It is one of the time-worn truisms of baseball that over the course of the long major league season, every team will win 50 games and every team will lose 50 games. What separates the great teams from the mediocre and just-plain-awful teams is what happens in the other 62.
The way things are going at the moment, the Orioles cannot even assume they’ll get to 50.
The 8-24 record they took into Saturday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum isn’t difficult to project over a whole season. The Orioles have won exactly 25 percent of their games, which means that they project at the moment to finish with 40½ victories over the full schedule.
They are guaranteed of not hitting that number because baseball doesn’t award fractional wins, but the optics of the past five weeks make it possible to imagine this turning out to be one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
Will it actually turn out that way? Probably not. Hopefully not. Oh God no … not.
There is another age-old adage that is more likely to apply here: You’re never as bad as you look when you’re going bad and you’re never as good as you look when you’re going good.
We can all just hope it’s true.
The Orioles really aren’t this bad. They have a much better starting rotation than they had when they were still in wild-card range last August. They’ve got a bunch of big boppers in their lineup, though some of them haven’t started bopping yet. They’ve got pretty much the same bullpen they had for much of last season.
Trouble is, they are very near the point — if they are not there already — that it isn’t going to matter who bops and who pops the rest of the way.
Those ugly numbers might lie about the true quality of the Orioles’ major league talent, but they are telling a hard truth about the likelihood the team will bounce back enough to make this season interesting.
That dismal outlook is further validated by the way the Orioles collapsed at the end of last season, winning just four of their last 23 games. Tack that on to their 2018 start and the result (12-43) would project to just 35 wins over a 162-game schedule.
The Orioles’ playoff hopes this season depended heavily on them holding out until record-setting closer Zach Britton (Achilles) returned in late May or June and free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb getting up to speed quickly after signing so late in spring training.
Cobb seems close and Britton is on schedule, but they almost seem irrelevant now. The Orioles lost a month of Mark Trumbo to a quadriceps strain and lost 2017 Most Valuable Oriole Jonathan Schoop for the past three weeks because of an oblique strain. Then Tim Beckham went out for six weeks with a core muscle injury and you had to wonder if the baseball gods were just sick of hearing Dan Duquette brag about those five seasons when the Orioles had the best regular-season record in the American League.
That seems like a long time ago, but time doesn’t pass quickly when you’re playing .250 baseball.
Trumbo just returned and is swinging the bat well. Schoop is playing minor league rehabilitation games and could be back in the starting lineup in the next few days. Maybe they’ll add some iron to an anemic Orioles offense and the club will start to compete.
Schoop said after his rehab game Friday in Bowie that he hopes that he can help the Orioles get their groove back.
“Things aren’t going our way right now, but we’ve got to find a way to figure it out,” he said. “It’s time to find a way to win … to do whatever we can do to win.”
Right now, the goal should just be to play respectable baseball. It might already be too late for anything else.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.