There is tragedy in Charm City.
After an unconsciously dominant regular season, the Orioles entered the postseason with 100 wins, an AL East title, and high hopes. Now, following a three-game sweep to the Rangers, it's as if all that hard work never existed.
"We were supposed to win 76 games," manager Brandon Hyde said postgame Tuesday, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Won 101, won the American League East. Really proud of our group. They defied all the odds. Nobody gave us a chance. These guys played their butts off for six months."
But when it counted in October, the O's didn't show. And that, my friends, is hard to swallow. With the loss Tuesday, the Orioles' eight-game playoff losing streak is the largest active skid in MLB.
Here's a closer look at this brief Orioles postseason run, and why Baltimore's exit is so jarring.
The '23 Orioles: A Regular-Season Juggernaut
Baltimore rallied in 2022, pushing for a last-ditch Wild Card berth but ultimately falling short with an 83-79 season. A great development, considering that year broke a streak of five straight losing seasons.
Expectations were high for 2023 but not this high. Despite pitching concerns, the O's came out of the gate hot, with tons of production from young studs Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, plus a terrifying bullpen manned by Felix Bautista.
O's AL East Chances
The O's began the season at +2500 odds to win the AL East. By August 1, they were -105, and by Sept. 29, Baltimore clinched the AL East, marking its first 100-win season since 1980.
At the beginning of this year's playoffs, the Orioles carried tasty +600 odds to win the World Series. Many baseball analysts, myself included, pegged Baltimore as an excellent dark-horse bet to win it all. But then it all fell apart.
Why Did The Orioles Fall Apart?
Baltimore's series loss to the Rangers became even more stunning when a statistical deep dive revealed the O's went 91 straight series without suffering a series sweep...until the ALDS.
Here's what went wrong.
Starting Pitching Finally Combusted
The Orioles were always short on quality starting pitching. A near-Cy Young season from Kyle Bradish helped the Birds' rotation, but that grouping got exposed in the playoffs.
In three playoff games vs Texas, Baltimore's starters allowed 13 earned runs and 20 hits in just eight innings (14.63 ERA). Bradish (4.2 IP, 2 ER) wasn't the problem, but Grayson Rodriguez (1.2 IP, 5 ER) and Dean Kremer (1.2 IP, 6 ER) each got torched.
It's impossible to win playoff games with those performances, no matter how devastating your offense is.
Orioles Futures Bets: What's Next?
I'm of the mind that your season is a bust if you don't win any playoff games, but Baltimore's entire organization seemed sure there were better days to come.
There's truth to that, too, as the O's could be a deadly squad in 2024 and beyond.
Jackson Holiday, 2024 AL ROTY?
Baltimore still has the best farm system in baseball, even with a glut of young talent at the big-league level already. Everything begins and ends with infielder Jackson Holliday, the consensus top prospect in baseball.
The 19-year-old crushed Double-A pitching this year (.928 OPS) before succeeding in 18 Triple-A games, too (.796 OPS). There's a lot of time for Holliday, son of MLB slugger Matt Holliday, to prove his worth in spring training, but he'll be a lock as the 2024 AL Rookie of the Year favorite, assuming he cracks the Opening Day roster.
Beyond Holliday, the Orioles also have Colton Cowser (14th prospect in MLB), Heston Kjerstad (24th), Coby Mayo (27th), Samuel Bassallo (46th), and Joey Ortiz (50th). This club is loaded with future talent, which is why I'm still bullish on the Orioles' future.
Bet On Orioles To Repeat As AL East Champs
The AL East got annihilated in this year's playoffs. The Blue Jays (0-2), Rays (0-2), and O's (0-3) all got swept in their respective matchups. It's not fair to project the entirety of 2024 on each club's playoff failures, but if we're starting at ground zero next season, Baltimore has the most helium.
The Yankees could sign a few free agents to boost their chances, but I doubt they do anything to vault themselves to the top. The Red Sox? Nope. That leaves Baltimore, Toronto, and a wounded Tampa club. I'll bet the Orioles as soon as the odds open.