This story has been updated to reflect the proper playoff format.
Earlier this year, the Orioles being in playoff contention at any point after the first month of the season was a laughable thought. Even still, it likely is one.
Now, with the Major League Baseball season shortened to 60 games, there will be a lot more variation for each team on their schedule. For true contenders, it’s a blow to their playoff chances.
For middling teams, and even rebuilding teams, it’s a breath of fresh air.
When Orioles general manager Mike Elias spoke to reporters on Monday, he was asked about the possibility of the club being in contention at any point during the 60-game season.
“I think it’s going to be kind of fun,” Elias said. “I think it’s going to fly by. I think playing the National League East a lot is going to be interesting. I didn’t think our strength of schedule, being an American League East team, could get any tougher, but it actually did. We do have the toughest strength of schedule this year, so it’s not going to be an easy road, but I do think it makes things a little less predictable.”
The Orioles, who are widely expected to be one of the worst teams in baseball, have been projected to win about 20 games in a 60 game sample size. That would put them at, or near, the bottom of the league standings once again.
Should the Orioles get off to a hot start, or pick up steam at any point in the first half of the season to pull themselves over .500, they’d essentially guarantee themselves to be in the playoff conversation for a few weeks.
“The fact that the pitchers may not be totally built up at the beginning of the year, and then you get some extra roster spots with some more pitching changes, maybe that helps us, maybe it doesn’t, but I think it creates a little uncertainty,” Elias said. “And I think our goal is just to be an unpredictable young team that’s scary to play in these circumstances and we mix things up.”
Elias conceded that the club missing its best player from a year ago, Trey Mancini, won’t help the Orioles’ cause. But with a handful of unproven players, it’s within the range of outcomes for the Orioles
“I think that we’ve got a bunch of guys that are playing out there with their careers on the line and they play hard and it’s going to be unpredictable and interesting,” Elias said.
Still, it’s not reasonable to expect the Orioles to be in contention, even for just a playoff spot, for longer than a few weeks this season.
While the 60-game season presents a wide range of outcomes, the organization isn’t going to stray from their mindset of building for the future. Even if that means punting on having a fun August and September.
The 2017 Orioles, a team that finished 75-87, would’ve forced a one-game playoff against the Indians for the right to play in the Wild Card Game. The Orioles were 31-29 after 60 games that season, but finished 44-58 in the final 102 games.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do in this organization to set it up consistently for the future. It was a multi-year effort when it started and it will continue to be a multi-year effort,” Elias said. “We’re making progress in spite of the curveball that this year has thrown at us and so we’re keeping that in our sights, but if we have a chance to make the playoffs this year, we’ll be happy about it and we’re going to look at that very seriously if that’s the position that we’re in.”
Stay connected to the Orioles with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE ORIOLES NEWS: