2012 Organizational Rankings: #30 – Baltimore

Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

Baltimore’s 2011 Ranking: #16

2012 Outlook: – 31 (29th)

The Orioles would be a long shot to be a contender in any division in baseball, as their young pitching hasn’t emerged as they had hoped and they’ve struggled to find good complementary offensive pieces to surround their best young players. As such, this a team that is going to give up a lot of runs and not score enough to compensate. When you add in the level of competition they face in the American League East, it would take something close to the largest miracle in sports history for the Orioles to win their division this season. The addition of a second wild card spot does make it more possible for the Orioles to hope they can play in October again at some point, but that point is not this year. The talent level just isn’t in place to compete with good Major League teams, and in a division with three of the seven best teams in baseball ahead of them, they should consider a 75 win season a success.

2013+ Outlook: 37 (28th)

Matt Wieters might not be “Joe Mauer with power”, but he is one of the best catchers in baseball, and he has room to eliminate the “one of” disclaimer, perhaps as soon as this year. If you were looking to start a franchise from scratch today, he’d be on your short list of guys to build around. Unfortunately for Baltimore, they only have one Matt Wieters. Adam Jones is a solid piece, but he’s only under club control for two more seasons, and other clubs are already anticipating that he’ll be put on the block sooner than later. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis are more useful pieces than true building blocks, and injuries have taken a toll on both. As for the pitching, it went from promising to questionable in a hurry, and the organization will be lucky if they can get two good starting pitchers out of their vaunted group of prospects from two years ago.

Down on the farm, there are a couple good prospects on the way, but Marc Hulet still rated the farm system as just the 25th best in baseball – it drops off very quickly after Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado. If those two can develop at a quick pace and begin to contribute for the Orioles at some point in 2013, then they might be able to begin assembling a core of players they can win with. The long term outlook is better than the short term, but it’s still not great.

Financial Resources: 42 (24th)

This is the area where the Orioles should really be strongest, as Baltimore is a large metropolitan area that has a long history of supporting baseball, and Camden Yards remains one of the premier venues in the sport to watch a game. From 1995-1997, the Orioles had the second largest payroll in baseball, trailing only the Yankees. In 1998, they passed the Yankees, and spent more on their Major League roster than any other franchise. When the team was winning, Peter Angelos was happy to invest in the roster, but years of losing have caused a cycle of declining attendance and dwindling payrolls. The Orioles now spend a fraction of what the Yankees spend, and it’s hard to imagine that they were once a franchise that went toe-to-toe with the big boys in spending. Those days offer the hope of what could be again, especially since the franchise co-owns their own network (MASN and MASN2) with the Nationals, but they have to regain the interest of their city before that potential can be realized.

Forbes reports that the Orioles only averaged 31,000 households per game in average audience last year, tied with Oakland for 28th in baseball. After six consecutive 90-loss seasons and 14 straight losing years, the team has simply lost the interest of the casual fan, and that is a major source of revenue for any franchise. To get those fans back, they’ll have to win, but as we discussed the paragraphs above, that probably isn’t going to happen in the next year or two. Their lack of burdensome long term contracts should give them the chance to spend again when they feel they have a chance to be competitive, but premium free agents aren’t overly interested in playing for the Orioles until they prove they can contend again, so they face a chicken-and-egg scenario. The chance for a significant uptick in revenue generation is possible, but it’s going to have be the byproduct of winning, not the cause of it.

Baseball Operations: 33 (30th)

No offense to Dan Duquette, but he was not the Orioles first choice to take over as GM this off-season. He wasn’t even their second choice. It’s not even clear that he was a legitimate consideration for the position until the team had been rebuffed by both Jerry DiPoto and Tony LaCava. That they eventually turned to someone who had been out of baseball for nearly a decade to take over the ship says something about the Orioles ability to lure talented employees to the franchise, and speaks mostly to the negative effects that Peter Angelos continues to have on the franchise.

Duquette’s career reboot didn’t get off to a great start, either, when he violated league rules and signed Korean high-school pitcher Kim Seong-min – the deal was later voided and the Orioles were then banned from scouting in the country going forward. The embarrassment is only heightened by the fact that Duquette’s connections in Asia were touted as one of his major strengths upon being hired. With a new wave of front office talent crashing into front offices are furious rates, it’s nearly impossible to turn over a front office and not get an analytical upgrade in the process, but the Orioles may have accomplished exactly that this winter.

