Of all the surprise teams out there, I think the Orioles continue to be the biggest surprise. Not because it’s more surprising they’re in the playoff hunt than the White Sox or A’s, but because they’re doing it the way they are. Some of what I mean, you’ll see in the reasons below. So, if Baltimore makes it into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, how will they fair? Could they bring a championship home?
3 Reasons Why:
- Winning the Tight Ones – I mentioned this one with the Braves, and almost didn’t want to bring it up with them, because I knew I was going to mention it here with Baltimore. But, as good as the Braves are at winning 1-run games, the Orioles are the absolute best in baseball. They’re 27-9! They’re winning 3 of every 4 1-run games they’re in. That’s impressive – and useful come October.
- Touch ‘Em All – only the Yankees have more home runs than the Orioles, which has led to a .418 team slugging pct. It also helps Baltimore to have the 4th best ISO (measures their ability to get extra-base hits) in all of baseball. They will finish the regular season with no less than 5 players with 20+ home runs (Hardy, Weiters, Reynolds, Davis & Jones). And, Texas has proven the last couple years that a lineup that powerful can take you places in the postseason.
- Clutch Pitching – when it’s late in the game, and it’s a tight one, you need a pitching staff that can handle the pressure. Baltimore has certainly been exemplary in that regard this season. In situations that are considered late/close, they have the best ERA in all of baseball (2.25). An absolute must in the playoffs.
3 Why Not:
- Run Differential – this is one of the more bizarre things about the Orioles. The only remaining playoff contenders that have scored fewer runs than Baltimore are the Reds and A’s. But, Cincinnati and Oakland have also allowed fewer runs than any of the other contenders. That’s not the case with Baltimore. In fact, the Orioles have allowed more runs than they’ve scored. They’ve actually allowed more runs than any other playoff contender (unless you think Milwaukee is still in contention at this point). So, they’ve scored less than nearly everyone else, and they’ve allowed more runs to score than anyone else. How is this a playoff team?? This eventually has to catch up with them, right??
- Quick Sand – remember how I said the Braves were an awfully slow team once you got past Bourn? Well, let me introduce you to the slowest team in all of baseball. Baltimore has a pitiful 3.7 team speed rating. They won’t have but 2 players (McClouth & Jones) even reach double-digits in steals this year. Jones is currently leading the team with 15, while McClouth has 10. If you don’t make the defense work, you can’t force errors. And, if you can’t force errors, you can’t get an edge. And, if you can’t get an edge, you’re going to be sitting at home, watching the World Series.
- Too Much Relief – Baltimore wins the close ones in large part because of an excellent bullpen. A bullpen that has the 5th best ERA in baseball. Now, that sounds like this belongs in the reasons why the Orioles could win it all. But, as great as their bullpen has been, it’s been so out of necessity. They’ve pitched the 3rd most innings of any bullpen in baseball, because the Orioles starters have the fewest quality starts of any playoff contender (averaging right around 5.2 innings per start!). Their starters also rank 23rd in MLB with an atrocious 4.50 ERA. Perhaps this explains the run differential issue – their starters allow big innings, that they occasionally are able to overcome to eek out wins. Not a good formula for October, though.
Well, there you have it. Baltimore, in spite of it all, looks to be ready for the postseason. What do you think their chances are?