September 25, 2023
Oh, Those O’s! Can Baltimore win the pennant ahead of schedule?
“I’ve never talked timelines,” Mike Elias, the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, said on the eve of the 2023 MLB All-Star Game.
That seems like a long time ago. At the time, Orioles fans were thrilled to be in the chase, ecstatic to be truly relevant in the heart of baseball season. Then, Baltimore had a 54-35 record, the second-best record in both the AL East and the American League. The team just ahead of them, the Tampa Bay Rays, is now looking up at the Orioles, 2.5 games back of the division crown with just five games remaining.
Elias wasn’t about to predict this – not if, how or when it would happen. But as September inches toward October – the only month that truly matters in baseball – Elias’ Orioles on are the verge of an epic turnaround. Intended or discussed or not, it looks as if the time is now.
The headlines in Baltimore are no longer about the gluttony of talent in the Orioles farm system, or the fact that Elias completely revamped how the team scouts and develops – both at home and internationally. Now, the discussion has turned to the playoffs, toward the four Orioles that have amassed more than 70 RBIs this season, toward whether or not this magical season can continue on, deep into October.
Can the Orioles win the pennant and beyond?
Perhaps a better question is Why couldn’t they?
What to like about the Orioles winning the AL Pennant…
- Consistency and resiliency. Admit it: At some point during the season, every tried-and-true O’s fan wondered – quietly or aloud – “This is fun, but can it last?” Well, it has. At every turn, the Orioles met adversity with a tough and workmanlike response. Even in mid-September, when Baltimore dropped four games in a row, it responded with four wins in a row. Baltimore has one of the most consistent hitting lineups in all of baseball and a pitching staff that is top-7 in AL ERA and top-2 in saves. That’s a great recipe for success in the postseason.
- The Orioles have a deep pitching staff. It’s one thing to have a “stopper” but the O’s boast four pitchers with 10 or more wins – Kyle Gibson (15), Dean Kremer (12); Kyle Bradish (11) and Mike Bauman (10). That’s not easy to do in modern baseball. If closer Felix Bautista can return to action following a UCL injury – which is what’s been hinted of late – then the O’s can be solid from start to finish in any game.
What not to like about the Orioles winning the AL Pennant…
- Experience. It’s an intangible that can’t be predicted, but there’s no denying that the Astros and Rays all have most postseason experience lately. That doesn’t mean Baltimore isn’t better, it’s just that postseason baseball is different. The good news is that throughout the season, Baltimore has shown that bumps in the road won’t derail the train, that same mindset must carry over into the postseason.
- Bautista, like it or not, is still somewhat of a question mark. Elias said that Bautista’s injury was “acute-on-chronic” and that doctors didn’t “see a risk with Bautista throwing.” On the flip side, he also said that there is some “significance” to the tear, adding that the team won’t take on any “long-term risk to him or to his recovery.” Those words are laced with both optimism and caution, so it will be interesting to see what becomes of the star close as the playoffs near. The hope is that he’s not only healthy, but will be able to return to his All-Star form.
Richard DeMala’s Pick: Orioles to win AL Pennent (+325)
Currently tied with the Rangers for best odds to represent the American League in the World Series, the Orioles comes in at favorable value of +325. That’s reason enough to put a little dough on the O’s. Across the aisle, the Braves only have three more wins than Baltimore – and the Dodgers have one less – yet, their odds to win the NL Pennant are +110 and +200 respectively. Anytime one can get (better than) 3-to-1 odds on a team that boasts the best record in the league, it’s a value too hard to pass up. To heck with experience, the Orioles are the story of the summer and there’s plenty of room on the bandwagon.