Nobody Wins Close Games Like Orioles Win Close Games

Nate McLouth, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate a win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Orioles defeated the Tigers 7-5. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Baltimore Orioles are making postseason plans. In a related note, the Orioles are doing something that no team has ever done before.

Today, a news item and a statistical note, which are (as you will see) intensely related.

News Item: Thursday morning, the Baltimore Orioles planned to begin mailing information about postseason tickets to season-ticket holders. Yes, you read that correctly. Baltimore Orioles. Postseason. As The Baltimore Sun notes, it's been a while:

The Orioles, who entered Wednesday’s game tied for one of the two American League wild-card spots, have not been close to a playoff opportunity this late in the season since they went wire-to-wire to win the American League East in 1997.

Really, that understates things; the Orioles haven't enjoyed a winning season since 1997. They won 98 games that year and almost went to the World Series. Since, they haven't managed to win even 80 games in a season. Only the Pirates have gone as long without a winning season.

Oddly, the Pirates are also in the postseason hunt this year. Also oddly, the Pirates and Orioles entered Thursday with identical records: 67-57.

That's not your promised statistical note, though. It's this:

According to Knobler, those 1954 Indians won 111 games (before getting swept by the New York Giants in the World Series). Also according to Knobler, the only other teams to win at least 70 percent of their one- and two-run games were the 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36) and the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (110-42).

Which one of these is not like the other?

Same four teams, with run differentials:

Pirates +252
Cubbies +323
Indians +242
Orioles -54

Here are a couple of easy predictions.

One, the Orioles will fall off that list. They're 43-18 in games decided by one or two runs. That's a .704 winning percentage. It will be exceptionally easy for them to fall below 70 percent by season's end.

Two, the Orioles won't wind up sending out those postseason tickets. They're competing for one of two Wild Cards with four other teams, all of which have significantly better run differentials.

No, it's not impossible. Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report gives the O's a 10-percent chance of reaching the postseason. That's a lot better than no percent. But they're big underdogs next to the Rays, Tigers/ChiSox, Athletics, and Angels.

The Pirates are in roughly the same spot, except they've actually got a positive run differential, so the numbers like their chances quite a bit better.

What's least likely is that both teams make it. What's most likely is that neither does. But we're lucky enough to be around to see how everything plays out.

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