Sunday, April 18, 2021

Orioles Victory Card #7: Slow start for Trey

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 7: 6-1 over the Texas Rangers

2019 Topps Gold Trey Mancini

For the second game in a row the Baltimore Orioles found a little bit of offense to support a decent, but short, start from their pitching staff. It took a little while, as Dane Dunning shut them out over the first five innings, but once the Rangers bullpen became involved, the runs started flowing for the O's.

One of the key hits was an eighth inning double by Trey Mancini that broke a 1-1 tie. With DJ Stewart on second and Maikel Franco on first, the veteran outfield ripped a shot into left field that plated Stewart and the O's didn't look back from there.

For Mancini it was only his 10th hit of the season and 3rd double of 2021. He finished the game with a slash line of .172/.234/.379 with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in. Yes, those numbers are well off his usual numbers, but it's early in the season and a lot of players are scuffling through April. And not all of them missed an entire year due to a battle with colon cancer.

I'm pretty sure that even if his numbers don't improve (they will) he's a sure fire lock to win the American League Comeback Player of the Year, an award that no Oriole has won in it's brief, 17-year existence (now is the point where I'm a little sad that 2005 was sixteen years ago). 

As Andrea SK at Camden Chat pointed out in a larger piece on the overall struggles of the O's offense prior to the Texas series, some of Mancini's peripheral stats aren't that bad.

"If you’re secretly wondering if maybe Mancini isn’t quite “back” from Stage 3 colon cancer, his peripherals—especially hard-hit percentage, barrel percentage, and max exit velocity, all top two-thirds of the league—should put those worries to rest. A better explanation for his struggles might be that he’s seeing fewer pitches in the zone (41.3%, compared, say, to 49.5 in 2018), and chasing more. The good news is: there’s nothing wrong with Boom Boom’s strength."

At this point the best thing for Mancini is to get reps. It's hard enough as it is to hit major league pitching, now imagine trying to do it after missing a year. It'll take awhile for him to get back to recognizing pitches and locations. As Andrea pointed out, when he barrels it up, things are just fine. He's just not at the point where he's getting a lot of solid contact.

According to his Baseball Reference page, his batting average on balls in play (BAbip) is only .189. His career mark of .316 is well above the league average of .298. When Mancini is in the groove he is rocketing line drives, mostly to right-center. He's hitting way more ground balls than he has in his career (60% vs. 51.3% career) and pulling it way more (45% vs. 24% through his five years with the Orioles). With the increase in ground balls he's already hit into a league-leading 5 double plays. At least players are getting on base ahead of him.

I'm pretty confident that as he sees more pitches throughout the season those numbers will move back to normal for him. It's early in the season and with two or three multi-hit games like he had on Saturday his numbers will skyrocket back up. Mancini is never going to be a guy challenging for the batting average title, but I won't be shocked if he ends up around .275/.325/.850 with 20-25 home runs and a ton of doubles by the time September rolls around.

He's getting a day off on Sunday, which with the entire time being off on Monday, gives him a nice little break to clear his head and make sure he doesn't get into too many bad habits by pressing. At some point the entire Orioles offense will come around and I'm pretty sure Trey Mancini will be a key part of it.  

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