On my way home from getting my morning coffee, I passed by a kid wearing a Mariners hat. I wanted to ask, “Hey kid, did ya watch Means’ no-hitter last night?” I didn’t because his mother was standing right next to him and she probably would have wondered why some creepy 30-something in Mets garb was talking to her son. Moms usually look down upon that sort of thing, as do most reasonable human beings.
The no-hitter Orioles’ ace John Means pitched yesterday against the Mariners belongs in the history books, as it could have been a perfect game. The only thing separating Means from recording the first perfecto since Felix Hernandez in 2012 was a dropped third strike in the third inning against Sam Haggerty. Although Haggerty struck out, he got to go to first on a technical wild pitch.
For all intents and purposes, Means threw a perfect game in the hearts of many an Oriole fan. He’s the first Orioles pitcher to complete a solo no-hitter for the team since Jim Palmer in 1969, and could have been the first Oriole to pitch a perfect game ever. But Means seems like a good egg, and I’m sure he’ll gladly take the no-hitter credit. He looked cool as a cucumber out there on the mound, even after 100 pitches and 26 outs.
“The Orioles have an ace,” said someone on the Discord after the game, and they’re not wrong at all. Means holds a 1.73 ERA, the third best in the American League behind the Royals’ Danny Duffy and the Yankees’ Gerritt Cole. Throw the National League in there and Means is number five; of course, Jacob deGrom dominates everyone. But Means is lightyears ahead of his colleagues as well. Matt Harvey in his renaissance year has a 4.06 ERA and a 3-1 record compared to Means’ 4-0; other starters like Jorge Lopez and Dean Kremer are putting up K/9 numbers comparable to Means, but they fall behind when it comes to allowing hits, runs, and homers. Means has become the Orioles’ go-to guy when it comes to holding the line for Birdland.
Means himself seems to be having a good year so far, even compared to his 2019 All-Star year. After the first month of play in 2019, Means put up a 2.81 ERA, 25 Ks, a 1.169 WHIP, 8 ER, and 23 H over 25.2 IP. This year after April 30, he recorded a 1.70 ERA, 38 Ks, a 0.838 WHIP, 7 ER, and 21 H over 37 IP. This means his ratios of allowed hits, earned runs, and walks has gone down, which means he’s learning to control the ball better than he did when he got an award for it.
Let’s also consider that Means has pitched as many innings so far this year as he did all of last year in the shortened season. 2020 hurt a lot of players, but Means had a rough go, notching a 2-4 record and a 4.53 ERA. Folks questioned his ability as a starter for the Orioles. But that was 43 innings in ten starts in a year of weird baseball. In 2021, over 46 innings that only spell the beginning of something good for John Means, he has performed so much better than anyone expected. He – along with guys like Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Freddy Galvis, and most of their bullpen – will do their best to power the team to victory.
This is a weird season to sleep on the Baltimore Orioles. They’re last place in the AL East, yes, but with a not-too-shabby 14-15 record and some serious studs on the team, they seem like they could do damage, even if they fall just short of the postseason. Only the Boston Red Sox have held their own in first place while the rest of the division fights for relevance. And sure, the Yankees have picked themselves back up from the bottom, and the Rays and Jays have plenty of power behind them. But the Birds haven’t had a real good season for a while, and with a little extra juice, maybe this is the moment they start to take flight.