Overall: 36 (30th)

The Orioles total was fractionally lower than the Houston Astros, and after a surprising (and essentially incorrect – consider this our mea culpa) #16 rating last year, Baltimore is presently rated as the franchise with the longest road to travel before they become legitimate contenders. They play in a monster of a division, their team isn’t good, their farm system still needs work, and they’ve been unable to convince fresh young front office talent to come work for their stifling owner. The market has potential, but the team will have to win in order to convince the fans to come back, and that doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon. This is not an easy problem to solve.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


75 Responses to “2012 Organizational Rankings: #30 – Baltimore”

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  1. sc2gg says:

    When I first read “2012 Outlook: – 31″, I was thinking that if someone was able to place 31st in a 30 team league, it’d be the Orioles.

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  2. Mike says:

    Camden Yards is awesome, but it is a miserable place to watch a baseball game in August. I’ve never sweated as much sitting down as I have at August baseball games in Baltimore. The team better be really good if I’m going to go to a game during the heat and humdidity of the summer there.

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    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Mike,

      You have clearly never been to the Ballpark in Arlington from June through August.

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      • Louis says:

        Or Atlanta.

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        Ballpark at Arlington, September 2011, Rangers-A’s. At the 4:05pm start time it was 103 degrees. Those first few innings were among the most painful experiences of my baseball-loving life… by about 6:30, the temperature dropped to a mere 98 and it felt glorious.

        Also: the Ms. crossed her legs and got the most amusingly-shaped sunburns.

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    • Brendan says:

      As others have said, there are quite a few other parks that suffer from this kind of weather, notably Texas and Atlanta, who draw well enough, and, of course, the Nats, too. I think it has more to do with the records of the teams than the heat. The Nats and the O’s both drew fairly well in 2005 (the Nats first season) being 8th and 5th in league attendance, respectively, despite the hot, humid weather. After that, it’s been terrible for both teams.

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    • ek1987 says:

      It’s baseball… in August.

      Chances are, if there isn’t a dome involved- you’re going to sweat.

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      • SaberTJ says:

        Exactly, but it also means attractive women wearing tank tops and shorts. Well worth the perspiration imo,

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      • JGIII says:

        or it means not-so-attractive women wearing clothes that were meant for a women 1/3 their size with really bad sun-burned farmers tans, hair that hasn’t been washed in a week, reeking of cigarette smoke, with tattoos on their boob poking out of that tank top that seems to be asking you “Why me? Somebody please wash me ASAP!!!”

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    • Dave in GB says:

      I can’t imagine most places not being hot and humid in August. The right field side gives the least amount of shade and is usually the hottest. The left side is the shadiest and theres a nice breeze underneath the terraces. The bleachers are sweltering, especially during day games. I spent half the game in the bar across Boogs BBQ. One thing about O’s games today…lots of options

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    • Mike says:

      I guess a little context is needed. I grew up watching the Seattle Mariners. Augusts in Seattle are spectacular and not miserable. I go to a lot of games in DC too and while they are very hot and humid it’s pretty cheap to attend. I walk there after work and get $5 tickets from the ticket window. In Baltimore, they don’t seem to have cheap tickets at the ticket window when I have gone. They don’t have a good product on the field. When it is hot and humid it’s pretty miserable. With all three of those factors I see no reason to make the drive to go to games up there. If they become good, I probably will make the drive, pay the higher ticket prices, and sit in the hot and humid weather to watch good baseball.

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      • Dave in GB says:

        Seating prices range from $10-$65, unless you go to “prime games” when they fleece the NY/Boston fans. Considering most stadiums, it’s cheaper than most.

        And if you go to the team website and enter your birthday, you get a free ticket vocher for your birthday month. So there you go! You don’t even have to pay 1 game out of the year! I think you even get a free hotdog and coke!

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    • Bill says:

      Unless you are in a dome (or San Diego), it will either be hot in August or cold in April and May. Welcome to the temperate zone.

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  3. some guy says:

    Bottom 5 predictions?

    I’ll go: Orioles, Astros, White Sox, Mets, Athletics

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    • sc2gg says:

      Orioles, Astros, White Sox, Twins, Pirates

      A’s might be close, but I can see far more hope in Oakland than other places.

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      • oakland is a strange case, are they really bad if they’re trying to be bad? Their outlook can change on a dime, the move to San Jose.

