10 February 2017

Do The Orioles Need To Start The Season Strong?

The Orioles begin their 64th season in Baltimore on April 3, and a strong first month of the season could be very beneficial as they seek their fourth postseason berth in six seasons. The last time the Orioles had posted such an impressive postseason run was from 1969 through 1974, when they appeared in the American League Championship Series five-out-of-six years, and captured a World Series trophy in 1970. Since their run of postseason appearances began, the Orioles have played roughly 25 games before the calendar changes over to May. The exception to this was in 2015 when the team played just 20 games before May 1st, including an 8-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox in front of about 45,969 empty green seats, and two empty orange seats. 

I like to take the first 25 because that amount of games usually gets you through the first five weeks of the baseball season, and it also allows a television broadcast (MASN, for example) the ability to get away from the 13-for-46 graphic, for example, and begin showing the players' batting average on the season. Also, once a team has eclipsed their first 25 games, there's a pretty good idea of what a team needs to improve on, or what they need to continue to excel at.

Since their return to the postseason in 2012, the Orioles have compiled records through their first 25 games of 16-9, 15-10, 13-12, 12-13, and 15-10. Take notice of the 12-13 record in 2014. The year they won the AL East, and advanced to the ALCS, they were hovering around the .500 mark entering the first week in May. While still respectable, they've posted better records in the other two seasons that ended in a postseason berth (16-9 in 2012, and 15-10 in 2016). Analyzing historical results through Baseball-Reference, dating back to 1871, the top-200 performing teams have all won 17 games or more. Teams that have claimed 17 victories of the first 25 have made it to the postseason 98 times, and have won the World Series 29 times. 

The last time the Orioles won 17-of-25 was 12 years ago, back in 2005. That team held first place for 69 calendar days, and were as far as 14 games over .500 until June 21. A six-, eight-, and nine-game losing streak throughout the season's final months saw a collapse worse than a demolished building, and they finished 14 games under .500. That was the worst finish for a team that won 17 or more games in their first 25 since the 1978 Oakland Athletics. In that season, the A's won 19 games out of their first 25 and spent 57 calendar days in first place. They finished that season with just nine victories in their final 45 games, and an overall record of 69-93. 

So, what would happen to the 2017 Orioles if they struggle mightily through their first 25 games? While not completely impossible, a fourth postseason berth may not be in their future, and with their window of opportunity for a championship closing ever-so-quickly, they may be reduced to just one final opportunity to bring a title back to Baltimore. 

The bottom-200 team performances since 1871 have teams winning no more than eight games in their first 25. Out of those 200 teams, just two have made the postseason, and only one team went on to win the World Series. The 1981 Kansas City Royals made the postseason as a Wild Card team and were swept by the Athletics in the American League Division Series, while the 1914 Boston Braves were victorious in the World Series, sweeping the Philadelphia Athletics in four games. The 1988 Orioles finished the season with an overall record of 54-107, after beginning that year just 2-23, the worst overall record for a team, winning just twice in their first 25 games.

Alas, just because a team doesn't win 17 games doesn't mean their shot at the postseason automatically evaporates. Good teams, though, are expected to win games, regardless of what month it is. As you can see below, the previous 16 World Series Champions didn't all break 17 wins; however, they were all good teams, and all but two put up winning records in their first 25 games. 

Start strong. Finish strong. The formula for success.


Unknown said...
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Matt Kremnitzer said...

Thanks, Jacob. The error has been corrected.