These are fearless predictions because, if I am wrong, the sun will still come out. Well, unless it rains.
But here are my American League East predictions for the 2013 season, where I am predicting a one-game difference at the top and only an 11-game difference from top to bottom with every team at .500 or better.
Tampa Bay: 91-71
New York: 81-81
I was feeling pretty confident about the Orioles and then the words of Buster Olney and Jayson Stark of ESPN about the club put me over the top. Stark called the Orioles, “the most underrated team in baseball when you see them up close.”
Tampa Bay still has a lot of pitching, a return to health of Evan Longoria and Joe Maddon in the dugout. Boston had a great spring and I am buying into it. I think Jon Lester may return to previous form and Jackie Bradley Jr. may be the real deal. Toronto will be good, but not good enough and New York has the most questions of any club in the division from their injury issues to age.
I like the Orioles’ pitching depth and while they don’t have an ace pitcher, they have several that pitched like No. 2s and No. 3s last year - and they can do it again. I am very confident that if pitchers like Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have some drop off, it won’t be much.
I love the back end of the bullpen and its overall depth. It is among the best in the game. The offense can be at least league average, maybe a notch or two better.
The defense looks outstanding and Matt Wieters shows the way for the pitching staff. Run prevention is maybe the most unappreciated aspect of the sport, but the O’s pitchers take the mound with confidence because of the defense behind them and the guy calling the pitches.
The biggest plus for the Orioles is probably something you can’t measure. It’s their clubhouse chemistry, togetherness, belief in each other and willingness to play as a team. It’s among the best I’ve ever seen and even a sabermetrician working overtime can’t put a stat on that. But it’s big for this team.
The Orioles drove some of the analytical crowd crazy last year. They won and you couldn’t map it out with run differential formulas and other advanced stats. They were said to have success that was “unsustainable” and they were “lucky,” words analysts use when they can’t explain something.
You can’t put a stat on quiet confidence and that is what the Orioles have in abundance.
We’ve lost Earl Weaver but Buck Showalter is a lot like him and sets a great tone for the entire organization. He’s a great fit in Baltimore and might be the closest thing to Earl to pass this way since No. 4 was a thorn in every umpire’s side.
So that is what I see for the season, it should be an amazing six months. We’re about to get on the roller coaster and we can’t get off for a long while. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is your take?: How do you see it going this year in the AL East? Leave your predictions here and we’ll try to revisit them in the offseason. Feel free to predict more than just the AL East finish with any award winners, or maybe project some stats for individual Orioles (I like Nolan Reimold to hit 30 homers, if healthy). It’s your turn to tell everyone how you see it.
Bowie bound: I’ll be at media day later today for the Double-A Bowie Baysox and will pass along some notes and quotes from there later. I hear they may have a good pitching staff.