On June 3rd, the Orioles were 23-28 and people were discussing whether the Orioles should sell. Now, on July 10th, the Orioles are 43-42 and people are beginning to wonder whether the Orioles should buy. The trade deadline is coming closer each day and the Orioles need to make a decision about how to proceed.
On the one hand, the Orioles are one game above .500 and only three games out of first. And it’s not like the Yankees are so tough. They’ll get a boost having just reactivated Ellsbury and Miller but they depend on a number of older players. Teixeira and A-Rod have been two of their best hitters and it will be interesting to see whether they can remain both healthy and productive over the length of an entire season. Pineda threw 84 innings total in 2014 but has already thrown nearly 100 innings this year and fatigue will be an issue. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they fell apart over the second half of the season.
On the other hand, the Orioles have primarily beaten up on cream-puffs so far this year. The Orioles are 29-19 against teams below .500 but only 14-23 against teams above .500. They’ve been decent against teams above .500 that are in their division (10-12) but have gone 4-11 against teams above .500 not in the division. It gets worse because the Orioles have 45 games against teams above .500 remaining but only 32 games against teams below .500 remaining. The Orioles have been able to have a winning record primarily by beating teams under .500 but pretty soon they’ll be playing a number of teams above .500. Historically, how do teams slightly above .500 at the end of June perform for the rest of the season when they only beat weak teams?
From 1998-2014, there have been 138 teams that have finished June between 1 to 8 games above .500. I looked at how these teams performed against teams above .500 (at the end of June) as well as the percentage of games these teams played against teams below .500 to see whether teams that do well against teams above .500 or played a lot of games against teams above .500 from the start of the season to the end of June are more likely to make it to the playoffs than other teams that finish June between 1 to 8 games above .500.
This first table shows how teams do based on difficulty of schedule.
Teams with a harder remaining schedule are about as good at the end of June as teams with an easy remaining schedule and their performance is roughly the same. Both are expected to win about the same amount of games on average and have similar chances of winning at least 90 games. Teams with an easy remaining schedule are more likely to win their division while teams with a hard remaining schedule are more likely to win the wild card and make it to the playoffs. This indicates that teams with easy remaining schedules are probably in weak divisions and therefore have a better chance of winning their division while teams with hard remaining schedules are probably in hard divisions and therefore can win the wild card by being successful against their rivals. This is good news for the Orioles because the team leader is just six games above .500 and the Rays are just one game above .500 which means that the Orioles aren’t facing difficult competition but they are playing against a number of rivals for a wild card spot.
The next table shows how teams do based on their performance against teams over .500.
All in all, teams that are successful against teams over .500 typically have a better record at the end of June but it evens out by the end of the season. This indicates that being able to beat the top competition doesn’t mean that they’ll be successful in the future. In fact, teams that struggle against the top competition do better than those that those that don’t.
The final table looks at how teams do based on their performance against teams under .500.
This pretty much tells the story. Teams that do well against teams below .500 usually end up winning the same amount of games as teams that don’t. But a larger percentage of teams that do well against teams below .500 end up winning more than 90 games and consequently making it to the playoffs.
All in all, a team like the Orioles that is successful against bad teams but has struggled against good teams is in a better position than one would have thought. This probably means that the Orioles should be slightly encouraged by their start and should be thinking about how to improve the club rather than selling.
Things were beginning to look grim at the end of May. But after dominating against some weaker competition, things are beginning to look up for the Orioles.