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      • Ross says:

        hahahaha the Pirates are going to TOP TEN buddy!!! A’s will be up there too after getting Parker, Cole, Peacock, Milone, Norris and then add in Choice and Sonny Gray and they will could maybe get a top 10, most likely top 15

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    • Greg says:

      The Mets play in the best market and have a smart front office in place. The farm system is not great but it’s not terrible either and Marc Hulet in particular was higher than most on it. They won’t be high overall, but bottom 5 would be pretty ridiculous, even with 2012 and (likely) 2013 looking fairly bleak.

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  4. Os Fan says:

    I can’t believe we’re behind Houston. Ugh.

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    • Matt says:

      I can, though while I agree that we ARE a longshot contender in any division, our presence in the AL East can’t be ignored as a major roadblock to contention.

      Which isn’t to say I want out of the AL East — it’s fun to hate on the Yankees and Red Sox, whether we’re winning OR losing. We’ve been dominant in the past and can be again, but yes, it will be a while until we are again, and unfortunately a lot of that IS the fault of Peter Angelos.

      I still think he’s as meddling as he was a decade ago, even if it’s kept on the DL a bit more, and even if he’s not, the perception continues.

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  5. Baltar says:

    I give you a lot of credit for stepping up like a man and admitting that last year’s ranking of the Orioles was a huge mistake.
    This correction bodes well for the remaining rankings.

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    • Ronin says:

      Surely that is a typo. I could believe the Orioles were ranked 26th last year but 16th?

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      • someguy says:

        #16org

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      • Bill says:

        The O’s had four highly touted pitching prospects ready to compete. Markakis’ decline was still seen as a fluke and Roberts still looked like he might be ok. The O’s were one of the best teams in the second half of 2010. There was plenty of reason for optimism. Cameron just failed to compensate for the fact that the Orioles can’t develop talent. They undevelop talent. Players are better when the join the team than they are after they’ve been “developed”. Their player development system would turn a young Babe Ruth into Neifi Perez and a young Cy Young into Kevin Correia. Matusz was supposed to be among the better pitchers in the league last year. He was one of the worst pitchers ever. You can’t fault Dave.

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  6. Mitch says:

    I think this still overrates the Orioles.

    Until Angelos is gone, there’s almost no need to evaluate any of the components.

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    • ognihs says:

      these guys are a lot like the mlb equivalent of the raiders… as a raiders fan, i can say it’s not encouraging.

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  7. Richie says:

    Baltimore’s history of strongly supporting baseball ain’t all that long, that I recall. Weaver’s Orioles regularly drew poorly given their bright shiny W-L records, did they not?

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      See http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/baltatte.shtml

      Attendance never passed 15,500 until 1979, then there are three quantum leaps in attendance:

      1979 – World Series appearance
      1989 – Led AL East for most of season
      1992 – New park

      And then a slow and steady decline. People like watching winners. Who knew?

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      • Damien says:

        And then some hometown guy named Ripken came up for good in ’82 and played there for 20 straight years.

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      • Aaron (UK) says:

        Yeah, people liked watching Ripken too.

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      • Richie says:

        Kind of my point about Baltimore’s historical level of loyalty to the Orioles. They won a Series in ’66, lost there in ’69, won it in ’70, lost in ’71, and were in contention the rest of the 70s. Yet people mostly stayed away. That’s some pretty impressive non-support, if you ask me.

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    • Dave in GB says:

      Thats because Memorial Stadium was in a bad suburbian location with bad parking. Its not that Baltimore didn’t love the O’s…the same could be said for the Colts. Neither team had high attendance, but both had huge following in the area. The demographics of the stadium was horrible, which was the reason the Colts left, which then motivated the city to build Oriole Park

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  8. Todd says:

    Although as an O’s fan this is depressing, it’s more fair and accurate than the analysis you see anywhere else. Thanks Dave

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  9. Big Jgke says:

    No matter how much Dan Duquette gets laughed at, the people of Baltimore can always take solace in the fact it could be worse; apparently JP Ricciardi was one of the men they were interested in for that job.

    At least Duquette seems like a hilarious bumbler, not an egomaniac obsessed with turning your team into a dominant .500 dynasty of mediocrity able to win enough that it just gets your hopes up year in and year out only to be dashed on the rocky shores of the AL East.

