The Baltimore Orioles are the American League East Champions this year, and rightfully so. This is a team led by veteran presences such as Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, along with youngster Manny Machado being the best young infielder in the game.
Wait, what happened? Okay, scratch that then. At least they have a pretty solid rotation led by offseason signing Ubaldo Jimenez, who will be the most trusted guy in their rotation in this upcoming postseason run.
Okay, now you just have to be messing with me. Is Adam Jones still there? Nelson Cruz? Okay, that’s a little relieving then.
Somehow, the Orioles won the division, and still deserved it the most. Even though most of their notable names went down for several different reasons, their replacements did good enough to ensure the team wins. The best example of this: Steve Pearce.
Steve Pearce is arguably the most valuable on the Orioles this season, and he doesn’t even have 400 plate appearances. He’s filled in wherever he needed to, whether that was at first when Davis went down with an injury (later with a suspension), or in left field when David Lough wouldn’t produce offensively. Pearce is currently 2nd on the team in overall WAR with 4.8 and could easily be a 5 WAR if he plays every game left in the regular season.
Here’s where the “luck factor” comes in. Steve Pearce was always labeled as an offensive prospect when he was in the Pirates organization, but just couldn’t find his groove when he eventually made it to the Majors. This led to him being bounced around in 2012, playing with the Orioles, Astros & Yankees. He eventually did make his way back to Baltimore in late September of that year. Before this season, Pearce has never finished a season with a WAR above 1 or played in more than 50 games. Whether this is the “real” Steve Pearce is yet to be determined, but right now, the Orioles don’t care.
Another example is Caleb Joseph. A 28 year old rookie catcher who had to take on a rotation that many viewed as less than average. Well, that “less than average” rotation has flourished in the 2nd half of this season with Joseph behind the plate for most of it. And for Joseph’s value? He will probably finish with a WAR at or around 1 (he’s currently at 0.9), which is more than the Orioles could have asked for from a guy who considered quitting baseball just a year ago.
Want more examples of pure luck? How about late season acquisitions Alejandro De Aza and Jimmy Paredes. In 16 games in Baltimore, De Aza is slashing .308/.366/.554 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI’s. And for Paredes; he’s currently slashing .350/.381/.600 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s in 13 games. Now, obviously these are small sample sizes for players nobody would expect this kind of production from, but De Aza and Paredes have been two big parts in the last month of games for Baltimore.
With everything in life, luck is involved. You can’t escape it, no matter what you do. Obviously all of these players have the skill to be their absolute best, and that has obviously shown this season, but luck plays a big part in it as well. How this translates to postseason play is another thing, since it’s a completely different atmosphere. One thing is certain though: the Orioles will be playing in the playoff while Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Ubaldo Jimenez all have to watch.