Thoughts from a Huge Weekend
OK, here’s sort of a diary of baseball (and perhaps other sports) thoughts I had over the weekend. I’ll warn you in advance: It’s pretty long. Well, hey, it was a big weekend!
Saturday afternoon: Orioles lose 3-2 to Rangers
A Brilliant Reader pointed this out to me — and I have to admit it stuns me: As the Division Series begin, FanGraphs has the Baltimore Orioles with the lowest percentage chance of winning the World Series.
FanGraphs percentage chance to win it all:
Atlanta Braves, 27.2%
Houston Astros, 17.2%
Los Angeles Dodgers, 13.6%
Philadelphia Phillies, 11.7%
Minnesota Twins, 10%
Texas Rangers, 8.7%
Arizona Diamondbacks, 6%
Baltimore Orioles, 5.5%
I, obviously, don’t know math: But it boggles my mind that the Diamondbacks — who presumably would have to, in short order, beat the Dodgers THEN beat the Braves THEN beat the American League champion (three series where you would expect them to be huge underdogs) would have a better chance of winning the World Series than the Orioles, who won 101 games and have home field advantage throughout the American League portion of the playoffs.
It also boggles my mind that the Orioles, again with that homefield advantage, would have FanGraphs’ lowest percentage chance of winning the American League pennant:
Chances of winning the ALCS:
Houston Astros, 35.6%
Minnesota Twins, 23.6%
Texas Rangers, 23.1%
Baltimore Orioles, 17.5%
Again, I don’t want to try and break down the mathematical integrity of those percentages. Instead, I want to ask: Are these Orioles built to win in the playoffs?*
*Future me: I realize now that you’re reading this knowing full well that the Orioles lost BOTH their games at home over the weekend, and their World Series chances are now MINISCULE since they would have to win the next three just to get to the ALCS. But, as I say at the top, this is sort of a weekend journal, so I ask you to read along in that spirit.
The Orioles lineup did EXACTLY what I feared they might do in Saturday’s ALDS Game 1: Get shut down by a Rangers bullpen that blew more saves in 2023 than it completed. This Orioles lineup, over the whole season, was pretty good — they finished fourth in the league in runs, third in doubles, and they were fantastic in high-leverage situations (with an OPS more than 100 points higher than in low- and medium-leverage situations).
BUT, when you take a closer look at the lineup, you can see that it has serious holes — and holes often get exposed in October. Only two Orioles — the marvelous Adley Rutschman (.374) and former Yankee Aaron Hicks (.381 in 65 games) — have what you would call well-above-average on-base percentages. There are a bunch of potential three-batter innings in this lineup, and sure enough, the Orioles had four such innings in the game (one on a double play, one on caught stealing that we’ll get to in a minute) and those kinds of innings can be crushing to a team’s chances in the postseason. You need to put constant pressure on opponents, especially if you’re a team like Baltimore that doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. The Orioles managed only five hits in the game and had runners in scoring position just four times against a pretty unintimidating smattering of Rangers pitchers.
They went 0-for-4 in those situations.
Of course, this was just one game, but the crowd was electric, the city of Baltimore was buzzing, and the Orioles went down pretty quietly, the last thing they wanted to do.
There was also quite a bit of talk coming in about the Orioles’ inexperience in the postseason … I never know exactly what to do with such talk. Intuitively, it does seem that postseason experience matters a lot — certainly, John Smoltz talks enough about it — but it also feels like one of those factors that gets overblown because it seems like something that should matter a lot.
But I have to say
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