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  10. Bronnt says:

    This is a reassuring sign for this season’s methodology. I can’t disagree with Baltimore’s placement in last. I remember being so confused by their placement last year-wasn’t it like 16th? It was pretty terrible. With the Pirates’ outlook slowly improving, the Orioles have replaced them as the franchise of sadness.

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  11. Eric says:

    Any chance you could add the overall rankings from the previous years of this exercise? It would be interesting to see if organizations are trending one way or the other. Thanks.

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  12. Eric says:

    Sadly, I can’t argue with this ranking. I will argue with the assertion that Nick Markakis is injury-prone. Homeboy has never missed more than five games in a season, and is coming off back-to-back-to back 160-game seasons. I know he had some surgery this off-season, but lets wait until he misses a game before we label him that way.

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  13. Andrew says:

    How many times would you have to play the 2012 season before the Orioles won the AL East? I’m not sure it’s even possible.

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  14. Kevin says:

    I just took all of the Fangraphs Positional Power Rankings for the Orioles and put them together in a season preview format. I projected the team wins based on the individual WAR for each player. Check it out.

    http://eutawstreetblues.blogspot.com/2012/03/season-preview-orioles.html

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  15. Tito Landrum says:

    Sad, but largely true. There are just sooooo many “ifs” we O’s fan need to break our way.

    Will Matusz return to something closer to his second half of 2010 version?
    Can Arrieta, who now seems to be 100% healthy, command his fastball and be a solid contributor?
    What about Chen and Wada? Chen looks an awful lot like Matusz did in the second half of 2010.
    Can Hammel and/or Hunter approximate what Jeremy Guthrie did for the last several years?

    All of these guys have looked good this spring, and I don’t just mean statistically because I don’t give much credence to spring stats. Their velocity is up and they are throwing strikes. Obviously facing the lineups that their AL East competitors throw out there, the hope that his lasts into the season is small I suppose.

    The offense was, overall, league average last year. I would think it’ll be as good if not slightly better this season. The pitching, however, SEEMS as though it’ll be much improved from last season. Rotation and bullpen. Duquette has indeed built in some depth. When the O’s need to reach down to AAA Norfolk this season they’ll have something they can use.

    On the other side, we have little to no offensive depth to draw from in the minors.

    Even if all of these things break the O’s way it likely does not get us out of the AL East cellar but there is some hope for a good season – by relative Oriole standards :^) Again, .500 being that standard.

    Lastly, Duquette has been a very good GM in the past. He’s only every had one losing season as a GM. The circumstances that brought him here were embarrassing, the Korea situation… eh, whatever… that’ll work itself out. I’m more concerned about why the O’s apparently think so highly of young Kim and pretty much no one else does.

    Duquette teams in Montreal and Boston have always been strong in scouting and player development and this more then anything has been what has made the O’s such a horrible franchise for so long. We’ll see if Duquette can break through here with some of the changes he has already made in this area.

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  16. Adam says:

    It is an easy problem to solve…it’s as simple as Peter Angelos leaving the team.

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  17. Bob Klein says:

    If the fans would just stop going to the games, Angelos might wake up. Maybe. It’s such a waste of money anyway. The glory days of full houses at Camden Yards are gone…the young, affluent DC folks with their smart phones are texting and tweeting happily away from the Nationals’ ball park now. No more sell-outs except when the Yankees or Red Sox come to town. The Yankee and Red Sox fans buy up all the tickets, not that Angelos cares whose money he rakes in.

    But for most of the home games, a few thousand die hards still show up. These are the guys who come with their stat books and Bill James’ latest sabremetrics bible. These folks are seriously lost in the forest. They can and will argue that Jeremy Guthrie is a “solid” major league starting pitcher. The fact that he was the losingest pitcher in baseball (17 L’s) in two of the last three seasons is “irrelevant.”

    These are the people who keep the attendance from being embarrassing. They should stay home and read their charts, and maybe Angelos would notice that nobody is paying to watch his team any more.

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    • Matt says:

      I think that’s an overly-harsh assessment of the fans that do show up. A lot of us appreciate advanced stats but go to the games for the experience of sitting in a beautiful ballpark and watching baseball, not once filling out a score card.

      And Nats fans were just gnashing their teeth less than a year ago about Phillies fans buying up all the Opening Day tix, so you can’t tell me this sort of thing is solely the province of the Baltimore fan base. You hear the same thing about Cubs and Cardinals fans invading Miller Park and Great American Ballpark, too.

