With Consecutive Losing Season Number 10 on the horizon, Orioles fans naturally turn their attention to the question of how to fix things. But one question that has to be asked is "how far away from contending is this team?". To that end it's worth looking deeper about where the team stands today.
The team currently sits at 38-49, but it's possible that the situation isn't quite as dire as that record indicates. That record is fueled by a ridiculously bad 8-18 record in one-run games. A team's record in one run games is largely - though not completely - a product of random chance rather than some peculiar inability to play well in pressure situations. That 8-18 record is worse than every team in the majors aside from the Yankees and the Phillies. Even worse, the team is tied with the Padres for most one-run losses. But given that no team has finished with a worse record in one run games in the past three seasons, it seems likely that the Orioles will regress towards the mean in this department in the second half.
The team's Pythagorean Record, an expected record based on runs scored and runs allowed, puts the team at 42-45. Not good certainly, but a modest improvement, and certainly closer to respectability. It certainly shows to some extent how the team's record is colored by its performance in close games.
But even better are the team's "third order" wins. Third order wins are generated in a similar manner as Pythagorean wins and losses, however instead of using runs scored and allowed, equivalent runs scored (EqR) and equivalent runs allowed (EqRA) are used. EqR and EqRA are generated using a team's batting line (and opponent's batting line for EqRA) in order to determine how many runs a team "should" have allowed or given up, a number adjusted for strength of schedule (which actually results in AEqR and AEqRA). In this calculation, the Orioles are credited with 23 additional runs scored and 17 fewer runs allowed, vaulting their "expected" record up to a touch better than 47-40.
What does any of this mean? We know that both of these adjust records will do a better job of predicting the future than will the team's current unadjusted record. So from here on out we can expect the team to play more like one which won 45 or so games in the first half rather than one which won 38 -- assuming the roster remains the same, of course.
But that doesn't matter much for this year, except for pride. Even if the team went 15 games over .500 over the final 75 games it would only get them to a shade above .500 at 83-79. That's a point of pride if you're one of the worst franchises in baseball but not if you hope to play meaningful games after the All-Star break. No, the real utility in these advanced measures is for looking at next season as a tool to assess what the Orioles need to do in the offseason. I'll try to tackle that next time.