Before the season began, discussion about the Orioles mostly consisted of the assumption that another last-place finish in the American League East and a boring, problematic season full of losses was in store.
Now, through the team’s first 17 games, they’ve been carried by a red-hot offense, a surprisingly stable pitching staff and a propensity to win grind-em-out games. With a 10-7 record, they’re currently in a playoff spot in the AL.
Is this an indictment of where they’ll finish the season? Absolutely not. But with more than two-thirds of the season left to play, they’re approaching win totals expected of them in a 60-game season.
hahahahahahahahaha pic.twitter.com/r4FTExKyWA— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) August 14, 2020
At the start of the season, few gave the Orioles a chance to even reach .500, let alone make the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight projected the Orioles would finish 21-39 — the worst record in the sport — and projected they were the only team in the league with less than a one percent chance to make the playoffs. As of 4:41 p.m. on Aug. 13, the record rose to just 25-35 with a 14 percent chance of a playoff berth. Then, the Orioles went out and beat the Phillies for the third-straight game.
Analytical projections weren’t kind, as Fangraphs and PECOTA each projected the Orioles would win 19 and 21 games, respectively. Both projections had the Orioles as the worst team in the sport.
The ZiPS projected standings had the Orioles at 19-41, eight games behind the fourth-place Blue Jays. It gave them just a 0.9 percent chance to make a wild card spot and a 1.3 percent chance to make a playoff spot. It also had the Orioles with a .525 strength of schedule, the hardest in the league.
PECOTA projected the Orioles at 21.5-38.5 with 255 runs scored and 339 runs allowed, both the worst marks in the league. Through 17 games, they’ve scored 96 runs and allowed 81 — a pace of 350.1 runs scored and 285 runs allowed.
Human projections weren’t kind either. The Score projected the Orioles would go 15-45 and finish 13 games behind the fourth-place Blue Jays. CBS Sports had the Orioles’ over-under at 20.5 wins. They’re almost halfway to hitting the over with 43 games left to play.
No one saw this coming from the Orioles this season, as they’ve firmly entrenched themselves as a playoff contender for the next few weeks — even if they suffer a handful of losses in succession.
I wrote on July 22 that the Orioles would be the worst team in the sport. Right now, they’re making me look stupid.
With a four-game set against the Nationals upcoming, which includes the completion of a game the Orioles are winning 5-2, the path is there to not just make the Orioles a wild card contender, but a team that has a legitimate, and perhaps probable, shot of making the playoffs.
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