At the beginning of the 2020 season, few expected the Orioles to finish anywhere above fifth place in the AL East, let alone compete for a playoff spot.
But after a 10-7 start in a shortened 60-game schedule that will include an expanded playoff format, the Orioles are in a position to pull off a classic "Cinderella" story. According to ESPN, they're the most likely "bottom-tier" team from the beginning of the year to make the playoffs.
Writer Bradford Doolittle categorized his "bottom-tier" list of teams as clubs who had a 0% chance of winning the World Series under a normal 162-game season. Among a group consisting of the Pirates, Giants, Mariners, Royals, Tigers and Marlins, the Orioles have the best current chances of making it to the 16-team postseason at 39%.
"The Orioles have mashed their way to a 119 team OPS+ and have outscored opponents by eight runs through one-fifth of their schedule," Doolittle wrote. "Their 10-7 record doesn't include a 5-2 lead they hold in a suspended game against Washington from Aug. 9 that has already reached the sixth inning.
"If you book that suspended game in favor of Baltimore, they'd need to go 19-23 the rest of the way to get there," he said. "Unfortunately, the O's have eight games left against the Yankees, three with the Nationals beyond the suspension, seven with Tampa Bay and three against Atlanta."
Baltimore certainly has a tough road ahead, though it's encouraging they probably won't have to go .500 the rest of the way to give themselves a shot at a playoff berth. As we've already seen with a 60-game season, anything can happen, and it'd be hard for O's fans to complain about meaningful games in September should the club stay hot.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Nationals' 6-9 start to the year has put them at risk of becoming one of Doolittle's "elite" teams to miss out on the playoffs.
An "elite" team is one that at least a 5% chance at winning the World Series under a normal format, and the Nationals lead a group including the Astros, Braves, Twins, Dodgers and Yankees with a 43% chance of missing the playoffs. Houston holds the next highest chance at 18%.
The good news for the Nats here is that their pitching staff is one of the best in baseball and Stephen Strasburg has yet to make a start in 2020. They were also without Juan Soto for the first seven games of the year and the man has absolutely mashed (five home runs, 1.486 OPS) since he rejoined the Washington lineup.
As they get healthier and more games under their belt, the Nats should put some more wins together. They just don't have a ton of time to figure things out like last season.
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