When the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in last year's epic American League Wild Card game, a single thought raced through the minds of baseball fans everywhere: Where the heck was Zach Britton? How could Britton, the Baltimore closer who had put up otherworldly numbers in 2016, not even make an appearance in a winner-take-all game at the end of the year?

The decision not to use him as the team's bullpen faltered will haunt Orioles manager Buck Showalter for the rest of his career. Who knows if the Orioles would have won that game, or how far they would have gone, had Britton got a chance.

But that wasn't the thought that went through my head at the time. Instead, I had the same thought that I've had for most of the past decade:

Well, that probably does it for the Orioles.

Fast-forward six months, and Baltimore not only sits in first place, they also have the best record in the American League. And so, I am left with the other thought I've had for most of the past decade.

How the heck do the Orioles keep doing this?

Yes, the sample size is small, but this is part of a larger trend. Since 2012, the Orioles have made the playoffs three times, and they've won at least 85 games in every year but 2015. They've finished third or better in each of those years, and that's happened despite Baltimore playing in one of the best—and most expensive—divisions in baseball, the American League East. And it's happened despite the fact that every year, they seem to come into the season with a talented but weird, flawed, and misshapen roster.