I always find it funny when a discussion on run differential is treated like some sabermetric creation by those who don't want to accept that the odds are against their favorite team sustaining a good run. It's simple subtraction. How many runs has a team scored? How many has it allowed? Do the math. It couldn't be a more basic measure. It makes batting average look like a calculus equation.
And I bring this up because the Orioles are currently defying the odds. They are 63-53 with a minus-43 run differential, and in position to win an AL wild card. If you don't think this would be a rarity, you're ignoring recent history.
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Last season, the Diamondbacks were the playoff team with the worst run differential. It was plus-69. In 2010, every single playoff team had a triple-digit positive differential. In the past decade, only two teams have made the playoffs with a negative differential. The 2007 Diamondbacks, who finished 90-72, were the most recent example. The 2005 Padres (82-80) were the other.
Also, if we need an example of a discrepancy in run differential being corrected this season, we have one readily available. It just happened. The Indians were defying the odds, much like the Orioles, until a season-decimating 11-game losing streak. I'm not saying anything that drastic is going to happen to Baltimore, but it does face a tough schedule the rest of the way.
It's not just run differential with these Orioles. As I noted last week in this space, they are statistically below average in most offensive, defensive and pitching stats. That's why they have a poor run differential, but the only stat that actually matters is wins and losses. And they're getting it done.
How does one beat the system like this?
Well, they obviously have to win close games, otherwise the math wouldn't work. The Orioles are an outstanding 22-6 in one-run games this season, which means the success is owed to timely hitting, timely pitching, a good bullpen and manager Buck Showalter putting role players in position to succeed.
Can they keep it up? It's possible, but history is not on their side.
As always, rankings, comments and stats are through Tuesday. Please feel free to contact me via email with comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.