The Baltimore Orioles saw their first trip to the American League Division Series since 2014 end unceremoniously last week, getting swept by the Texas Rangers.

Elsewhere in the playoffs, the 104-win Atlanta Braves and 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers were both eliminated in the National League Division Series by teams with worse records in their division.

After an LDS round filled with upsets, here’s some key takeaways from those series and the bigger picture implications of these results.

Postseason experience doesn’t always matter

This was the first postseason for nearly everyone on this year’s Orioles roster and as such it’s reasonable to assume that future postseasons will go better for this team’s core after the learning experience of 2023. While that’s certainly possible, this year’s postseason has already shown us rookies delivering in their first playoffs and postseason veterans struggling.

In terms of excellent rookies in this year’s postseason, we can start with none other than Gunnar Henderson. The 22-year-old who is about to win AL Rookie of the Year did everything he could to save the Orioles from being swept by putting together a 1.288 OPS across 13 plate appearances.

We also witnessed what other team’s rookies could do in that series thanks to Josh Jung providing a 1.212 OPS to help the Rangers get their sweep.

Corbin Carroll further continued the trend of impressive rookies during the League Division Series with a 1.100 OPS in 14 PAs for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

All of these rookies were excellent during the regular season, but the fact that they continued to produce when the lights got brighter demonstrates that some players are able to hit the ground running in October.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers provided several examples of players with no shortage of postseason experience failing to produce.

Mookie Betts, who has already won two World Series, failed to get a single hit against the D-Backs in 11 at-bats. Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman put together a .350 OPS for LA just one year removed from a 1.286 OPS during last year’s NLDS against the San Diego Padres. Just to really hammer home the point, Max Muncy had an .887 OPS in 43 playoff games as a Dodger entering this series before delivering LA a .432 OPS in this year’s NLDS.

Of course, this year’s postseason did still include youngsters struggling and veterans excelling. Adley Rutschman’s .321 OPS against the Rangers and Bryce Harper’s 1.765 OPS against the Braves seems like the kind of contrast you’d expect between someone in his first postseason and someone whose first postseason came in 2012.

Adding stars externally doesn’t always work either

 The aforementioned Betts and Freeman were each acquired in major moves by the Dodgers. LA got Betts in a trade with the Boston Red Sox and then extended him, while Freeman was added in free agency entering the 2022 season. Both of these players made over 25 million dollars this year, but they certainly didn’t provide the Dodgers with much value against Arizona.

Meanwhile, the Braves didn’t get a particularly strong postseason from Matt Olson in his second year with Atlanta after being acquired in a trade to replace Freddie Freeman. Olson had 84 extra base hits in the regular season but failed to do anything besides hit singles on his way to a .544 OPS in the NLDS.

However, much like with postseason experience, there were also examples that followed the conventional wisdom. Corey Seager’s 1.567 OPS against the Orioles certainly justified his massive deal in the 2021-22 offseason and the aforementioned Harper has been worth every penny since arriving in Philadelphia in 2019.

The small samples of the postseason create these surprising outcomes

Everyone reading this is already aware baseball turns a 162-game regular season into series that range from three to seven games, but it’s still worth remembering when trying to find meaning for how to build a roster that can win in October.

The Dodgers acquiring Freeman and Betts was obviously a good idea and the duo were LA’s two best hitters in the regular season by a comfortable margin. However, they just had the misfortune of each going on three-game cold streaks when everyone was watching.

Betts had a three-game stretch with a .077 OPS in late April and put together a .154 OPS across three games in June. These things happen during a long regular season and it occurring during this year’s postseason can’t be blamed on much more than bad timing.

Small samples also exist in the other direction, where solid but unspectacular hitters can become legends. The 2021 Braves saw Eddie Rosario deliver an outstanding 1.647 OPS in the NLCS and then won the World Series thanks to Jorge Soler’s 1.191 OPS in that series.

These hot streaks can also be found from decades ago, just ask a World Series MVP who had a .634 OPS in the regular season named Rick Dempsey.

There’s no way to predict when you’ll get something like an ice-cold Betts or a red-hot Rosario and that’s simply how the postseason is always going to work.

The only way to see if the postseason’s randomness goes your way is to make it

This is stating the obvious, but it’s still an important point for the Orioles going forward.

While this season seems like it’s just the start of something special, they should still treat this offseason like making the playoffs isn’t a guarantee without external reinforcements.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays also made the playoffs this year and I certainly wouldn’t bet on the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox both being irrelevant in the playoff race for 2024. The AL East is never easy and 101 wins and a division title is pretty difficult to repeat if your offseason plan is getting more players like Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier.

They should also treat getting a bye to the LDS like it’s a meaningful reward, even if teams with the bye are just 3-5 in this new format.

While the bye seems like bad luck for the Braves and Dodgers, it has yet to impact the Houston Astros in the LDS. The bye is also worth getting simply because it’s an easier path to the World Series. Just ask the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers how much they would’ve loved a bye after their successful regular season amounted to being swept in the Wild Card round.

Rose Katz
Rose Katz

BSL Analyst

Rose Katz is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, where she worked for The Diamondback as the online managing editor and a sports blogger. As a student, she spent almost all of her time on campus in The Diamondback’s newsroom or at Xfinity Center, Ludwig Field and Maryland Stadium. Rose gained intern experience with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).

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