Very few times will a major league player come to the plate aiming to hit a home run — or, at least, very few times they’ll admit to approaching an at-bat that way.

But the ball keeps flying off the bats of Orioles hitters at a rate hardly seen, so one recent afternoon, Ryan O’Hearn was posed a difficult question: Why the heck does this team hit so many dingers?

He gathered his thoughts. And, although he started with the fact Baltimore has “good hitters, good hitting coaches,” he went deeper.

“Big, strong, physical guys who hit the ball hard,” O’Hearn said, “and you make good swing decisions and you have great mechanics and a great plan on how to attack a pitcher and all that, and I think it translates to slug and damage — not necessarily home runs but slugging percentage, doubles, triples, homers.

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“I think whenever we hit the ball,” O’Hearn continued, “we want to hit the ball in the air at good angles and hit it hard. That’s what we’ve been doing, and it translates.”

They have been doing just that. According to FanGraphs, Baltimore’s average exit velocity of 90.4 mph entering Thursday’s game was the second highest in the majors. And, with another three homers in Thursday’s series-clinching victory against the New York Yankees, the long ball is playing a major role in the Orioles’ offensive success.

To put all these home runs into context, here are three numbers that help to explain the power barrage in Baltimore.

48

The homer hydration station has been in high demand.

The Orioles lead the majors in home runs with 48 — seven more than the Yankees, who are in second place.

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Baltimore’s long balls have also come in bunches. In April, the Orioles had three or more homers in five straight games, tied for the second-longest streak of any team behind only the 1987 Orioles. They completed a trifecta again Thursday.

Of course, the Orioles aren’t just hitting home runs. Entering Thursday’s series finale, they led the American League with 101 extra-base hits.

Three

Baltimore Orioles catcher James McCann (27) preps the Homer Hydration Station after Gunnar Henderson’s home run during game three of a series against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards on April 17, 2024. The Orioles won Wednesday, 4-2, to sweep the series against the Twins.
Catcher James McCann preps the homer hydration station after the Henderson home run against the Twins. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

This is only the third time in Orioles history the club has hit 48 homers or more in the first 31 games.

By blasting off three times Thursday, the 2024 Orioles drew level for second with their 1996 counterparts at 48 home runs through 31 games.

Through 30 games, the 45 homers this Orioles team slugged were tied for the second most with the 2012 roster. But, in the 31st game of the 2012 season, the Orioles blasted five homers to post 50 — and therefore edge out the 2024 version.

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Of note: The 1996 and 2012 Orioles made the postseason, with the 1996 version advancing to the American League Championship Series. The 2024 Orioles, then, are on a good path.

“Our guys are ready; when the guy makes a mistake in the middle of the plate, we have some strong guys who have the ability to drive the baseball,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I hope we can continue that.”

Eight

Baltimore Orioles right fielder Anthony Santander (25) hits the first home run of the season in a game against the Los Angeles Angels on Opening Day at Camden Yards on Thursday, March 28, 2024. The Baltimore Orioles won their first game of the season, 11-3, against the Angels.
Outfielder Anthony Santander hits the first home run by an Oriole of the season on opening day. He is one of eight players on the team with at least four this season. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Baltimore has its stars, but the power production has been across the board. The Orioles are the only team in the majors with eight players who have clubbed four or more homers (the Yankees, with six players, are the next-closest team).

At this point last year, the Orioles were no offensive slouch. But, in 31 games to begin that season, Baltimore had 38 homers — 10 fewer than this year.

Gunnar Henderson is a large reason there has been such an uptick. At 22, he became the youngest player in major league history to reach 10 homers by the end of April. And in 2023 Henderson got off to a slower start. In March and April last season, Henderson had two homers and a .189 batting average. He didn’t record his 10th homer until June 13.

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Henderson isn’t alone, though, in the bright beginning to 2024.

The other seven players with at least four homers are: Colton Cowser and Cedric Mullins with six, Jordan Westburg and Ryan Mountcastle with five, and O’Hearn, Anthony Santander and Adley Rutschman at four.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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