2012 Baltimore Orioles and the 10 Most Unexplainable MLB Teams of All Time
There are times in life when things just can't be explained. There is no rhyme or reason for why it happened, it just happened.
In baseball, there have certainly been times when things just couldn't be explained as well.
Take for instance the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. On Tuesday night, the O's walked off with an 8-7 victory after Adam Jones singled to score Omar Quintanilla with the winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning.
For the Orioles, it marked their 12th win in 14 extra-inning contests this year, and they now own a record of 59-51, despite a run differential of -54.
According to Baseball Reference, based on that run differential and other factors, the Orioles' Pythagorean win-loss record is 49-61.
How do you explain that?
Here are 10 examples of teams throughout MLB history who soared to great heights without plausible explanations.
1. 1914 Boston Braves
In 1914, the Boston Braves stumbled out of the gates in the National League, and were in last place in mid-July with a 35-43 record.
It certainly looked like another down year for the Braves, who had suffered through four straight 100-loss seasons from 1909-1912 and finished in fifth place with a 69-82 record in 1913 as well.
However, from July 19 through the end of the regular season, the Braves suddenly caught fire. They won an incredible 59 of their last 75 games to capture their first-ever National League pennant, going from worst to first in just two and a half months and easily outdistanced the New York Giants by 10.5 games.
In the 1914 World Series, they were to face the Philadelphia A's, who were absolutely loaded with talent, featuring Chief Bender, Eddie Collins and Frank "Home Run" Baker.
However, the term "it's not always the best team that wins, it's the hottest" was clearly in play, as the Miracle Braves swept the heavily-favored A's to capture the 1914 World Series championship.
1967 Boson Red Sox
From 1959 to 1966, the Boston Red Sox just weren't very good—plain and simple.
During that time, they hadn't won more than 76 games in any one season, and in 1965 and 1966 they combined to lose 190 games overall.
Heading into the 1967 season, the Sox had a brand new manager in Dick Williams, who had never managed at the big-league level. They had a couple of rookies in Reggie Williams and Mike Andrews as well, but were largely returning the same team from the year before.
Somehow, the team known as the Cardiac Kids started winning, and by mid-August were involved in a four-team pennant race with the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.
In the first weekend of October, the Sox needed two wins over the Twins just to have a chance at their first pennant in 21 years. Backed by the bat of Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski and the arm of Jim Lonborg, the Sox took both games and captured the 1967 American League pennant in one of the tightest and most exciting pennant races in league history.
2012 Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics this year were largely expected to be at or near the bottom of the standings in the AL West, especially after an extensive sell-off of many of their star players from the previous season.
A's GM Billy Beane had traded off Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Guillermo Moscoso, and let go of of two players (David DeJesus and Josh Willingham) via free agency.
With the young prospects Beane got back in the deals, the A's were destined to just let the kids grow up and the team would take their lumps.
The kids have grown up all right.
The A's are currently 59-51 after Tuesday night's win over the Los Angeles Angels, are just 5.5 games in back of the Texas Rangers in the AL West and are right in the thick of the Wild Card race with the Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays.
And they're doing it despite an offense that ranks 13th out of 14 teams in runs scored, hits, batting average and on-base percentage.
1973 New York Mets
Four years after their first world championship, the New York Mets had a few returning veterans from that squad—Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson and Tug McGraw—and also some rookies and offseason acquisitions, most notably center fielder Willie Mays, to help fill out the team under manager Yogi Berra.
The Mets struggled through much of the 1973 regular season, sitting in last place in the National League East as late as Aug. 30, 6.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, the Mets never gave up, winning 22 of 29 games in September to leapfrog every team all the way to the top of the standings, winning the NL East title by 1.5 games over the Cardinals. With a record of 82-79, the Mets were the worst team in history ever to make it to the postseason.
They did it with an offense that was at or near the bottom of the NL in many major statistical categories. Just goes to show that heart can sometimes overcome a lot of tangibles.
