velocity against dropped from 89.3 mph to 86.5 mph from first half to second half.
He’s accustomed to embracing data after a long stint with the Rays to open his career. He’s the only starter I’d confidently consider in this rotation.
Dylan Bundy – Let’s talk about Bundy for a second. Bundy did make some smart decisions with his arsenal, as he threw his slider more and his changeup and curveball less last season. The problem is that Bundy, a perennial injury risk, needs to be one of those 30+% slider guys to be really effective. If that’s a change that we see happening, I’ll bump his stock. If not, his arsenal is rather pedestrian otherwise, especially with a velocity drop last season.
Mychal Givens – The anchor of the Orioles pen is a little scary. Givens posted a 3.99 ERA with a 64.5 percent LOB%, which is a positive sign. On the other hand, his strikeout rate fell, his walk rate went up, and his 5.0 percent HR/FB% is likely in line for some regression. This is not a good bullpen. Givens is the best of the bunch, but full-game betting with Baltimore will be scary because this bullpen will struggle to hold the rare leads it will be trusted to protect.