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Defying the ‘Law’ of Regression: A Fresh Look at the Baltimore Orioles

Ryan Mountcastle grand slam
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In the world of sports, particularly baseball, ‘regression’ is a term you’ll often hear. It’s a concept that suggests a team or player who’s been performing exceptionally well, well above their established mean performance, is due to slide back towards their average — or in simpler terms: “they’ll come back down to earth.”

It’s not necessarily a doom and gloom prediction; it’s just the cycle of sports. Peaks and valleys are all part of the journey. However, when it comes to our Baltimore Orioles, the chorus of analysts (and parrots) prophesying regression might want to hold their fire. The way Baltimore “regresses,” could be unpredictable.

The biggest source of uncertainty is missing information. This Orioles’ team is still coalescing. I’m not sure if a concrete, established mean performance level for this group exists because it’s continually evolving, with new players finding their footing and the team’s chemistry still in the making. A firm ‘average’ performance level for them simply hasn’t been set. This is a crucial point because regression, by definition, implies a return to a mean or average. If the average isn’t even established yet, what’s there to regress to?

If the Orioles true average performance level is still taking shape, then predicting an imminent regression would be putting the cart before the horse. The organization is a potpourri of talent still finding its feet and forming synergies on the field. As they continue to do so, their mean performance level could actually continue shifting upwards, dragging the unit’s eventual mean along with it. Predicting regression now would be akin to shooting at a moving target.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Every team eventually regresses. It’s just the law of averages. Generally speaking, yes, over a long enough timeline, peaks and troughs even out. However, there’s a difference between inevitable, long-term regression and an imminent, certain downturn, and I’m starting to see these lines blurred when it comes to analysis for the Orioles. The former is an inherent aspect of sports; the latter seems more a case of premature judgment.

The Orioles, in essence, are a team in flux, with a promising upside. Their performances might waver, their lineup might see changes, but with every game, they’re building towards a stronger and more cohesive unit. Their journey is still unfolding, and with such dynamic progress, “regression” just may look completely different than some are suggesting.

The long and short of it: while the concept of regression is well-established in sports analytics, the Orioles may just decide to play the bad guys here. They’re a squad that’s writing their own narrative in real time, a narrative that might not adhere to the expected ‘laws’ of sports statistics. Or at least not in the ways and times that analysts believe. In the thrilling unpredictability of sports, this team might just be preparing to break a few ‘laws’ and continue exceeding expectations.

After all, what’s a great story without a few outlaws?

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