This will be short and sweet (which is hopefully a nice departure from my usual drawn out ramblings).
Sometime near the end of July, I commented to Tim and a few others that I would like to see the Orioles be 15 games over .500 at September 1st. My thinking was that doing so puts the team right in the thick of the playoff race. They would need to play just 3 games over .500 in September in order to reach 90 wins on the season and would be in spitting distance of 93 wins. If the O’s have that record at the end of August, they would almost certainly have themselves lined up to make a playoff run with even just a decent final month.
Through the up and down couple of weeks that have followed, I’ve stuck to that. Perhaps I’ve done so just to have some attainable goal to cling to. Honestly though, I still feel like that is a realistic goal to shoot for as a fan. I’ll be thrilled with the O’s blowing past that mark by the end of this month, but as long as they are right around that give or take a game, I’ll be content.
I will be happy with that for two reasons. The first is that while I really, really want to see the team back in the playoffs just like everyone else, I find it impossible to weigh the success of the season on that measure alone. 90 wins is nothing to sneeze at. If the Orioles hit the August target I have for them and then hit the floor September target (3 games over .500) to reach 90 wins, but still miss the playoffs, then so be it. It will still be a successful season. There are too many variables involved in a 162 game MLB season to cry “failure” on a playoff-less team that wins 90 games.
Secondly, I do not fear September. This is a good team that like most good but not great teams has its issues, but is good enough to beat any team on any day. I am not worried about facing the Red Sox six times in September or the Rays four times. If anything, those are prime opportunities to gain ground. I get the impression that those that worry the most – and those that would most likely find my 15 games above .500 target to be unacceptably low – are operating under the assumption that the O’s will struggle to gain ground late in the season if that is what is needed. I am not as worried. They have beaten the good teams all season and I think they still can.
The starting pitching since the start of July is much improved. Bud Norris has helped a bunch already. The bullpen is settled in and is stacked at the back end with the addition of K-Rod. The offense continues to roll right along and no, a few games where they score 2 or 3 runs does not alter the fact in the slightest. In September, the bench and bullpen will be reinforced with expanded rosters, which is a tool Buck has used fabulously since joining Baltimore in late 2010.
By that same token, the O’s have had ended the season strong over the final two months in each of Buck’s three seasons at the helm. They are off to a fine start in that regard this year with a 6-3 August mark through nine games.
So – for now at least – I am sticking to the goal I set several weeks ago. Finish August at more than 15 games over .500 (just because finishing 15 games over will be impossible with 134 games played to that date) and then we can all get ready for a fun September. A huge run would be nice, but don’t lose sleep if it doesn’t happen by September 1st.
Slow and steady may still win this race.