It’s that time of year again, the MLB All-Star break. The traditional yearly barometer for how the regular season will shake out as far as the standings go.
For the defending American League East Champion Baltimore Orioles, what a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Orioles stood alone atop the AL East, 5 games up on the Toronto Blue Jays, with a record of 52-42. This year, the Orioles sit in 3rd place, 4 games behind the 1st place New York Yankees. For the Orioles, the biggest difference has been their performance away from the friendly confines of Camden Yards. Pre-All Star Break 2014 the Orioles were 26-19 (.578) on the road, this season they are a paltry 17-26 (.395). That is a difference of over 18% between then and now. Other than that the Orioles haven’t been drastically different than they were last year, just a little unlucky on the road it would seem.
So far this season, through 88 games, the Orioles have scored 387 runs, 2 more than the 385 they had scored thru their 1st 88 games last season. Despite the common misconception that the pitching staff has regressed, the Orioles have actually given up 14 fewer runs (348) than the 362 they gave up through 88 games in 2014. The Orioles staff has given up the 2nd fewest runs in the AL East and 6th fewest in the AL. On the flip side they have scored the 2nd fewest runs in the East but outside of the East only 3 teams (Detroit, Houston and Oakland) have scored more runs than the Os. With slightly more offense and fewer runs given up, the Orioles .500 record and .053 drop in winning percentage from last season doesn’t seem to make sense on paper. On paper, their Expected Win-Loss Record is 48-40 which would put them tied with the Yankees for 1st place and exactly where they were after 88 games, record wise, last season when their Expected Win-Loss Record was 46-42. Unfortunately for the Orioles, like Bill Parcells said, “You are what your record says you are” and they are a .500 ball club at the All Star Break and 4 games back in the East. One drastic difference between the seasons is Postseason Probability. Through 88 games in 2014, the Orioles Postseason Probability was 45%, this season they sit at 17%. A look at these numbers makes things look murky for the 2015 Orioles but there is still plenty of time for the Birds to turn things around.
These numbers show, in theory, the Orioles have just run into bad luck this season, something they have not run into much since Buck Showalter came to town. As much as they have struggled to put everything together, they are far from out of things can change in the division quickly. Right out of the gate in the 2nd half of the season, the Orioles go on a 9 game road trip starting with 3 games in Detroit and then onto battle the two teams ahead of them in the East with 3-game series’ in New York and Tampa. The Orioles control their own destiny in the 2nd half with 29 of their final 74 games against division opponents including 6 against the Yankees and 11 against the Rays. Assuming Buck’s Orioles can turn that luck around, there is no reason they can’t repeat as AL East Champs. Sitting 4 games back in the division rather than on top, the Orioles may look like a different team in 2015, but looks can be deceiving.