What we're seeing is the Orioles are winning games that last year they would have lost. The starting pitching has a lot to do with it. The hitting has been there on occasion when they needed a bunch of runs. All in all, the buzz is back and this should be a better team. How good they're going to be is, as long as we play this game, up to them.
A lot of guys stand out, but J.J. Hardy looks like he's going to be a pretty good shortstop. I saw him three days in Milwaukee and I saw the 24 home runs, 26 home runs in back-to-back years. Then he got off to a slow start last year and was hurt, but he looks like a pretty good defensive shortstop with a better arm than I thought he had. I think he's going to give us some offense at shortstop. When you play in the American League East, or you play in the American League with the DH, you need to have a shortstop that can be an offensive player. That's nothing against Cesar Izturis, who had a Gold Glove season last year, but when you're not scoring a lot of runs, it's real important.
The other guy is Nick Markakis. He had a much better year than people give him credit for. And I think he feels much more comfortable. He can go out and just be Nick Markakis. He can be underrated, should have won a Gold Glove and all those things. He can just do his thing and help this team win a lot of games.
Markakis had a heck of a year last year. Everybody is worried, but he hit well over .330, .340 with runners in scoring position. People complain that he only had 60 RBIs, but it wasn't because he didn't hit well with runners in scoring position. He just didn't have the opportunities. Hopefully that'll change. It looks like it's going to be a balanced lineup. If you look at the American League East last year, you had the Yankees at 5.2 runs (a game), you had the Red Sox with all those injuries at 5.1, Tampa was at 5.0 and Texas was fourth. Then you had Toronto that led the world in home runs last year. Four of the best offensive teams in the American League are in the American League East. Now, all of a sudden, the Orioles who averaged a little under four runs a game and hopefully that number will come up.