*stay with me here
The Birds completed a three-game sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night, on the back of another 15-hit performance. The 11-4 win was the Orioles’ fifth straight win. Remember, MLB is only playing 60 games here in this truncated 2020 season, so each game is the equivalent of 2.7 games. Winning five straight in a 60-game season is therefore the equivalent of winning (2.7 x 5 = 13.5) 14 games in a regular year.
That’s nothing to sneeze at. Thanks to my friend Rob (@oriolesfactoids) we know that 46 teams have won 14 or more straight in an MLB season. Of those, 37 have made the playoffs (80%).
Thanks to @stathead I'm counting 46 teams with ≥ 14 straight wins in a season; of them, 37 have made playoffs. Most recent failure: 1994 Royals, who won 14 straight and stood in 3rd place at 64-51 when the strike hit.
— Rob Daniels (@oriolesfactoids) August 14, 2020
And of course, those occurred in years where far fewer than 16 teams appeared in the postseason, as is set to be the case in 2020.
As of this morning, Baseball-Reference gives the Orioles a 60.6% chance of making the playoffs (up 44% over the last seven days). FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus are a bit more bearish, at 15.9% and 26.4%, respectively.
This most recent sweep comes on the heels of their near-sweep of the Washington Nationals, a sweep they can complete by the time Friday’s regularly-scheduled game begins (they will continue Sunday’s postponed contest at 5:05, which the O’s are currently winning 5-2 in the top of the sixth). That win would give them six straight, or 16 straight (16.2) using our earlier math. Of course, THAT near sweep followed getting swept in four straight by the barely-manned Miami Marlins, which in turn came right after sweeping three from the Tampa Bay Rays.
This is a team that many were saying might not win ten games TOTAL all season, now sitting at 10-7. The o/u on most betting sites for the 2020 O’s was 20.5 wins. They’re already halfway there. Feel free to let the goofs at ESPN know about it.
How are they doing it?
In short…these O’s are putting the “O” in offense. During the three-game series in Philly, the Birds put up the following:
26 runs, 42 hits, 6 HR, 11 2B, 12-for-38 RISP (.315)
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports
The Orioles lead the AL in batting average at .269. They are seventh in MLB in OBP at .337, and trail only the powerhouse Yankees in wRC+ at 119. There are currently NINE Orioles hitting above league average according to wRC+. They are:
Chance Sisco (245)
Pedro Severino (179)
Renato Nunez (178)
Jose Iglesias (158)
Hanser Alberto (153)
Rio Ruiz (142)
Dwight Smith Jr. (137)
Anthony Santander (118)
Pat Valaika (101)
Of course, none of us know if the O’s can keep up this surprising pace. Many fans may not even *want* them to, as they have Kumar Rocker in their sights with next year’s #1 overall draft pick. At this point, the playoffs seem at least as likely, if not more likely than earning the top draft choice would be.
This feels a lot like 2012 here in Birdland, as we continue to wait for the other shoe to drop, while the team just keeps inexplicably winning games. Still, even that 2012 squad had a mix of future studs (Manny Machado), solid veterans (Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day), and emerging All-Stars (Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis) to somewhat explain their success. This current Birds squad is a thrown-together mix of castoffs and nobodies – the Island of Misfit Toys of baseball teams. Not only does nobody expect them to compete this year, but the thinking is that very very few of them will be a part of the next Baltimore Orioles team that is expected to contend.
Yet, somehow, it’s working.
It’s a huge bummer that we can’t pack the Yard to let this group of players know how much we appreciate them, and to get behind them in the way that Baltimore can. Still, we watch at home, chatting, texting, or Zooming with our friends and family, enjoying the 2020 Baltimore Orioles experience more than any of us thought we would thus far. We’ll continue to do so, even if they come back to earth.
Over the next three games, this surprising offense may do just that. The O’s will face three pitchers with a combined contract value of over $600 million (Stephen Strasburg – 7y/$245M, Patrick Corbin – 6y/$140M, Max Scherzer – 7y/$210M).
If they can somehow manage to keep the bats rolling and pass THAT test? Start printing the playoff tickets…er…start planning the socially distanced Zoom playoff watch parties?