The Yankees have problems. They riddled with injuries, aren’t hitting well, and the bullpen, once a strong suit, has looked miserable. The Rays just took a series from the Yankees. To top that all off, the hottest team in baseball happens to be the Orioles. Simply put, the Yankees need some better luck. Perhaps, the luck that the Orioles have come across will even itself out and head the Yanks way. Can the O’s stay this hot for the rest of the year? I don’t think it’s possible but they’ve been pretty lucky so far.
Buck Showalter is working some kind of magic in Baltimore. Name a starter on the Orioles that is having a tremendous year… It’s rather tough, huh? For god’s sake, Nate McLouth hit third last night. This is the same Nate McLouth who was not on a major league roster earlier this year. Somehow, the best hitter on the team, Adam Jones, did not have a home run in a span of 110 at bats towards the end of July and through late August and in that same period cooled off considerably from his blazing start to the season. Recent mid-August call up Zach Britton has been unhittable in his four outings since. He’s thrown four consecutive quality starts where he’s 4-0 with a 0.94 earned run average with 29 strikeouts. The Orioles are getting production from the oddest places.
What makes things even stranger is in 15 games decided by two runs or less, the Orioles are 11-4 since August 1st. Over that same span, they won 7 of 8 games decided by one run. Sounds unimportant right? Well since August 1st, a time period covering 32 games, they have won 21 games. On the year, the Orioles have played in 67 games decided by 2 runs or less. That’s about 50 percent of their games played this year. In that 50 percent of games the Orioles have played, they’ve won 48 or about 72 percent of them. The Orioles simply don’t lose when it’s a close game. For the most part, when the Orioles lose, they lose by 3+ runs. This leads me to believe, and again I’m not an expert, that when teams play the Orioles, they simply don’t hit or pitch well. The Orioles are really lucky right now and in fact, this year on a whole. Say what you want about their negative-23 run differential and how it “doesn’t matter” because they are winning games. I’ll say that in a way, that’s right. If a team wins more than they lose, that will produce a desired outcome but in the fashion the Orioles are winning and losing, it’s an extreme product of luck.
Let’s dig a little further shall we? The Orioles have given up 606 runs on the year which is good for 4th highest in the American League and 10th highest in all of baseball. They have scored 585 runs on the year, which is quite an interesting number because of the 13 teams who have scored less than 585 runs; only three have a winning record: Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh. Oddly enough, each of those three teams have positive run differentials.
The run differential would make sense if the Orioles were throwing out a couple of aces every 3 days but they aren’t. They are pitching guys like Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzales, Brian Matusz, Wei Yen Chen, Joe Saunders, and now Zach Britton. They have gotten decent outings from all over the place. They have two players with an on base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS) above .800. In fact, most of their rosters’ average sits below .250. It does not make any type of logical sense how the Orioles are winning ball games. It seems that teams just play their worst baseball when they meet in series.
I would like to point out that the Baltimore Orioles are winning games not solely due to luck. They pitch and hit and play the game like every other team. There is a lot of deserved kudos to Jim Johnson, the rest of that bullpen, and importantly Buck Showalter. However, I’m saying the O’s are extremely lucky right now and they can seemingly do no wrong. Mark Reynolds is finding his power stroke which is quite fortunate for a guy who might be the streakiest hitter in all of MLB. Joe Saunders is making a great adjustment to the American League. It’s extremely rare that a National League pitcher who moves to one of the better hitting divisions in baseball will settle into a groove, but he’s done it. Nate McLouth might have a future in baseball again. Combine all these anomalies with the Yankees’ struggle with injuries, a tough schedule, and general bad luck, it was inevitable that the Yankees would lose the commanding division lead. The only saving grace is that things will certainly turn around for each team. Good thing there’s 26 games left to let things play out. I think Hal Steinbrenner said it best, “It’s just frustrating.”