The Orioles are 55 games into the 2014 season, leaving 107 until the regular season is over and the playoffs begin. That means the Orioles are about 33.95% of the way through the season (or one game past 1/3 of the way). The O’s started off the second third of the season with a bang by beating the Houston Astros 9-4 today on the back of Manny Machado’s mammoth grand slam.
Personally I find the idea of breaking down the long major league season into smaller segments appealing. To be clear, there’s nothing statistically significant about game 55 versus game 54. These arbitrary endpoints don’t necessarily mean anything on the field, but provide us with opportunities to look at smaller chunks of a season.
Over the first third of the season, the Orioles played 54 games and finished right at .500 with a 27-27 record. There were ups including the club sitting in first place for some time, and lows like having a negative run differential on the season. That said, the club has overall played fairly well as they improved their playoff odds from ~16% to ~24% over the first 54 games of the season according to Baseball Prospectus.
The Orioles managed that despite some serious difficulties including:
- Chris Davis missing 15 games
- Matt Wieters hitting the DL after starting out scorching hot in his first 26 games
- Manny Machado missing 28 games to start the season
- Chris Tillman struggling after 3 strong starts at the beginning of the season
- Orioles’ 2nd baseman producing -0.6 fWAR to start the season
- Tommy Hunter imploding as the O’s closer
Undoubtedly a few things went right for the club including Nelson Cruz’s strong offensive season and Zach Britton’s emergence as a dominant reliever. I think it’s safe to say though that the year has not gone exactly as the Orioles had planned coming into 2014.
The Orioles are at a place where the club is still very much in the picture for playoff contention, though there are obviously some hurdles to consider.
The Blue Jays have bounced back from a disastrous 2013 season to become a front runner in the division over the first third of the season. The Yankees have also played well while getting support from unlikely candidates in Yangervis Solarte (1.3 fWAR) and Kelly Johnson/Brian Roberts (0.8 fWAR combined). The Red Sox are beginning to rebound having won 7 straight games to bring their playoff odds back above 25% (27% after today’s game to be exact). The Rays continue to flounder (no pun intended) but certainly have the talent to bounce back.
The first game of the second third of the season was exactly what the Orioles need their roster to provide if they hope to make the playoffs in 2014. Wei-Yin Chen was dominant for the 5.1 IP he managed to stay in the games and the bullpen managed to follow that up with an adequate performance over the final 3.2 IP to finish out the game. The O’s offense was lead by Machado and Lough who both hit HRs (Manny’s being a grand slam) and every lineup spot reaching base except for the 9 hitter.
The Orioles won’t be making waves with their pitching staff, though it’s adequate enough for them to succeed if the O’s offense can start putting together more games like this one. Through the first 54 games the Orioles were 5% worse than league average on offense. That needs to improve if this club has aspirations of making the playoffs.
Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at some of the most important players on the O’s roster and see what O’s fans can expect from them over the next two thirds of the 2014 season.