1991 Minnesota Twins
In 1987, the Minnesota Twins captured their first-ever World Series championship. Three years later, they were in last place.
In 1990 the Twins finished with a 74-88 record, good for last in the AL West. The following spring, the Twins weren't really expected to do much better. But the boys on the field had other ideas.
The starting pitching trio of Jack Morris, Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson combined for 54 wins, and the offense was backed by the veteran bats of Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett and Chili Davis.
Together, they took the Twins from worst to first to capture the AL West division title and would go on to defeat the Atlanta Braves in one of the most thrilling World Series of all-time.
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers were not considered to be a powerhouse team in any shape or form. They had a collection of players in their 30s and were widely expected to be a run-of-the-mill club.
However, despite the fact that the offense featured only two players who hit more than 20 HR and 70 RBI (Kirk Gibson, Mike Marshall), the Dodgers rode a tremendous pitching staff to a 94-67 record, capturing the NL West title and defeating the favored New York Mets to win the NL pennant.
However, they were facing the mighty Oakland Athletics in the World Series. The A's had breezed through their season, winning 104 games and featured a potent offense and the No. 1 pitching staff in the AL.
Backed by the hobbling Kirk Gibson who hit a dramatic pinch-hit walk-off homer in Game 1, the Dodgers downed the vaunted A's in five games to become the improbable World Series champions.
1969 New York Mets
For the first seven years of their existence, the New York Mets were a stumbling, bumbling band of castoffs who had finished either last or second-to-last in the National League, losing at least 100 games in five of those seven seasons.
In 1969, the Mets were finally playing winning baseball, but after a loss to the Houston Astros on Aug.13, the Mets still found themselves 10 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the newly-formed NL East division.
The Mets would win 38 of their final 49 games, capturing their first-ever title of any kind, and after defeating the Atlanta Braves to win the NL pennant, the Mets mowed down the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in five games to win the World Series.
2011 St. Louis Cardinals
There are times when a team can just simply catch lightning in a bottle, and that could well describe the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
As of Sept. 1, the Cardinals were a full 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the race for the NL Wild Card, and with just 26 games to play, the lead certainly looked insurmountable.
However, the Cardinals heated up at the right time, winning 18 of their final 26 games while the Braves won only nine games in the month of September.
Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter’s two-hit shutout over the Houston Astros on the final day of the regular season, combined with the Braves losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 13th inning, propelled the Cardinals into the postseason in one of the most improbable comebacks in baseball history.
The Cardinals kept rolling, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers to win the National League pennant, and then defeating the Texas Rangers in a terrific seven-game series to win their 11th World Series title.
2012 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates surprised the baseball world by winning—yes, simply by winning.
As of July 25, the Pirates were tied at the top of the NL Central division standings with a record of 53-47, and the team was looking to add on instead of subtracting at the trade deadline for the first time in 19 years.
However, the Pirates came crashing back down to earth, winning just 19 of their final 62 games to once again finish with a losing record, extending the professional franchise record of consecutive losing seasons.
This year, the Pirates again broke out of the gates in similar fashion, and as of today find themselves well-positioned for a postseason berth with a 62-47 record.
These Pirates have their issues—second-to-last in the National League in on-base-percentage, dead last in stolen bases and 11th in runs scored. Yet they keep winning.
They seem determined not to let that professional franchise record of consecutive losing seasons hit the 20-year mark, and they're determined to do it in style.
2012 Baltimore Orioles
By all accounts, the 2012 Baltimore Orioles should be at the bottom of the American League East standings.
They can't run—dead last in the majors with only 35 stolen bases. They're not very good at getting on base, ranked 26th out of 30 teams in OBP.
Oh, and they ground into more double plays than anyone in baseball except the Minnesota Twins.
Yet somehow, the O's are 59-51, despite the fact that they've been outscored 509-455.
In extra-inning games, the O's are now 12-2, and in one-run games, the Orioles are now an incredible 22-6.
Those two numbers alone explain the unexplainable.
If that makes any sense.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.