It’s almost time to put the 2017 major league regular season to rest. How does summer always go by so fast? Our Baltimore Orioles have just 15 games remaining and are sitting three games below .500 at 72-75 and 5 1/2 games back of a wild card spot. The O’s have seen it all over the last six months. They dominated April with a 15-8 record and held on to first place in the American League East until May 20. They had losing months in May, June and July, then rejuvenated their playoff hopes by going 17-12 in August. The Birds were 12 games over .500 early in the season and fell seven games below that mark in mid-July. They had a seven-game winning streak and a seve- game losing streak. They scored 16 runs on Aug. 25 against the Red Sox and allowed 16 on June 10 against the Yankees.
The 162-game grind of a baseball season is full of ups and downs. Ask anyone in the game, they love the classic “marathon not a sprint” cliché because in this case it’s true. Just a few weeks ago, the Dodgers were on pace to break the major league single-season wins record. The talk shows were bringing up the “best baseball team of all time” topic. Then they lost 11 straight games and fell back down to earth a bit. After taking a trip to the World Series in 2016, the Indians found themselves three games back in the AL Central in late May. They just won 22 consecutive games and have a 13 1/2-game lead in their division. That’s how baseball goes.
Throughout the season, the Orioles have been consistent in one aspect of their statistics. It’s an anomaly that I haven’t quite figured out and one that I am sure will be discussed all winter. I am talking, of course, about their home and road splits. At Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles have dominated their opponents with a 44-30 record and seven games remaining. On the road, they are 28-45 with eight contests to go.
It’s been tough to see such a dramatic shift in their performance. If the O’s had played as well away from Baltimore as they had at home, they would undoubtedly be making preparations for the postseason. They would probably be hanging another AL East championship banner on Eutaw Street. Of course, most teams perform better in their home ballpark than they do away from it, but even if the Orioles were an average club on the road this season, they would be in the running for a playoff berth.
The O’s 44 wins in Baltimore place them in seventh place in the home record standings this season. If the season ended today, the other nine teams in the top 10 would make the postseason. Their 28-45 road record ranks 24th in all of baseball. Not surprisingly, no team in the bottom third of that group has realistic playoff expectations.
What has made Manny Machado hit .292 in Baltimore, but .243 on the road? Why have 13 of Welington Castillo’s 19 homers come at Camden Yards? What contributed to Chris Tillman’s 11.69 ERA on the road this season?
There are multiple answers for each scenario and it all adds up to one of the worst road records in baseball. Sure, park factors are a huge contributor to the numbers. Camden Yards is friendly to hitters and home field advantage certainly plays a role in a team’s successes in front of their own fans. Still, it’s puzzling that a team can one of the league’s best in half of their games and one of the worst in the other.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, they were never able to balance their home dominance and road struggles this season and with two weeks remaining, their postseason window appears to be almost completely closed. There were many positives to take away from how the O’s played in Baltimore this season and a lot to build on in 2018. Hopefully they can find more consistency in their splits next year and get back into a postseason race again.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. 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.