Orioles Among MLB’s Biggest Improvements from One Season to Next

Orioles Among MLB’s Biggest Improvements from One Season to Next
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

For a team that national and Maryland sportsbooks figured would win about 62 games in 2022, the Baltimore Orioles clearly exceeded the expectations of even their most diehard fans in finishing 83-79 for fourth place in the tough American League East.

They also happened to be the team with the best record that failed to grab an AL Wild Card playoff spot in 2022, ending three games behind the No. 6-seed Tampa Bay Rays.

Considering how wretched the Orioles had been since 2017 — in the previous three full seasons, they had won 47, 52 and 54 games — and also considering they are admittedly going through a rebuilding process, to be as competitive as they were was astounding. 

The Orioles were 24-35 on June 10 and apparently on their way to likely fulfilling the oddsmakers’ dismal projections. That changed with a 10-game winning streak in July. By the All-Star Break, the O’s were a surprisingly respectable 46-46 and clearly on their way to topping the 62.5-win total they were stamped with before the season.

Along the way, the Orioles were also the darling for those in Maryland MLB betting who managed to believe in them.

That's because they were the most profitable MLB team to wager on using the moneyline (+$2,817).

Putting the Orioles’ Season in Perspective

BetMaryland.com noticed the Orioles’ revival from 52-110 also-rans in 2021 to a feisty 83-79 in 2022 — a 19.1% change in winning percentage — as truly remarkable, and sought to see how it ranked in MLB history. Fact is, it made the Top 10 but was far from the most extraordinary year-over-year turnaround in Major League history. In fact, it wasn’t even the biggest year-over-year jump for an Orioles team.

BetMaryland.com utilized the website mcubed.net to find the biggest year-over-year improvements in MLB history. We compiled the Top 10 in MLB win-percentage year-over-year to find where the 2021-2022 Baltimore Orioles seasons ranked. This season’s Orioles ranked No. 9 among turnaround teams.

Here are the results:

RankTeamYear 1Year 2Win % Change
1st⚾ Arizona Diamondbacks1998 (40.1%)1999 (61.7%)21.6%
2nd⚾ Boston Red Sox1945 (46.1%)1946 (67.5.7%)21.4%
3rd⚾ Atlanta Braves*1935 (24.8%)1936 (46.1%)21.3%
4th⚾ Philadelphia Phillies1904 (40.1%)1905 (54.6%)20.4%
5th⚾ Baltimore Orioles1988 (33.5%)1989 (53.7%)20.2%
6th⚾ Philadelphia Phillies1961 (30.5%)1962 (50.3%)19.8%
T-7th⚾ San Francisco Giants1992 (44.4%)1993 (63.6%)19.2%
T-7th⚾ Tampa Bay Rays2007 (40.7%)2008 (59.9%)19.2%
9thBaltimore Orioles2021 (32.1%)2022 (51.2%)19.1%
10th⚾ Pittsburgh Pirates1917 (33.1%)1918 (52.0%)18.9%
* — Team was known as Boston Braves and for a short while Boston Bees.

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Breaking Down Our Analysis

The 1989 Orioles are actually No. 5 on the list, improving from 54-107 in 1988 to 87-75, a jump of 20.2%. As is often the case, the jump was magnified because the previous losing season set the bar so low. The ’88 O’s had the misfortune to start that year losing their first 21 games.

Similarly, the 1962 Phillies (No. 6 on the turnaround list) seemed to be a juggernaut at 81-80 compared to the 1961 edition that stumbled to a 47-107 finish that included an MLB record 23-game losing streak.

The most dramatic win change in MLB history was posted by a second-year expansion team, the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks, who jumped to 100-62, a 21.6% winning percentage change, from 65-97 in their first year. With Cy Young Award pitcher Randy Johnson leading the way, Arizona, in just its second season, reached the baseball playoffs, the quickest any expansion team had ever accomplished the feat.

In a few cases, history and the effects of personnel changes certainly helped account for a turnaround.

As World War II was in its final year, the Boston Red Sox were 71-83, seventh in the AL in 1945.  But the end of the war brought Ted Williams, a Marine Corp pilot, back to the big leagues. Propelled by Williams’ MVP season, Boston went 104-50 (a difference of 21.4%, No. 2 all-time) in 1946. Boston won the AL pennant by 12 games but lost to St. Louis in Williams’ only World Series.

The 1993 San Francisco Giants profited by the addition of pricey free agent Barry Bonds. Bonds won the MVP, and the Giants won 103 games, a difference of 19.2% from 1992, which ties them for No. 7 on the turnaround list with 2008 Tampa Bay. However, the Giants still failed to make the postseason.

Occasionally, a superficial change can sometimes signal something more significant. Such was the case when the 1935 Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) went through a relatively short-lived name change in 1936 to the Boston Bees. The Bees had a 21.3% win percentage change, but they still finished under .500 for the season and in sixth place in the National League.  

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A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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