Continuing from our season preview of the Baltimore Orioles earlier today…
Can the Orioles recapture their 2012 magic?
Every Oriole fan has heard this over and over again in the last year.
-Baltimore only had a +7 run differential
-The Orioles went an unrepeatable 29-9 in one-run games
-The O's lucked into an incredible 16-2 record in extra inning games
Baltimore's pythagorean record had them winning just 82
Those are all just veiled ways of saying that the stats all say the Orioles stunk in 2012 and never should have made the playoffs. Well, you know what? They did. It happened. Deal with it.
Now it is up to the Orioles to prove all of their detractors wrong once again this season. There is no doubt they have the will to take on the challenge, the problem is that all the naysayers could very well be right.
All of those oft-repeated pieces of evidence that the 2012 Orioles were nothing but a fluke are very hard to argue against. Run differential and records in one-run games are pretty tried and true indicators of how good or how lucky a team really is. Obviously, there are exceptions to those rules from year to year but seldom ever over prolonged periods of time.
There is a first time for everything though, right, Baltimore?
If ever there was a team set to put the veracity of those assumptions to the test, it is the 2013 Orioles since their roster is almost exactly the same as the 2012 Orioles. That is either a stroke of genius from GM Dan Duquette or a tacit admission that he knows the team really isn't that good and he's not going to disrupt his long-term rebuilding plan just because his club had a horseshoe, rabbit's foot and four-leaf clover jammed up their posterior for one season.
Believe it or not, there actually is some evidence that the Orioles could very much be for real. Looking at that supposedly damning run differential in 2012 is a big knock against the O's, but split that sucker in two and one can see that Baltimore actually rattled off a +43 differential in the second half of the season to go with a 48-29 record over that span. Here's the crazy thing about that, that run differential actually translates to a 92-win pace over the course of a full season. Hmm, that's awfully close to their actual 93-win total in 2012, isn't it?
That, naturally, begs the question of how they defied the odds in the first half of the season where they managed to a 45-40 record in spite of a -36 run differential?
That leads us to two possible conclusions:
1) The Orioles were a really good team that had an underachieving run differential in the first half, but caught some breaks and still had a decent record during that stretch and then played up to their talent level in the second half.
2) The Orioles were a bad team that got insanely lucky in the first half and then wildly overachieved in the second half.
This is sort of a baseball version of the age old question of whether or not the glass is half-empty or half-full. So, which side do you come out on?