Posted 07/26/2013 at 09:29 AM
If the season ended today the Baltimore Orioles would slip into the AL playoffs as the second wild card, sitting just above the Texas Rangers. Baltimore is 11 games over .500 for a season that backs up last year’s great run. The Orioles were 93-69 last season but with a run differential of just +7, a mark that was negative much of the season with a historical run of success in close games. Baltimore has over performed its run differential again this season, though not as extremely, sitting just +33 at this point in this season with the Pythagorean method suggesting they should be two games worse in record.
Along with the odd statistics from last season in the out of nowhere season, the Orioles did not make any substantial off-season moves which quieted some of the optimism in Baltimore for a repeat run to the playoffs. Buck Showalter and the front office insisted they had several players coming back from injury that would provide a boost and while players like Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts have not been big factors as expected, a full season with Manny Machado and the huge improvement from Chris Davis has provided the Orioles with one of the top offenses in baseball. While the Orioles as a team do not strikeout as much as expected with Davis and Adam Jones among the league leaders in Ks, Baltimore is the second worst team in baseball in walk percentage, in fact Baltimore is the only winning team in the bottom 10 of baseball in that category.
The Orioles have needed the great offensive numbers as the pitching staff has the fourth highest ERA in baseball with only the Blue Jays, Twins, and Astros featuring worse numbers. The Orioles have the third worst groundball rate in baseball for the pitching staff yet Baltimore has had some good fortune to stay competitive featuring the 6th lowest BABIP in baseball for its pitching staff. Most of the numbers for the pitching staff suggest a team that should have much worse results as Baltimore allows a great deal of home runs and this is a team that has already used 13 different starters this season. Recent acquisition Scott Feldman is the only starter for the team that cracks the MLB top 65 in FIP as this team sorely lacks an ace and continues to get unreliable results on the mound.
Most saw the Orioles as fool’s gold last season but they looked the part in a competitive postseason run. This year Baltimore has many similar statistics that present a worse picture than the standings but the Orioles continue to perform. With the AL East being a strong division the Orioles have not played an easy schedule and the remaining slate will be challenging, including 12 games remaining with Boston and seven games left with the Rays. Baltimore also has an eight-game interleague road trip coming up out west that could be taxing as well. Texas, Oakland, and Tampa Bay all appear to have more favorable remaining schedules so the best shot may actually be to take care of business in the many games against Boston as the Red Sox will face a daunting September slate. While Boston has been the best team in the AL pretty much all season they have not been able to pull away and the AL West and AL East will likely feature a dramatic race with at least five teams fighting for four spots. The Orioles seem to look like one of the more likely teams to fall short but as last season proved this team should not be counted out based on the numbers alone.