So can the Orioles keep it real interesting in a 60-game season by playing much better than expected at the outset and moving into contention? It seems unlikely, but with a 30-game midpoint it would seem they could put together a run in that span that leaves them close to a playoff berth.
Yep, some strange things can and likely will happen in a 60-game season. The Cy Young Award winner might win just six games. We could see a .400 hitter. And we could see unlikely teams in the playoffs.
It would really be unlikely that the Orioles are one of those teams. But if we had started the 2019 season last June 28, the Orioles would have begun the season 5-3 and 13-11 after 24 games. They’d be a contender after 24 games with just 36 to play. It would be like contending into late August.
No one expects to see this, and that is what would make it a real surprise. The Orioles did go 12-12 last July, but that was followed by a 9-19 August, so 21-31 (.404) over the two months. That would not nearly be good enough.
Here is something worth pondering: Can a small-sample-size hot streak from over three months ago carry over when the games actually count in late July?
We’re talking about Chris Davis and how he looked great in spring training 1.0. In nine games he hit .467/.615/1.067. He went 7-for-15 with three homers and nine RBIs. He walked nine times and struck out just three times. He used the entire ballpark. He looked very comfortable and the weight and strength he added seemed to help him at least be more confident.
It was a long time ago now, but on March 3 I interviewed Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias on an Orioles.com broadcast. We talked at length about Davis’ hot spring start.
“Well, we don’t get caught up in spring training results, but that said, he looks better this spring than he did last spring,” Elias said then. “Just the freeness of his at-bats. He’s not getting locked up like we saw last spring. He’s choosing the right pitches and pitchers have been forced to respect that a little bit more. You know it’s early, but I think we’re as optimistic as I could have imagined for March 3.”
An obvious question was whether his hot hitting could continue into the regular season, which at that point was set to begin March 26.
I don’t know,” said Elias. “I’m hoping so. As a scout and a talent evaluator, and our coaches will agree, he just does look better. The way he’s going about things, the way he’s managing things, the way the ball is coming off his bat.
“I would hope to think that translates, but spring training is spring training. Sometimes the lights go on and pitchers are working on attack plans and advanced analytics comes out where they are pitching with attack plans. Teams aren’t doing that as much in spring training. But this was exactly what I was hoping to see from him on March 3.”
How many wins in a short season?: The online sportsbook betonline.ag has put out some over and under win totals for the 2020 season of 60 games. The Orioles and Detroit Tigers are tied for the lowest total of 21 1/2. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees share the most wins at 38 1/2.
Here is a rundown of the American League East
38 1/2 - New York Yankees
33 1/2 - Tampa Bay Rays
31 1/2 - Boston Red Sox
28 1/2 - Toronto Blue Jays
21 1/2 - Baltimore Orioles
Going by this, the other division winners would be Minnesota (34 1/2) in the AL Central and Houston (35 1/2) in the AL West. Atlanta and Washington (33 1/2) are tied for most wins in the NL East, with St. Louis (32 1/2) ahead of the pack in the NL Central and the Dodgers in the West.
We didn’t discuss win totals, but my colleague Roch Kubatko and I did discuss several O’s topics in a Zoom video yesterday that you can see at the end of this entry. We did discuss if the O’s could be surprise contenders for a stretch of the year, and also Davis’ outlook. We talked about how the trade deadline could impact the Orioles and how they might use some of their prospects on a roster of 60 players. That and more in the discussion, so check out this video.