Beware the Baseball Boogeyman
July 22, 2014
Every team in the A.L. East thinks it can still win the division. The Orioles, however, have the best chance of doing so. With that in mind, let's not be afraid of the baseball boogeyman.
The baseball boogeyman doesn't hang out in the closet or under the bed. No, he's there at the bottom of the division standings in the form of the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. Lately it seems lots of folks are afraid of them.
Both the Red Sox and Rays are riding five-game win streaks and talking a mighty good game. The Boston Herald has proclaimed, "As things stand today, the Red Sox might be the most complete team in the division." Rays manager Joe Maddon has Tweeted "Don't count us out." Cue the horror music.
The Red Sox (47-52) and Rays (47-53) sit 7.5 games and 8 games behind the Orioles, respectively. However, the two teams that were favorites for playoff spots and expected to contend for the division title are getting into people's heads and making them believe it can still be so. Let's not let the same thing happen to us, O's fans.
Don't give into the convenient narratives. You know, the "A.J. Pierzynski was the problem; the Red Sox are back" thinking. Or the more simplistic, "The Rays always finish strong" reasoning. For however unlikely as it may seem, the Orioles are 10 games over .500, in first place, and, while it's still relatively early, in good position to win their first division title since 1997. They're also putting up a strong fight at the outset of a grueling West Coast swing.
The O's have slightly better than a 50 percent probability of winning the A.L. East (See FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com) and a 60 percent probability of making the playoffs. The Red Sox and Rays each have a less than 10 percent probability of winning the division. Those numbers tell us that a team in the Orioles' position wins the division more often than it does not. It's far from a guarantee, but it should be enough to quell the fear induced by five-game win streaks after the All Star Break.
The objects in the Orioles' mirror are not closer than they appear. In fact, it's the opposite. Enjoy the ride.