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Looking backwards and ahead for the 2016 Orioles

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The Orioles are in first place at the All-Star break. How did they get there? How can they stay there?

The Orioles finished out their 87th game yesterday beating the Angels 4-2 to go into the All Star Break at 51-36. 15 games over .500 and with a two game lead in the AL East. The first half - which of course is not at the actual halfway point - is in the books and the Orioles have racked up a serious amount of wins.

In fact, their current win total, 51, is the most wins the Orioles have posted through 87 games since 1997. You may recall that is a year in which they won the AL East.

Looking back over the first half the Orioles offense was led by Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis. All four of them have posted a WAR of 2.0 or higher and Machado is in a battle to be the AL MVP.

Others have contributed along the way, but these four have been consistent and keys to the Orioles offense. An offense which currently sits second in the league in team wRC+, first in Isolated Power, and first in home runs.

The pitching, as you all know, has been more of a mixed bag. The rotation has been led by the best Chris Tillman the Orioles have ever seen and an improving Kevin Gausman. Otherwise, the rotation is calamitous at best. The Orioles rotation is 28th in ERA and dead last in the American league.

The bullpen on the other hand has been superb led by Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and surprisingly Dylan Bundy. The constant movement in the other three spots and Buck Showalter’s adeptness at handling his relievers have allowed a strained bullpen to remain effective.

Without the bullpen, the Orioles would be nowhere. The bullpen has the third best ERA in baseball, the second best ERA in the American League, and leads all of baseball in Win Probability Added—when it counted the most, the bullpen showed up and got the job done.

The Orioles are an outstanding 33-14 at home and a mediocre 18-22 on the road. They posted winning records in April, May, and June, and are thus far 4-5 in July. They are 3-2 in extra inning games and 9-8 in one run games. No 2012 shenanigans here. They have scored 442 runs and given up only 401 runs. Again, no 2012 shenanigans in 2016.

While they have struggled on the road, they have excelled in the AL East. They have gone 22-15 against the AL East so far in 2016 and have winning records against every team except Toronto, whom they are 5-5 against.

Also, looking forward, they have 13 games left with the Yankees and 10 left with the Tampa Bay the two worst teams in the division as of today. They only have nine games left with both Toronto and Boston. Also, somewhat interestingly, the Red Sox and the Orioles have played the same number of games, 87, so far, but Toronto has already played 91 games. So while the Orioles only have a 2.0 game lead on Toronto, they have four games on hand.

One other interesting quirk of the first half has been the teams weakness against the AL West. They are 8-15 against AL West opponents, and are a combined 2-12 against Seattle, Houston, and Texas the top three teams of that division.

The good news is that they do not have many games left to play against the West. The obvious realization by now is that the Orioles have also played well against the AL Central. They have gone 16-6 against AL Central opponents.

Looking forward to the second half, the Orioles have 75 games left to play. Prior to yesterday’s results, the Orioles had a 59.8 percent chance to make the playoffs according to Fangraphs, and only a 24.2 percent chance to win their division. Both of those numbers are third best in the AL East.

Fangraphs projects the Red Sox to win the division at this point with 90 wins. The Orioles would have to go 39-36 in their last 75 games to get to 90 wins. That doesn’t seem like such a tall task to me, but hey what do I know. By the way, Fangraphs projects to the Orioles to finish third in the division with 88 wins just behind the Blue Jays and facing those same Jays in the Wildcard game.

The Orioles only play 14 of their last 75 games outside of the Eastern time zone. Also, they have 34 home games and 41 road games left. The last home series of the season is from September 23rd to 25th against the Diamondbacks. That’s right, the Diamondbacks. Thanks MLB, inter-league play is working out just great.

The season finishes with a six game road trip, three in Toronto (those might be important), and the last three games of the season in New York playing the Yankees. September also includes seven games against the Red Sox which will also likely be very crucial to deciding the division winner.

The 2016 season so far is going about as good as could have been hoped for before the season. The Orioles are in first, but with some stiff competition. It has been an interesting first half, but, as they did in 2012 and 2014, the Orioles are going to need a strong second half to finish out this season in first place.

For now, enjoy the All-Star break and remind your friends and family that you exist as a person and not only as a baseball-watching robot.