Today let’s look at some won-loss math involving the Orioles. Will it explain anything or provide greater insight into the current team situation? Maybe, but very likely not in any significant way.
I just find it interesting and would love to hear what readers think it means, if anything.
Starting with the beginning of the 2020 shortened season and going through the first 31 games of this year, the Orioles over that 91-game sample had a much better record than they have had this year in the 92 games since then.
The 2020 Orioles went 25-35 (.417), and three American League teams had worse records in the 60-game season. They began this year going 15-16 (.484) and, at that point, four AL teams had worse records in 2021. Add those two samples up and you get 40-51 over a 91-game run for .440 baseball. Over a full year, a team playing .440 ball would go 71-91.
Had we asked you at that point how the rebuild was going since the start of the 2020 season, and you based your answer almost solely off the major league team’s record at that exact point, you might not be doing it right, but you would probably have had a much more favorable opinion of the rebuild than you have this morning.
Since the Orioles started this year going 15-16, they are 23-69 (.250). That is .250 ball, and over a full year that is a 40-122 record. Not good at all. No team is playing that badly in the majors right now outside this one.
So why did those first 91 games produce one level of ball and the next 92 produce another, and what does it mean for the rebuilding?
Those are great questions, and probably the answers lie in the eyes of the beholder. This is too simplistic, but last year there were just three AL East teams over .500 and this season there are four. The division is better in 2021 and the second sample comes completely from this year.
The second sample includes significant injury time for John Means, Bruce Zimmermann and many, many others. Some young pitchers on the farm either got up here too quickly or didn’t perform, in some cases, close to even reasonable expectations. The bullpen had wretched stretches and the offense has now scored 28 runs the last 13 games. You have to do a lot wrong to lose 18 in a row.
And the Orioles’ schedule is difficult and seemingly never very forgiving. Look at the first-place Atlanta Braves, who just left Baltimore. As they are surging now they have played 12 of their last 15 games versus teams with current losing records, including the Orioles. So 12 of their last 15. When the O’s resume play tonight against the Los Angeles Angels, they will play a team with a current losing record at 62-64. But of their remaining 39 games, just 11 are versus clubs with current losing records.
So the Braves just played 12 of their past 15 against currently losing-record teams, and the Orioles have only 11 such games coming in their remaining 39 games.
Coming out of the All-Star break, when the Orioles played series versus Kansas City, Washington, Miami and Detroit, Baltimore played 12 of 15 games versus losing-record clubs and went 9-6. The schedule then got much tougher and the long losing streak would begin days later.
None of this excuses a single thing about poor play and a losing streak of 18 games. No excuses. It’s real bad right now, and some national media are jumping on the club. The team is giving them reasons to do that.
The remaining schedule is daunting, as it has been all year. The Orioles don’t measure up now, Captain Obvious called to confirm. But they have to find some ways to start winning and do it soon.
Looking at two very different performances of the team over the last two essentially 90-game samples presents some interesting numbers. Has the team gone backwards? If so, what does it all mean? If they played .440 ball for a recent 90-game stretch, could the next 90 games be much better with some call-ups and additions?
Right now some fans are having a hard time seeing the full rebuilding effort. Yes, the farm system’s No. 2 ranking is great, and Grayson Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman should lead a wave of talent headed this way starting at some point next year. That could be part of a larger process to make this look a lot better soon. But while that is happening the daily and mounting losses beat everyone down, and how could they not?
The fact that rebuilding seemed to be considered a great move (and it worked) when the Cubs and Astros did it, but not so great now that the Orioles are trying it, is puzzling to me. But “tanking” is the buzzword, and if that is the word you like, it used to be more acceptable. For years throwing money at a team to just make a difference between 70 and 76 wins, for instance, seemed to be like spinning your wheels. Some noise, but not much movement.
Building infrastructure and upgrading international scouting and signings and improving data and technology is big for the Orioles. Those who dismiss analytics have their reasons to do it, but when all the best teams are doing it, and previously to a much greater extent than the Orioles, well, the Orioles needed to make some changes.
Seeing an exciting international talent like Maikol Hernandez, discussed on the blog here yesterday is big for the Orioles. He may never see the major leagues. We know that is possible. But what is also possible is that some of those kids signed for $1.2 million with a lot of tools do turn into big leaguers, and some such players have become the best in the game. And they get there, age-wise, much sooner than, say, a college-drafted star like Rutschman. The building of the O’s minor league pipeline has been successful so far under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and needs to continue to be. Maybe even the harshest critics see that.
But right now, Birdland needs to see the Orioles win a game. And then do it more often.