      And finally, in defense of Guthrie, he IS a solid ML SP. He was never an ace, and even on the rare occasion that he WAS referred to as such, it’s always been with “ace” in quotes, or prefaced with the word “de facto”. He was a great ambassador for the team and the sport, and deserved better than the non-existent run-support he received in Baltimore. He’s a very good 3rd or 4th SP, and I hope (probably in vain) that he can keep enough long-balls inside Coors to get flipped to a contender later this season.

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  18. Bob Klein says:

    See what I mean?

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    • Dave in GB says:

      It was also a known fact 40 years ago that losses were “irrelevant”.

      That’s like telling me Pat Dobson’s 18 losses in 1973 was a true indicator of how good he really was. All advanced stats aside, losses can be just a matter of bad luck. Or in Guthrie’s case, add that on top of playing for a bad team.

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  19. Bob Klein says:

    How old were you 40 years ago?

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  20. dave in GB says:

    you?

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  21. Bob Klein says:

    I was 25. I also was a true believer in the philosophy of Vince Lombardi and Earl Weaver. So, when someone says that wins and losses are “irrelevant” in sports, they obviously are speaking a different language than me. Wins and losses are the only statistic that matter. Everything else is irrelevant. It may be nice to know, but it’s still irrelevant.

    Once upon a time, if a player didn’t win, he didn’t eat. It used to work very well for the Orioles. Then they became obsessed with irrelevant statistics, and the results speak for themselves.

    Please don’t bother responding to this. If you don’t get it, you never will.

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    • drew graff says:

      Apparently you don’t get it, and never will.

      A “pitcher’s” loss is different from a team loss. To neatly place TEAM wins and losses on a pitchers stat sheet is lazy. All great coaches know sports are team games and a pitchers job isn’t to “win” or “lose,” it’s to get batters out.

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    • dave in glen burnie says:

      Actually, when the Orioles failed to evolve with the rest of the game, its when they started failing. This includes advanced statistics. But according to you, every team that adopted this new fangled “philosophy” must be wasting their time. Right. That’s why those same teams advance to the playoffs, and the Orioles are who they are.

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  22. Harry says:

    I guess you told him!

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  23. joppa says:

    good call dave, best record in baseball.

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  24. Esteban says:

    They may or may not win the division… but holy frijoles, what a season. Prob stings to see Adam Jones clubbing 30+ bombs huh Dave ;)

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  25. Genghiskhanoriole says:

    Dont quit your day job Dave, ooopppps I’m sorry this is your day job, ok stay away from Vegas would be my next advice.
    I know to comment on this now is pilling on after the fact but you deserve every bit of it with your analysis and “greatest miracle” in sports comment.
    We need to file your article along side the Boston Globe prediction that the 2011 Red Sox would go down in history as a better team than the 1927 Yankees.

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  26. Tntoriole says:

    Brilliant analysis! It is truly satisfying to demonstrate once again that statistical know it alls really know nothing at all. This is why they actually play the games rather than just running computer simulations and announcing the winners.

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  27. Tito Landrum says:

    I’m not going to pile on here, instead I’m just going to point out that you shouldn’t have so quick to do a 180 from where you place pd the O’s in 2010!

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  28. James Feagin says:

    Good analysis bro! How many games did you ever play?

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  29. Dan says:

    as a diehard Orioles fan (was there any other kind before this season?) I thought this was a little harsh when it was posted, but also fairly hard to argue with, apart from the Duquette bit which I thought was poorly thought out and a product of jumping on the bash Duquette bandwagon as a result of the Kim fiasco, while ignoring the several good moves he made at creating a solid organizational infrastructure. Probably would have put the O’s ahead of the Astros but that would have been it.

    So I’m not going to say anything negative about Dave right now considering that I certainly didn’t know any better, and anyone who says they did is lying to themselves.

    I think Dave was probably right to say that “it would take something close to the largest miracle in sports history for the Orioles to win their division this season.” And I think it’s absolutely amazing that it might actually be happening.

    Can’t wait to see where the O’s rank next year.

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  30. Michelle Ingrodi says:

    What say you now Fool? Orioles are in the playoffs!

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  31. CF71 says:

    After reviewing the above analysis, it’s time for someone to eat crow. Or another dark-feathered bird.

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  32. Ruki Motomiya says:

    This article just goes to show how truly difficult it is to predict baseball.

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