It may seem like a silly question to ask if the Baltimore Orioles with their 69-50 record and largest divisional lead in all of baseball are able to beat the poorer teams they play. But when one digs into the numbers, you see that it is a fair question.
There is no doubt that the Orioles are able to defeat the better teams. The strongest division in the American League this year has been the West. The O’s have the best record in the league against the AL West with their 21-12 mark. By percentage, that is even better than the Oakland A’s 27-20 record in their own division.
As well, the Baltimore Orioles have the best record in the league against their own division, currently at 30-19 in the AL East.
However, the Birds have the absolute worst record in the American League against the Central Division at 9-14. That is strange!
So can the Orioles win against this mighty powerhouse division? They had better! Ten of their next 17 games will be against AL Central teams – three each with the Indians and White Sox, and four with the Twins. So it is not like they are playing the powerhouse Tigers or the red-hot Royals.
The other seven games in this 17-game stretch feature three against the White Sox and four against the Rays. All of these teams have losing records except for the Indians – who are an even 60-60.
Everyone was wondering how the Baltimore Orioles would fare against the three tough West Coast teams, opening the second half of the season on a long road trip versus the top three squads. After that trip and with six more at home against the Angels and Mariners, they were 10-6; and the O’s have additionally been 7-2 since then … all of this adding up to 17-8 since the break. If a team could sustain that pace for a whole season, it would equal a record of 110-52. Yes, the Orioles have been playing good baseball.
It would seem that everything is aligned for the Orioles to run away with the divisional title by beating up on poorer teams and expanding their current 7.5-game lead over the Jays and 8-game margin on the Yankees. But this has been an upside-down year in every way, and easy and expected things are not what has happened.
Who could have imagined that the Orioles would have such a lead if told before the season that Matt Wieters would miss most of the year for Tommy John surgery, Chris Davis would struggle to hit .200, and Ubaldo Jimenez would lead the AL in walks – even while missing a month on the DL?
On the other hand, few would have believed that Nelson Cruz would lead all of Major League Baseball in home runs at the All-Star break and carry the O’s through the first half, that Nick Markakis would have the fourth-most hits in the AL, that Steve Pearce would carry the team for several week through critical stretches, and that the bullpen would rival the 2012 corps in terms of lights-out relief.
It has been quite a ride. Just two months ago on June 16th, the Baltimore Orioles were 35-34 and five games out of first place. Since then, over a period of 50 games, they have been 34-16 … yep, that is 17-8 over two consecutive 25-game stretches both before and after the break.
So, who else has as much of a “team of destiny” look about them right now? Maybe the A’s? Any other? Not really.