Baltimore Orioles: How they Win 75% of Baseball Games


Jun 25, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Steve Pearce (28), center fielder David Lough (9) and right fielder Nolan Reimold (14) celebrate defeating the Boston Red Sox 8-6 at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

What? Win 75% of baseball games? Nobody does that, not even the great 1969 Baltimore Orioles (109-53 = 67%). Actually, it has been done once. The 1906 Chicago Cubs were 116-36 for 76%, and even then they lost the World Series.

But the Baltimore Orioles have in fact won 75% of their past 20 games – going 15-5 since June 4th. Amazingly, while doing that, they have only gained 2.5 games on first place in the A.L. East.  But it has been a good run for sure, going from a record of 23-29 to the current level of 38-34.

So what has made this possible? What factors and areas of the team may we particularly identify as contributory to this turnaround of a season that was headed down a bad road just three weeks ago?

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Was it the Starting Pitching?

As the Orioles, particularly beginning in 2012, became a power-hitting team, the mantra was that they could only go as far as the starting pitching would take them. And then the inference was (if not openly stated) that the O’s had lousy starting pitching and were doomed to go nowhere.

There is no doubt that any successful baseball club needs good starting pitching in the big and long-term picture of things. And there is no doubt that the 2014 O’s did a season turnaround that largely coincided with the starters putting it all together in a cohesive rotation.

But quite honestly over the past 20 games, the starters have not been that great. There have been some very good efforts for sure – like Wei-Yin Chen’s eight shutout innings. But the Orioles starters have now gone six games in a row without a quality start. In fact, in only six of the 20 games we are looking at have the O’s starters completed at least six frames.

So, while there have been some good efforts, it is not the rotation overall that has carried Baltimore to these 15-of-20 wins.

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  • Was it the Power-Hitting Offense?

    After the Orioles chose to not re-sign Nelson Cruz, questions arose as to how they were going to cover the lost production. Over this 20-game period, the Orioles hit a total of 29 home runs. That is a pace for 235 homers in a year. The O’s hit 214, 212, and 211 in the past three seasons. For the whole year, they are currently on pace to homer 194 times.

    However, over the past 20 games, eight of those 29 home run came in one game against the absolutely dreadful Philadelphia Phillies. So while the home runs have been nice additions at times, it is not what is driving the successes.

    Was it a Shutdown Bullpen?

    Much was made after last year with the Royals’ bullpen that a new key to winning baseball in the modern era is to have a lights-out, shutdown bullpen that is filled with fresh arms who can dominate opposing hitters. This shortens games by giving opponents only six innings at best to get their offensive production done.

    I frankly think there is a great deal to be said about this. Of course, if the starters regularly get knocked out of games too early, it negates this strength. And likewise, if the offense if terribly weak, it cannot score enough to get leads or win games at the end.

    The Orioles bullpen had a rough first month of the season, ranking near the bottom in many categories. Yet since then, they have been arguably and statistically at the very top of MLB.

    And this is true over the past 20 games. Relievers over that time have pitched 73.2 innings and given up only 12 earned runs. That is a 1.47 ERA!  That’ll work!  And this HAS indeed been a major contributory factor in the 75% wins.

    Was it the Ability to Hit in Clutch Situations?

    A great frustration as an Orioles fan at the beginning of this recent four-year run with a winning record was to see the O’s often unable to deliver in critical situations of runners in scoring position. They were .256 in 2012, and improved to .266 in 2013 and .268 in 2014.

    Over the past 20 games the Orioles are 66-for-179 for the awesome RISP average of .369!  This has pushed the O’s into the top position in the category in all of MLB with a RISP for the 2015 season of .316, which is 11 points higher than the next team (Rockies).

    Summary – So it is the clutch hitting and shutdown bullpen that has made a seasonal turnaround for the Orioles over the past 20 games, and it also helps a great deal on the occasions when the starters and power hitters contribute well.

    Next: The Norfolk Shuttle Rides Again