What a difference a week makes. Just seven days ago, the Orioles appeared to be a team that had slid out of wild-card contention in the American League, their starting rotation was in shambles with Jason Hammel’s knee injury and the downward spiral had officially begun.
Over the weekend, the Orioles picked up four games in the AL East race thanks to a nifty little winning streak and some help from the Oakland Athletics. As of this morning, the Birds are half-game back in the wild card race behind the Angels and A’s.
The 2012 season has been a wild ride for Orioles fans, but I stand by my opinion that no one should be disappointed in the overall product thus far. There is plenty of room for improvement, but if you told me back in spring training that the Orioles would be 51-45 on July 24 - no matter how they had gotten there - I would have been impressed.
While some have started printing their playoff tickets, (even if it’s only for one game) many have been cautiously optimistic about the Orioles’ success. A number of O’s fans have compared the team’s 2012 success to that of the 2005 season. We all know how that one ended.
So I decided to travel back in time seven years to examine the Orioles’ season up to July 24. Here’s what I found.
July 24, 2005 record: 97 games played - 50-47
July 24, 2012 record: 96 games played - 51-45
Back in ‘05, the Birds were in third place behind the Yankees and 3.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox for the lead in the AL East. They trailed Minnesota and Oakland (both 53-45) by 2.5 games for the AL wild card.
At that point in the season, the Orioles were in the middle of what would be a season-high-tying six-game losing streak. They would win just one more game in July and finish the month 8-18 with a minus-37 run differential.
As of today, the Orioles are riding high after winning five of their last six games despite their minus-46 run differential on the season.
So when did it all go wrong back in 2005 and how can the Orioles avoid it this go-around?
On July 14, 2005, the Orioles began the second half of the season with a grueling 10-game road trip. After taking three of four at home against the Red Sox before the All-Star Break, the O’s traveled west to face the Mariners for another four-game set. Baltimore took the first two games of the series and then dropped the next two. They would only win one of their remaining six games on the road trip against the Twins and Devil Rays.
That 3-7 trip set the Birds back from seven games over .500 and two games back of the AL East lead, to three games over .500 and 3.5 games back.
On July 29, 2005 the Orioles fell to .500 (51-51) for the first time since early April and were never able to recover. An 11-17 August, 10-18 September and 2-0 October put the Birds in fourth place in the AL East with a 74-88 record at the season’s end.
Poor pitching killed the Orioles in the second half of the season. In their final 65 games, the Orioles allowed four or more runs 44 times, five or more runs 39 times and six or more runs 30 times. Their opponents recorded double-digit runs totals in nine of the O’s final 65 games.
Of course, their success this season will come down to pitching. During their last six games, O’s starters have all recorded quality starts with a 2.21 ERA.
If Baltimore wants to avoid a repeat of 2005, it will have to continue to get solid starts from the rotation. Adding a starter at the deadline could be beneficial for this club, but the offense has proven that with a quality start, this team can win ballgames.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.