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FanGraphs projects Orioles to face the toughest schedule in MLB

FanGraphs projects Orioles to face the toughest schedule in MLB

FanGraphs released its playoff odds for the 2020 season on Thursday and the Orioles were one of two teams (alongside the Seattle Mariners) to receive a 0.0% chance of making the postseason.

It’s an unsurprising figure for a club that lost 108 games last year and did little to improve its major-league roster this winter. One number that stands out, however, explains exactly why Baltimore was the only team projected to finish with fewer than 60 wins.

When computing its playoff odds, FanGraphs takes into account each team’s strength of schedule. The Orioles are projected to face opponents with an average winning percentage of .515, which is tied with the Mariners and Miami Marlins for the highest in baseball.

The Orioles reside in the American League East, where they’re subject to facing 19 times each two teams that made the playoffs last season (New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays), another that projects as an 88-win team (Boston Red Sox) and a club in the Toronto Blue Jays that figures to take a step forward in 2020.

Outside their division, the Orioles will also face a tough slate of interleague play with the National League Central—a division with four teams hoping to be competitive this year—on their schedule in addition to four games against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals. They also have to face several AL teams that are chasing the pennant in 2020, including the Houston Astros, Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox.

Here’s how FanGraphs projects the AL East to shake out.

  1. Yankees – 96.8 wins
  2. Rays – 91.5
  3. Red Sox – 88.7
  4. Blue Jays – 73.7
  5. Orioles – 59.3

It’s going to be a long summer in Baltimore.

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Orioles are not letting postponement get in the way of their pitchers' development

Orioles are not letting postponement get in the way of their pitchers' development

The Orioles were supposed to be in the midst of their opening series of the 2020 season against the Yankees this weekend.

But due to the league’s shutdown because of coronavirus, Camden Yards remained empty on what would have been Opening Day. 

Now, the Orioles are stuck with decisions on how to keep their players — notably their pitchers — in form for whenever the season comes back. The problem is, however, that no one knows when baseball will return.

“I think we’ll hopefully have a better idea as we go along,” manager Brandon Hyde said a little over a week ago on a conference call, “But as of right now, it’s a real individualized plan for everybody that our medical team as well as our trainers, strength coaches, pitching coaches, have all gotten together with on conference calls and how we were going to really talk and put these plans in place for our pitchers.”

John Means, who was likely the starter for the season opener against the Yankees, has already kept up with live batting practices.

For a young team like the Orioles, development is paramount. That’s not the easiest thing to work through when there’s not a set end date for baseball’s return.

“But the first thing was to get our pitchers in a healthy place, a safe place, and now we’re talking about what kind of throwing program that they’re going to be on here for a while with an unclear date of when that’s going to end,” Hyde continued.

While the starting rotation, likely, would’ve been a bit older at the outset of the season with Asher Wojciechowski (31), Alex Cobb (32) and Wade LeBlanc (35) all figured to see significant innings, the youth movement of the pitching staff was likely to come later in the season. 

Now, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding a unit that was the league’s worst just a season ago.

“I think it is impactful in that there’s a lot of development to be had by a lot of players, obviously,” Hyde said. “This can cripple the development a little bit in that you want guys to get innings, you want guys to get at-bats, you want the guys to go through full seasons. That’s really important, especially early on in understanding what it takes to live through a full season and to compete for a full season, so that’s going to be cut short. But it’s something that everybody is dealing with.”

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The quietest Opening Day in Camden Yards’ history

The quietest Opening Day in Camden Yards’ history

BALTIMORE — At first glance, the corner of West Camden and Eutaw Street in Baltimore offered no signs anything was amiss. 

The wind breezed lightly through the city on a late-March afternoon, where the temperature neared 60 degrees and partly cloudy skies allowed the sun to shine bright on an early spring day. 

The trees that bloomed all around Oriole Park at Camden Yards at every street corner meant warmer weather was here and baseball season had arrived.

On Thursday, though, there was no baseball. There won’t be baseball Friday either, and there won’t be baseball for, at the very least, a few more weeks — and perhaps longer. 

Two weeks ago, Major League Baseball announced the postponement of the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. There still isn’t a known start date for the 2020 regular season. Instead of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole making his AL East debut against John Means — the likely starter for the Orioles — baseball stood still.

“It’s going to be weird knowing that we’re not playing,” manager Brandon Hyde said last Thursday on a conference call. “But there are a lot bigger things than Opening Day right now and a lot bigger things going on in the world.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to businesses operating in a limited capacity, if at all, as every aspect of life around Baltimore and the U.S. has changed drastically in the last two weeks. As Thursday proved, not even the Orioles are insusceptible. 

Opening Day almost assuredly wasn’t going to be the start of a miraculous run toward relevance for the Orioles. But it was the first chance for fans to see the new look Orioles squad, now in the second year of a rebuild, try and get halfway to the total wins they had over the Yankees last season — two. 

And with the game postponed, perhaps the most human part of Opening Day was canceled, too.

Pickles Pub wasn’t filled to the brim with Orioles fans clad in orange and black, paying no mind to the time or the drinks in their hands. Street vendors weren’t selling hot dogs to parents and kids who decided playing hooky for the day would be a better use of their time. 

John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” didn’t blare through the speakers in the late afternoon for the seventh-inning stretch, either. 

Instead, one of baseball’s most beautiful parks was quiet on the most celebrated day of the season.

Neighborhood streets and parking lots around Camden Yards were filled with cars, but only because everyone sat at home with no baseball game to attend to. 

The earliest, and 66th, Opening Day in Baltimore Orioles history didn’t happen. The Orioles are now ontrack, should the season resume, for the latest Opening Day in history. 

For now, the park will remain closed. Over 10 days ago, the CDC recommended gatherings of more than 50 people be stopped for at least eight weeks, which could lead to some clues as to when Eutaw Street is filled once again.

That reality is, however, that the corner of West Camden and Eutaw will remain quiet for the foreseeable future. 

Opening Day will come for Baltimore in the 2020 season. 

The biggest question, though, is when?

“Opening Day is such a special day, and there’s a lot of emotions that go through everyone involved in an opening day ceremony,” Hyde said. “It’s something you never forget. This year is going to be pushed back. Now, we’re going to be looking forward to the 2020 opening day, whenever that is.”

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