Playoff experience can be valuable and now the O's have it

When the Orioles took the field last October for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Texas, they looked like a pretty complete team. One that produced 101 wins and a division championship, had an emerging young talent base and a few different ways to beat their opponent.

There was at least one element missing however – they had little playoff experience.

A few veteran players had played in the postseason before, such as Aaron Hicks, Adam Frazier and James McCann and a few pitchers had a few postseason innings like Kyle Gibson, Jacob Webb and Jack Flaherty, but the core of the roster did not. Their young talent which led the club all year, did not.

Was that the reason Texas swept the Orioles three in a row? Well, not the only reason but more likely one of many. The five-day layoff between the regular season and the first playoff game seemed challenging for several teams that won 100 games to include the Orioles. That was another factor. So was the fact that within the playoffs, teams generate their own momentum, and it can come fast. Texas swept two straight from Tampa Bay and was a team starting to roll when they arrived in Baltimore.

They let the AL West get away from them late in the year. But as a No. 5 seed, they rolled to the World Series title. The playoffs are a crapshoot and unpredictable and that has as much to do with the loss as anything most likely.

There were a lot of reasons given for the loss and many may have had some validity.

But when next October rolls around, should the O’s be back in the playoffs, now most of their players have at least some playoff experience to lean on.

Cross that one off the list.

Will it help? Should it help? Yes, and yes you hope.

Because in addition to learning about the big stage and the big pressure that comes with a postseason game, players, teams, managers and coaches, must learn to deal with the challenges of the postseason schedule.

Starting with the first day after the last O’s regular season on Oct. 1, there were nine days remaining in the Orioles season. They played a game on just three of them. Beyond the five-day layoff before the ALDS, they played two postseason games in Baltimore and then had another off/travel day heading to Texas.

This all was different to the players.

Trends from the regular season that led teams to get to the postseason, can be almost meaningless once the postseason games start.

On their way to the WS title, Texas went 11-0 in road games. The Rangers were 40-41 on the road during the season. They had a losing record in one-run games (14-22) during the regular year. So of course, they went 3-1 in one-run games during the postseason and 2-0 in two-run games. Texas was a team that entered the postseason with their bullpen ranked 11th in the AL. And of course, during the postseason, the trio of José Leclerc, Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz pitched to a combined 2.14 ERA.

So too in the postseason can be the unusual game times that differ from the season. So too can be the media crush that is not experienced previously. So too can the fact be that the clubhouse is closed to media before a playoff game. Players are used to interaction and pregame banter with media for 162 games and the preseason and then it’s all different in October. Maybe they missed us!

The bigger point is not about media but just that so much is different when Game 162 is over, and the biggest games of the year arrive on the biggest stage.

All those O’s players, who had no such experience before 2023, now have at least some. We can no longer say they’ve never been there before.




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