“Why Not” or “Try Not?” Birds are too cold and too hot

Numbers can be fun. They can be quite revealing, too. The first 25 games of the Orioles’ 2020 season, which are still representative of an overachieving, competitive ballclub, are full of fun numbers.

In fact, from a statistical standpoint, this club has been either surging or slumping the entire year. As a fan, I am simultaneously surprised and somewhat stupefied.

For a team that has lost well over 200 games the last two years, the 2020 Baltimore Orioles’ suddenly emerging as a contender is certainly a stunning turn of events.

However, the rational part of our mind realizes that when it comes to stunning occurrences, they tend to usually be accompanied by end results that are either very positive, or, on the contrary, very negative.

Only a week ago, the Birds of Baltimore were flying high, having just completed a 3-game sweep of the Phillies with an 11-4 rout. Practically a third of the way into the shortened 60-game season, the O’s were 11-8, and many people around these parts were starting to think, “the Orioles? a contender? Why not?!”

After all, it has been roughly 30 years since the Orioles’ improbable 1989 season, wherein, after finishing 54-107 the year before (including a dreadful 0-21 start), the youthful O’s came out of nowhere, with no expectations, and became a nationwide phenomenon.

By mid-season, the Birds and their ‘Why Not?’ slogan had the town in an unexpected baseball frenzy, and though they were eliminated on the season’s 2nd to last day, the team finished with a record of 87-75, a 35 game improvement over 1988.

And, let us not forget to point out that that was back when they played 162 games (which teams normally still do when there isn’t a global pandemic going on). So, all of a sudden, a dramatic turnaround in a 60-game season seemed well within reach for a hungry team of youngsters trying to prove themselves.

Yes, they are hungry, but that hunger seems to crave binges of wins and losses.

A week later, after losing 5 in a row and 6 of 7, the Orioles are now 12-13, and looking upward in the standings at two red hot teams (Tampa and Toronto), and another (New York) who has been hot all season long.

Moreover, their most recent loss came at the hands of the not so hot Boston Red Sox, who came to town with the worst record in the American League, and made the Birds look like a drunken lot of semi-pro bums in the series opener.

Truth be told, the current plight of the Baltimore Orioles is a microcosm of this entire “micro-season.” After starting the season 2-3, the streakiest club in the game has proceeded to win 3, lose 4, win 6, then, most recently, lose 6 out of their last 7, which puts them a game under .500 at the 25-game mark.

However, a closer look at the ups and downs of the 2020 0’s is even more staggering. In the 12 games that the Orioles have won, they have outscored their opponents, 85 to 39; in their 13 losses, they have been outscored by their opposition, 92 to 39! It doesn’t seem to matter who they are playing, because the Birds of 2020 are either ice cold or red hot, and that type of play might be more in tune with a slogan of “Try Not” than “Why Not?!”

For some additional interesting numbers of note, the Orioles have now started 10 different seasons in their 67-year history with a mark of 12-13, which ranks #1 in terms of their most common record after playing 25 games. Ranking #2 is a record of 13-12, which they have achieved 9 different times. Collectively speaking, the Birds have been either 12-13 or 13-12 in almost a third (19/67) of their seasons.

Now, more importantly, you might be wondering, where were those respective clubs at the 60-game mark? Well, of the first 18 (the 19th currently still to be determined), 7 have had .500 or better records after 60 contests, while the other 11 were sub-.500.

Interestingly, and quite fittingly, one of those aforementioned clubs managed to be 33-27 after playing in 60 games. Who were they? The “Why Not” Orioles of 1989.

In conclusion, in spite of or because of the numbers, hope is alive and well in Baltimore!

Published by Scott Tomko

Hack Wilson had 191 RBI in 1930. For decades, it was 190, and then they found one more. It wasn't officially added to the record books until 1999, a half century after Hack passed away. I think if I were Hack Wilson, I would have refused that RBI, because 190 just sounds better.

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