Orioles 2012 Reflections: The Final Stretch Run
This is the 9th of 12 posts on the season past and is a personal reflection upon some of the really stupid and few somewhat intelligent perspectives I wrote since last winter. This topic of today was not something that I so much predicted as it was something I wrote that was necessary if the Orioles were to make the playoffs. And indeed, in the end, it took pretty much what I said had to happen.
All season long, O’s fans wondered about how the Birds could hold on to the position they had as a marginal potential playoff team. There remained a continuous sense of the sands slipping through the fingers. By mid August, with the team still in the running, it could no longer be denied that here was an Orioles squad that was not going to go away easily.
So, I wrote on 8/14: The Orioles enter a stretch of critical games over the next two weeks that bridge us to September. I believe that if the Birds can get through these games and be in a similar position as they are at this moment – the fifth and final playoff team – that they will secure a playoff spot. In September, Duquette can expand the roster for the final stretch run. Yes, you are correct – so can everyone else. But I believe the expanded roster in Buck Showalter’s hands is an advantage over what others will possess…..
And then I wrote on 8/31 – In the middle of August, with 17 games remaining before the dawn of September, I wrote of a hope and goal to see the Orioles win 10 of those games. They did it! Today was the 10th win since that time – against 5 losses (with the first Yankees game to yet play, and a rainout to be made up in September against Toronto). Over this 15-game stretch, the team only actually outscored opponents by a mere 5 runs, but winning close games and not sweating large occasional losses has been the defining mark of this unusual season.
One of the most amazing statistics of the 2012 season was that for much of the year, even though the Orioles were well over .500, they were at a total run deficit relative to the combined scores of their opponents. That is NOT normal baseball behavior. Of course, to account for this was the unusual number of close games won, along with the 16-game extra-innings win streak.
The Orioles won: 6 of the final 10 / 13 of the final 20 / 20 of the final 30 / 27 of the final 40 / 33 of the final 50 / 40 of the final 60.
Is this a pattern that is repeatable?
One would think so! A pattern of the three Showalter Orioles teams is the ability to finish the season well. A number we all remember from 2010 is “34-23” – the record from the time Showalter took over the team. Here’s an interesting statistic: If we take the final 54 games (the final third) of Buck’s three seasons in Baltimore, and add them together as a single season, the team record for those 162 games is 93-69 – the exact record of the 2012 team. With a much more settled lineup leading into 2013, there is every reasonable hope for some more improvement.