In a year in which the Orioles won an American League-best 101 games to claim their first American League East crown in almost a decade and produced four All-Stars as well as the likely American League rookie of the year, the thing that truly set them apart was their clutch hitting.

No team in the league won more one-run games than this turnaround team. When they needed to, the Orioles transformed into a different team. But that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the playoff run.

Historically, teams that have won a lot of one-run games have not fared well in their playoff runs. But don’t fret: The playoff outlook is more complex if we make use of some modern baseball statistics. In the end, a Banner analysis suggests it could be all or nothing this October.

Of the 10 teams with the best records in one-run games in MLB history, only two, including the 1970 Orioles, won the World Series. Five won the pennant. Most either fell in the division series or missed the playoffs entirely.

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But, if we dive deeper into FanGraphs’ “batting clutch” statistic, things get more interesting.

The Orioles led the league in “batting clutch.” It measures hitters’ performance in high-leverage situations that can become key moments of the game. This Orioles offense was historically clutch in these moments, finishing the season with the second-highest batting clutch of any team since the wild-card playoff era began in 1995.

In this turnaround season, the Orioles went from pretty good to elite, trailing only the Atlanta Braves in OPS and just the Tampa Bay Rays in batting average in high-leverage moments. It wasn’t just the top of the lineup. Baltimore’s entire lineup was remarkably consistent. Of the 10 Orioles batters who had at least 50 plate appearances in high-leverage situations, eight had an OPS at least 20% higher than league average. Anthony Santander, the team’s best clutch hitter, had an OPS 50% higher than league average.

The Orioles were especially good when they didn’t have the lead. After falling behind, the team improved in every major hitting metric, going from slightly below league average when ahead or tied to well above league average when trailing. They finished the season with 48 comeback wins, tied for the most in MLB and nearly half their total for the season.

To some extent, clutch hitting is inherently indeterminate and unquantifiable. On some level, it is simply about creating as many opportunities as possible through a mix of good play and strategy.

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As remarkable as the Orioles’ batters were during clutch moments, their AL best 30-16 record in one-run games can also be credited in part to clutch pitching. Their mix of consistent play from starters and bullpen arms helped them shut the door on opponents when they had an opportunity to win.

The Orioles’ pitchers ranked third in FanGraphs’ pitching clutch, making the team the only one to place in the top five in both hitting clutch and pitching clutch this season. In high-leverage situations, O’s pitchers led all teams with a 3.19 ERA and trailed only the Milwaukee Brewers in walks and hits allowed per inning.

Can they keep it up?

Teams that led FanGraphs’ clutch stats have rarely translated it into postseason success. Of the 25 most clutch teams in the wild-card era, nine failed to make the playoffs. The other 14 — we can’t count this year’s Orioles and Diamondbacks — fared significantly worse statistically than in the regular season, including in every hitting statistic, and seven lost in the divisional series.

But fear not. The data also suggests it’s either boom or bust.

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The other seven most clutch teams to make the playoffs? Six won the World Series.

gregory.morton@thebaltimorebanner.com