Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a fun place to watch a baseball game.
It hasn’t, however, been a fun place to play one. Not if you wear the home uniforms, at least.
We’re nearing the midway point in May, with a decent sample size in the books, and the baffling absurdity that is the Orioles’ home and road splits continues to be a storyline.
On the road, the Orioles are 11-6. That’s a .647 winning percentage, which over 162 games is a 104-58 record. On the road, the O’s are the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
At home, they were 4-13 entering Monday. That comes out to .235, or 38-124. At home, they’re the 1962 New York Mets.
There’s no other team in baseball that is facing splits like those. Only three teams, the Phillies, Cubs and Rockies, entered Monday with a wider difference in wins than the Orioles’ seven between home and road games. Chicago (13-8 and 4-9) is at nine, whereas Philadelphia (13-6 and 5-11) and Colorado (10-8 and 2-14) are at eight, but those teams see their numbers in reverse. They have the winning records at home, and the losing records on the road.
Baltimore, meanwhile, finds its kryptonite in the green grass of Camden Yards. Of the 30 teams in MLB, only the Tampa Bay Rays (7-10 at home, 12-7 on the road) are looking at a similar scenario.
The home woes are also an anomaly in a wider perspective. MLB.com allows users to look up standings on a specific day, and the idea of a team having a disparity between home and road wins, in favor of the road victories, nearing the Orioles’ gap of seven on May 10 isn’t unusual. In 2019, the Rockies had six wins at home and 15 on the road by that date. That same year, the Diamondbacks were at eight and 14, respectively. The Mariners were at seven and 13, The Braves in 2018 were at eight and 14, the Mariners in 2016 were at seven and 13...it has happened frequently.
But that is slanted due to those teams having played a lot more games on the road, giving them more opportunities to pile up the road wins. Those 2019 Diamondbacks, for example, had six more road wins on May 10 but one more road loss. Change the criteria to match what the Orioles had done entering Monday — seven or more wins on the road, as well as seven or more losses at home — and it becomes clear how unusual Baltimore’s start has been.
MLB.com goes as far back as 1994 with its specific day standings. In more than 25 years, only three teams — the 2008 Braves, 2005 Astros and 2000 Royals — went into May 10 with at least seven more wins in one category and seven more losses in the other category, but all three had the disparity in favor of the home record. None had it in favor of the road record. Only two teams (the 2016 Diamondbacks, who were 5-12 at home and 12-6 on the road; and the 2004 Cardinals, who were 6-11 at home and 10-5 away from St. Louis) came close.
What the Orioles have done in 2021 may not be unprecedented. But it certainly isn’t typical.
What is typical, though, is for the Birds to have a harder time winning at Camden Yards than away from it. If this trend continues to the end of the season, it will mark the fourth straight season Baltimore has a worse home record than road. From 2012-17, however, when the Orioles made three playoff appearances and were consistently in the hunt for the division, they had a higher home winning percentage all six years.
It hasn’t been a matchup issue. The competition at home (a cumulative winning percentage of .571, compared to .540 on the road) has been slightly better, but not to an extent that would prompt such night-and-day differences.
It’s pitching that has most clearly shown a divide. While the team’s batting stats at and away from Camden Yards (.226 home versus .232 road, .679 OPS versus .652) have been pretty similar, the performance on the mound has been a different story. Baltimore has a 3.11 ERA on the road and a 5.17 mark at home, and considering the largely makeshift rotation the Birds have (apart from John Means), The Yard’s nature as a cozy hitter’s park may be hurting the Baltimore hurlers more than the visiting ones. O’s pitchers have allowed 30 home runs in 148 innings at home, and 17 in 150.2 innings on the road.
Another factor, however, is that the Orioles have just been the beneficiaries of timing on the road more often than at home. It was on the road that the O’s got a Red Sox team that was without its best pitcher and not quite ready to go out of spring training, and it’s been at home that they’ve faced them when they’ve been on a tear. Baltimore won the road series against the Athletics, but when Oakland visited Camden Yards, that was when the A’s were the hottest team in baseball, riding a 13-game winning streak.
Perhaps, once water starts to seek its level, we’ll see the Orioles welcome more struggling teams to Baltimore and start finding the buzzsaws on the road instead of on their own front lawn. Certainly, the fans turning out to see the O’s win wouldn’t mind if the trend evens out a bit.