Baltimore Orioles would rather not party like it’s 1999

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 18: Manager Buck Showalter
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 18: Manager Buck Showalter /

The Baltimore Orioles are fading quickly. With a 5-and-14 start to the season, they’re on their way to partying like it’s 1999.

Three weeks into the baseball season and the Baltimore Orioles sit in dead last in the American League East. Dreams of matching their red-hot start to the 2017 season have gone up in smoke. However, there’s a pair of seasons that resemble this year – at least, through 19 games.

After their 13-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, the Baltimore Orioles fell nine games under .500, something that didn’t occur last season until September 27 – four games before season’s end.

Just when it feels like it can’t get any worse, it does. And, when it feels like the team may pull off a victory, it doesn’t happen. It’s tough to watch, but it shouldn’t be hard to understand we’re only 19 games into the young season.

The organization isn’t going to blow the team up in April. They’re not firing Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette, and they’re probably not as bad as the 1969 San Diego Padres. They lost 110 games that season, finishing last in runs scored, hits, team batting average, OBP, and OPS. I’m not buying that the 2018 Orioles will be worse than that.

But, what I will buy into is that they’re looking more-and-more like their 1999 rendition. A team that, coincidentally enough, had a 5-and-14 record through the first 19 games.

Comparing them to a sub-.500 team

In 1999, the Orioles began their season against the (Devil) Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Athletics. The (Devil) Rays finished that season with 93 losses; the Blue Jays finished in third in the AL East, the Athletics were second in the AL West and of course, the Yankees, won their 25th championship. Ask a Yankees fan; they’ll tell you I’m right.

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Losing six-in-a-row to the Blue Jays and (Devil) Rays is eerily similar to how this year’s team has now lost six straight to the Red Sox and Tigers. Only, neither of them were off to their best start in franchise history.

Although their overall record matched the 1999 Orioles, this year’s club is in a more significant downward spiral at the moment. Through 19 games for the O’s taking the field 19 years ago, they hit .257 collectively. While posting a .355 OBP and a .739 OPS, they had 165 total base hits, with 46 extra-base hits and 17 home runs. Also, they struck out 106 times and walked 93.

This year’s team isn’t posting numbers anywhere near those. Except for having identical extra-base hits and home runs, they’re sub-par in the rest of the categories mentioned. The 2018 Orioles are hitting .223, with an OBP of .294 and an OPS of .661. Their 210 strikeouts are the most of any team through 19 games since 1908, and they’re currently on pace for 1,791.

Avoiding the same fate

Ultimately, the ’99 club finished with a 78-and-84 record by going 42-and-33 after the all-star break, proving, indeed that it’s a long season. At the beginning of October though, it was their second straight losing season after appearing back-to-back postseasons beginning three years prior.

Avoiding a complete and total meltdown, they put together a 13-game win streak from September 7-22, hitting .295 during that period. They outscored opponents 78-37 and hit 17 home runs. However, the team was 15 games under .500 and 23 games back in the east, so there still wasn’t a shot at the postseason.

Although, the team made a mad dash for .500 quite interesting. A lineup mainly constructed with names like (Charles) Johnson, (Will) Clark, (Rich) Amaral and (Jeff) Reboulet. And, a starting rotation with names such as (Scott) Erickson, (Sidney) Ponson and (Juan) Guzman was within arms reach of .500 by the end of the season, finishing just six games behind.

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Now, with a Baltimore Orioles lineup constructed of guys named Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Jonathan Schoop will try to begin their uphill climb back to .500. It’s a long season, I’ve beat that to death, but that climb back to .500 needs to start tonight. If they want to talk about a fourth postseason birth in six years, they’ll need to get it together.