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Now it’s time to find out who the Orioles really are

The Orioles were never going to keep playing the whole season at a 111-win pace. They were bound to lose some games, and lose some games they did. So what’s next?

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

When the Orioles stormed out of the gate at the start of the season and rode their way to a 22-10 beginning to the season, it was easy to feel like they were on top of the world. For a while, they were on top of the baseball world, with new nightly comparisons to the 1966 and 1970 World Series-winning seasons.

Now, the Orioles are mired in a four-game losing streak, all of which were one-run losses, and it feels, because it’s all we have lived over the last five days, like they might never win a game again.

In the middle of those two extremes lies reality. As pleasant as it might be to dream that the Orioles could have kept winning at a pace to finish the season with 111 wins, that was only ever just that, a dream. They were due for a course correction and some losses. The fact that they “had” to lose some games doesn’t make the losses any more pleasant to watch.

The current losing streak is concerning because it has exposed some very specific flaws with the Orioles current roster construction, flaws that it’s not clear when they will attempt to address or successfully address. Other players may be waiting for positive regression that, for whatever reason, is not going to be coming.

Prepare for some more losing over the rest of the season than there has been up until now. That’s not just me being a pessimist This brutal four-game stretch still leaves the Orioles with a .611 winning percentage. Over a full season, that would be a team that would win 99 games.

In many recent seasons, the best team in all of MLB did not even win that many games. So unless the Orioles are going to end up being the best team in MLB this season, they will come down from their current winning percentage as well. The question is not will the Orioles lose, because of course they’ll lose. Everyone loses.

The question instead is how much will the Orioles lose, and who will be there waiting with them when they come back down to earth? There are 126 games for the Orioles still to play. That’s a lot of baseball still to get through.

The question of the true talent level

Projection systems like PECOTA aren’t super popular among Orioles fans for evaluating how good the Orioles really are because they’ve been dead wrong in recent years. Forget about what they have to say, though.

Even if the projection systems are wrong, the true talent level of the Orioles team still matters. However good that they are right now, they’ll probably win that percentage of games for the remainder of the season.

Right now, the Orioles are 22-14. As we like to say here on Camden Chat, these are banked wins. Whatever else happens and wherever else their season goes, the Orioles don’t have to give them back. Those wins count just as much as any wins in subsequent months.

If the Orioles are...

  • A .600 team, they will win 60% of 126 remaining games (76) and finish with 98 wins
  • A .580 team, they will win 58% of remaining games (73) and finish with 95 wins
  • A .550 team, they will win 55% of remaining games (69) and finish with 91 wins
  • A .520 team, they will win 52% of remaining games (66) and finish with 88 wins
  • A .500 team, they will win 50% of remaining games (63) and finish with 85 wins

Anything lower than that isn’t worth considering because they aren’t going to make the playoffs. As it is, at this point in time, after their 22-10 start, ending up with “only” 85 or 88 wins would feel disappointing, much like how last year’s 89 wins almost felt disappointing after the Orioles were 47-31 at the end of June.

It’s not the end of the world (yet)

A favorite line of manager Buck Showalter’s is that he has been on bad teams that felt like they would never lose another game, and good teams that felt like they would never win another one. Here’s hoping this is one of the latter times.

The 2016 Orioles overcame two separate five-game losing streaks on the way to qualifying for a wild card spot. The division-winning 2014 Orioles had four-game losing streaks on three different occasions, and the magical 2012 O’s team had a six-game losing streak.

A losing streak in May, even if it stretches on another couple of games, doesn’t mean the season is over. Their performance when they’re not in the middle of big streaks is what really will make or break the season.

The Orioles are going to have to figure out a few things if they’re going to prove themselves to be, say, a .580 team with a serious chance of winning the division. You probably already have a good idea of those things.

  1. After being praised by some idiot on this website last week, the unorthodox Orioles bullpen situation fell apart this week, with the revolving door of relievers figuring prominently in each of the losses on the current streak.
  2. It is likely past time for the Orioles to trim their five-man bench, as our George Battersby wrote last week.
  3. The middle of the Orioles lineup kind of stinks. Manny Machado is only batting .221. Mark Trumbo, who’s batted either fourth or fifth every game, has a paltry .642 OPS. He entered Sunday’s game 158th out of 186 qualified batters in the category.
  4. Kevin Gausman is either doing an Orioles Brian Matusz or an Orioles Jake Arrieta impersonation and both hurt to watch. Watching Ubaldo Jimenez may be worse, and the jury’s still out on Chris Tillman after only two starts.
  5. How much are the Orioles going to miss the 2016 version of Zach Britton? His absence has factored directly into two losses and indirectly factored into others.

If the Orioles are a good baseball team, they’ll solve some of these problems and figure out how to overcome others. If they’re just an OK team, then some will continue to plague them no matter how hard they try to fix them, much like the last couple of odd years.

There is a lot of baseball still to be played. The next couple of weeks are going to give a decent idea which way the rest of the Orioles season is headed.