Last week, oddsmaker Bet Online issued its first over/under win totals for major league clubs. Not surprisingly, the Orioles, with 55 ½, were last.
A year ago, the Orioles also were last in Bet Online’s estimation with an over/under of 57 ½.
The Orioles ended the season 54-108, so if you bet the under, you won.
However, the Orioles didn’t have the worst record in baseball. The Detroit Tigers, who had an over/under of 68 1/2, were way under when they stumbled to a 47-114 record.
With the widespread legalization of gambling, there are more and more ways to lose money. Just days before the win totals came out, Bet Online made Buck Showalter the 2-to-1 favorite to manage the Houston Astros in 2020. Dusty Baker was assigned 10-to-1 odds.
Bet Online will have odds on nearly anything. They have dozens of prop bets for the Super Bowl. So, if you were wondering: Will Antonio Brown tweet during the game? You have a service that will take that bet.
If you wager the over on the Orioles, and you won’t get any gambling advice from me, you’re betting that the Orioles will go 56-106 or better.
Even though general manager Mike Elias has emphasized the importance of building from the ground up, Oriole fans continue to obsess over the win/loss record.
The team improved by seven games in 2019 from the franchise record 47-115 in 2018.
However, if the Orioles improve by the same amount in 2020, you’ll win the bet, but the team would still drop 101 games.
At that rate, the Orioles wouldn’t get to the .500 mark until 2023 when they’d finish 82-80.
But, as Elias likes to say, don’t expect a linear improvement.
While it’s unfashionable these days to make comparisons to the Houston Astros, they were the last major league team to lose 100 games in three consecutive seasons. That’s something Oriole fans would prefer to avoid
The Astros lost 106 games in 2011, the year before Elias arrived from St. Louis, 107 in 2012 and 111 in 2013.
In 2014, Houston improved to 70-92 before they began their run with a 86-76 record and a playoff spot in 2015.
In their history, the Orioles have lost 100 or more games four times — in their first season, 1954, when they were 54-100; 1988, when they started 0-21 and finished 54-107; and the last two seasons.
Some of our readers have predicted that the Orioles could win 65 games this season. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but that would mean the team lost 97 games, which is still a terrible record.
After the team traded infielder Jonathan Villar and starting pitcher Dylan Bundy for five pitching prospects, some said the team would lose 120 or 130 games, which won’t happen. Some changed their way of thinking when shortstop José Iglesias was signed.
This season, as Elias points out, is still about adding talent.
When you look at some of the young pitchers coming to spring training next month, it’s clear that there is more talent, and more refined talent than there was in the organization a year ago.
That doesn’t mean it will translate to a better win/loss record, but in 2019 the team improved slightly when younger players such as Anthony Santander, Hunter Harvey and Austin Hays were added to the mix later in the season.
In the first half of last season, the Orioles were 27-62 for a .303 winning percentage. After the All-Star break, they were 27-46 for a .370 percentage.
If you extrapolate their second-half pace for a full season, that would translate into a 60-102 record.
While there are still a number of placeholders, especially in the pitching staff, it seems that the Orioles will be better prepared for 162 games than they were a year ago.
In 2019, the Orioles used 18 different starting pitchers. Some, like Richard Bleier, aren’t starters but it isn’t certain if manager Brandon Hyde will use an opener followed by someone to take the Orioles deeper into the game.
In one of the most surprising games of the season, Bleier opened on September 20 against the Seattle Mariners and after allowing a two-run home run in two innings, in came Aaron Brooks, who pitched the final seven innings, giving up just one run on a hit.
Brooks is gone, off to South Korea, but Hyde could use that strategy.
Hyde will have to sift through 34 pitchers during spring training. Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann, all young left-handers who won’t make the club, could possibly appear later in the 2020 season.
And there lies the reason for optimism. If the Orioles think they’re ready, they could get a shot. Elias has emphasized that they don’t want to bring players up only to have to return them to the minor leagues.
They’ll have to learn in the major leagues, but they won’t be rushed.
As hard as it might seem, Oriole fans should try to put the record into the background. It can’t be ignored, but 2020 is for watching younger players grow.
The guess here, and not the bet here, is a year from now, the Orioles’ over/under for wins will be substantially higher than it is now and fans can start fixating on the record again.