The Baltimore Orioles are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and win their division for the first time since 1997.
The O's hold a seven game lead over the second place New York Yankees, as their 75-55 record is third best in the American League, behind the two AL West powerhouses in the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. Could Baltimore perhaps make a postseason run that takes them to the World Series for the first time since winning it in 1983?
Let's take a look at the Orioles as a team. Their pitching staff has been among the worst in the Major Leagues, as the rotation has contributed the seventh-worst fWAR (6.9) among all the rotations in baseball. The staff has the second-worst xFIP (4.23) to the Texas Rangers, but their ERA (3.86) is middle of the pack, suggesting that they have been susceptible to some very good luck.
Back on July 31st, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Orioles inquired on Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon. Colon has since cleared revocable trade waivers, allowing him to be dealt to any team. The Orioles should make a run for Colon, as his ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all very solid this season. He could definitely add to their rotation that currently includes the likes of Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Kevin Gausman.
The Orioles pitching staff looks like it could be an issue during the playoffs. Acquiring Colon would add more certainty to the rotation, but would Baltimore really be interested in paying him $11 million next season at 42-years-old? It might be the only way to go deep into the playoffs.
If you take a look at some of the rotations of competing teams, you see that the Orioles are at a real liability. The Tigers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, and Royals all have better rotation ERAs than Baltimore. Those are the teams that have the best chance of keeping the Orioles from going deep into the postseason, let alone making the World Series.
As we have seen in many other cases, pitching is very important to a team, but having a balance may be even more important. On the offensive side, the Angels, Tigers, and Athletics all have a better weighted runs created plus (wRC+) than the Orioles. This stat measures how many runs created a player, or in this case a team, is better above league-average, with each point above 100 equaling a percent. The Orioles have a 102 wRC+ as a team, meaning that they create about two percent more runs than the "league-average" team.
The Orioles offense has been the main cog of their success, but seeing how it stacks up against other teams just makes them look like even more of a long shot in the postseason. They rely on the home run more than any other American League team, and as often as a clutch home run comes, another clutch home run does not happen. Unlike the other teams that are looking to get far, the Orioles are placing their chips on something that is a lot harder to predict. Some days may be your lucky days in terms of home runs, while others just may not. Even if the Orioles do get to October, cool air is not good for home runs. It keeps the ball down and inside the ballpark, which helps pitchers, not their counterparts.
FanGraphs.com gives the Orioles the fourth-best chance (of American League teams) to make the World Series, believing that they have a 17.3% chance of winning the American League Championship Series. FanGraphs says that the Angels (22%), Athletics (21%), and Tigers (20.1%) have a better chance than the Orioles to appear in the World Series. That seems very spot on.
The Orioles seem like a team that is taking too many risks this season. It is hard to see them in the World Series, as their depth, pitching staff, and the fact that they rely on home runs are all issues that other teams just do not have. Baltimore is a very good team and while they do have good chances this year, I just do not believe that they have what it takes to win the American League.