The Orioles have taken advantage of their league-leading ability to hit home runs and their stellar bullpen to ascend to the second-best record in the American League, but they’ve also taken advantage of one other factor that’s about to change - the most home games played of any team in MLB. So, going forward, how does the schedule look for the O’s?
Home Cooking Has Been Good To The Orioles
The O’s have played a MLB-high 44 games at home as of Monday, and through the first 43 of those, they won 30. That’s an unfathomable 69.8% winning percentage, and one not likely to continue. But before we forecast the future, let’s review games that have actually been played:
Math Doesn’t Like Baltimore, But Sometimes It Does
The average home winning percentage in MLB over 2010-2014 was .537, so even the worst MLB teams have a bit of an advantage in home games. The Orioles are way ahead of that, which makes sense, since they’re better than the average MLB team. And there’s no guarantee they will keep winning games at home at the same clip they have thus far.
But, for the sake of manipulating stats into a narrative, let’s say they did. That would lead to the Orioles finishing with 57 home wins, one ahead of Texas’ pace and behind only Kansas City, projected at 58. Sounds great, right?
Well, it would look better for the O’s if they didn’t have the fewest number of home games remaining of any team in the American League, and if they weren’t losing more games than they won on the road, but unfortunately, both those statements are true.
If this O’s team follows the path set by the last four years, they won’t continue winning home games at anywhere near this pace. In the two playoff years of 2012 and 2014, the O’s won 47 home games in 2012 and 50 home games in 2014, which gave them home winning percentages of 58.0% and 61.7% respectively.
This year’s 69.8% would be light years ahead of that. Simply put, there’s very little chance they will continue to win games at this clip at home. If they perform the rest of the way in line with how they have performed in the last two playoff seasons, they will be four or five games worse than can be expected from maintaining this year’s pace.
Regression Can Be A Good Thing
But math also works in the O’s favor. The 2016 Orioles are winning road games at just a 45.2% clip. If we argue that this O’s team looks a lot more like 2012 and 2014 than 2013 and 2015, the 2012 and 2014 road win percentages of 56.8% (both years were exactly the same, oddly enough) offer a lot of hope.
Apply the 2012 and 2014 road win percentage to the rest of the O’s 2016 schedule, and now they should be expected to win 28 road games, not 22.
To be fair, let’s remember they should also win fewer of their remaining home games. Their 2012 home win rate going forward would yield 22 wins, not the projected 27, but that’s still a wash.
Apply the 2014 home winning percentage going forward, and it’s 23 wins instead of 27, but the 2014 road winning percentage yields five more road wins, so the O’s are still ahead of what they’ve been doing this year.
Assuming the O’s regress back to more believable home winning percentage numbers, it’s also reasonable to assume they will regress towards a more believable road winning percentage, and that would lead to no worse than what they’re currently projected to win and possibly an even slightly better record.
Home Cooking Favors Royals, But O’s Have Hope
So who has the most friendly home schedule remaining of the American League contenders? Well, it’s not the Red Sox, who have played only two fewer home games (and two more road games) than the Orioles. And of the three teams with the most home games left - Toronto, Cleveland and Kansas City, only Toronto is in the Orioles’ division and they started Sunday four games behind the O’s.
Kansas City is the oddest of the bunch - they have a ton of home games remaining, and have an even more ridiculous home winning percentage than the O’s. So if the Royals can take advantage of their schedule, they may yet in themselves in a position to defend their World Series championship.
Cleveland has four more home games left than Texas, but the Rangers are quickly separating themselves from the rest of the league. The Indians have six more home games than the Orioles, and that might prove to be the advantage they need to overtake the Orioles for the second-best record in the AL.
But if the O’s can find a way to win a few more road games for the remainder of the season (which the history of the last two playoff seasons says they should) even while regressing to the norm (for playoff seasons) at home, they should find themselves winning the division comfortably for the second time in three seasons and in the playoffs for the third time in five years. And if they keep winning at home at the rate they have thus far, they might just win the division going away.