Even on August 26th with 33 games left to go, the Orioles still do not need to do anything certain in order make it back to the playoffs. With no less than five other teams still right in the mix with them, a lot can go on independent of the Orioles to alter their playoff hopes for better or worse. It is a real pet peeve of mine when someone says that this game is a must win or this series is a must win. Every win clearly helps improve the team’s chances, but there is simply far too much that can happen to make a singular series or game a must-have.
Having said that, by virtue of struggling to put up consistent wins since the All-Star break the Orioles’ likely path to the postseason is a tad more in-focus than it might otherwise be. At the very least, we have a good idea of how may additional wins it will likely to take to remain the post-season conversation.
I always look at 90 wins as the threshold for playoff contention. If a team wins 90 games, they are putting themselves in a fine position to reach the postseason. In most years – especially with the 5-team playoff format – 90 wins will be enough. If it is not, then so be it. I know a lot of people don’t like hearing that because we are conditioned to believe that is playoffs or bust, but I disagree. There are so many variables involved in 162-game seasons that I can’t view a 90 win season and no playoff as anything close to a failure.
The O’s have ten series left to play. Three of those series are 4-gamers and the other seven are 3-game sets. At 70-59, the team needs 20 more wins to get to the 90 win total. That is two wins per series. Essentially, that breaks down to winning the three game sets and splitting the four game series. If the Orioles do exactly that, they will reach the 90 win mark.
Over the final 33 games, I view that as the bench mark. That does not mean that a series loss at any time automatically ends the baseball season in Baltimore. Clearly the team can afford one or two 1-2 series records as long as they make it up elsewhere. On average though, the benchmark is to win the three gamers and split the four gamers.
It does not leave much room for error but I am hesitant to call it an uphill battle or a daunting task. We are talking about a 20-13 record or basically a .600 clip. I am not sure what this means (if anything) but in the 96 continuous 33-game stretches the Orioles have had this year, they have played at a .600 clip or better only nine times. Most of those came early on in the season. I personally would not read too much into that. We are talking about a relatively small population size when looking at 33 game stretches and the deviation is not that big.
A .500 winning percentage over 33 games is 16.5 wins. The Orioles have only had a 33 game stretch under .500 twice (they went 16 – 17 both of those times). A .525 winning percentage is 17.33 wins. The team has won at least 17 out of 33 games 65 times which is 68%. They have won at least 19 games during the specified schedule length 25 times in 2013 thus far (or 26% of the time). Again, I wouldn’t read too much into any of that excecpt to say that they will have to play slightly better than they have on average over 33-game stretches during the final 33 in order to get to the 90-win mark. However, we are talking about a 1 or 2 win swing at most which in Major League Baseball is incredibly small.
While the remaining schedule for the Birds is not easy in this case that might be a good thing. For one, this is a team that has not discriminated against good or bad teams. They have played roughly the same versus all competition. To that end, I don’t think there should be any grave concerns that the final 33 games are filled with contenders and the always tough Blue Jays.
Perhaps more importantly is that the Birds are afforded an opportunity to beat teams directly in front of them and behind them in the playoff races. With seven games left versus the Yankees, the O’s can do quite a bit to put some distance between them. The O’s also have four games left versus the Rays and three versus the Indians, both of whom sit in front of them in the wild card standings. They will see the Red Sox the most – a total of nine times – which means they have a shot to cut into the division lead and/or the Red Sox wild card lead if the Rays overtake them first. Playing playoff contenders down the stretch means playing tough opponents but it also means the Orioles can largely control their own destiny. To me, that’s a great opportunity.
So there you go. 33 games left to get 20 wins. There is not a lot of room for error but we are not in Hail Mary territory either. To me, that’s exciting. The goal is always to be in contention at this time of the year and that’s exactly where the O’s are. It should be a fun five weeks.