Zach Wilt: Forget random variation and disrespect, real or imagined

My fellow Orioles fans continuously remind me that Baltimore is a blue-collar town. At heart, we’re a lunch pail-carrying, hard hat-wearing diehard fan base that loves our O’s. Our admiration for the hometown Birds is so deep that our fan base often takes offense when it feels the team isn’t receiving their due credit from the national media.

Admittedly, I’m in the Charm City bubble, but it certainly feels to me that Orioles fans care an awful lot about meaningless power rankings or the order of highlights on “SportsCenter” and aren’t spending enough time truly enjoying the awesome ride that is the 2014 season. This was made evident during the Orioles’ postseason run in 2012, when some baseball analysts referred to the O’s as lucky citing their record in extra-inning and one-run games as well their run differential. Those comments frustrated the fan base and that luck eventually carried them to the American League Division Series, where they lost a hard-fought series to the Yankees, three games to two.

The fans’ feeling of animosity and of being disrespected carried over in 2013 and, naturally, into this season, as well. Here’s the latest example I’ve seen: In his live chat on FanGraphs.com, Dave Cameron was asked why he thinks the Orioles have outperformed projections the past three seasons. Cameron responded by crediting “random variation,” then was flooded with responses from passionate Orioles fans that felt disrespected by the comment.

With respect to Cameron, who I read daily and believe understands baseball analysis from a level I can only ever dream to, at what point does random variation disprove what projection systems say before the season? I would think that three seasons of data would be enough, but what do I know? I’m just a blue-collar Baltimore fan looking for more respect for my O’s.

What I do know is that the Orioles have won eight straight series and are 19 games over .500. I know that they have a comfy seven-game lead in the AL East and that their plus-58 run differential ranks fourth in the American League. The O’s are 24-17 in one run games and 12-4 in extra innings. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Orioles have a 91.7 percent chance of making the postseason and an 86.5 percent chance of winning the AL East. As a team, the O’s have hit .259 this season, which is the sixth-best average in all of baseball. Their bullpen has posted a 3.24 ERA on the season, fourth-best in the AL. To me, that all equates quite understandably to a first-place ballclub.

Of course, there’s been a lot of speculation about how the Orioles would hold up in a short postseason series against some of the best teams in the league. Can their starting staff sustain October’s challenges? It’s certainly a reasonable concern, one that I’ve thought much about as the season progresses, but until the fall rolls around, it’s hard to project. I can tell you that the O’s have winning records against the Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Rays and Blue Jays. They’ve allowed the Royals to score 3.7 runs per game, the Angels to score 2.8 and the Mariners to score 2.0 runs per game.

In the end, none of my statistics or reasoning for the Orioles success actually equate to anything meaningful. Not right now, on Aug. 14. But you know what else doesn’t matter? Power rankings, perceived disrespect from folks in the media or random variation. This game is all about wins and losses, not about what it took to earn them. No one cares that the Red Sox ranked 14th in baseball in staff ERA last year or that they went 8-11 against the Orioles in the regular season. When it was all said and done, they were the champs.

At the end of October, there will be one team popping champagne and celebrating on the field, and that’s the only thing that any fan should worry about. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. The Orioles are here to stay and I’m loving every second of this amazing season. I hope the rest of my fellow fans can do the same.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zamwi. 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.

blog comments powered by Disqus