A few reasons the O's can repeat as division champs and a few why they may not

It has been 50 years and that is probably long enough. The 1974 season ended with the Orioles in first place winning 91 games and the AL East. They won the AL East a year earlier too with 97 victories.

And 1974 is the last time they won the AL East in back-to-back years. Now, 50 years later, can they do it again?

Three reasons they could repeat.

Star power: Led by Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson the team has a talented duo that are both not only team leaders and big talents but are MVP candidates. They are indeed that good.

For the first time since 2001, the Orioles have a pitcher in their rotation that joined them after winning a Cy Young Award with another club. This is the fifth time this has happened per Elias Sports Bureau and previously involved Pat Hentgen, Doug Drabek, Fernando Valenzuela and Rick Sutcliffe. Hentgen was most recent to do this in 2001 until now when the Birds have 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes fronting their rotation.

The O’s have other stars on this team, at least some are former All Stars and of course they could be adding some star power from the farm led by MLB No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday.

That offense: The Orioles scored nearly six runs per game during spring training. That won’t count for anything starting Thursday, but it did to some extent show the depth of this offense. An offense that ranked fourth in the American League and seventh in the majors scoring 807 runs last year.

With some of their young players potentially taking steps forward and vets like Cedric Mullins, they hope, having a rebound and heathier year, the O’s could foresee another 800-run season.

Rotation help coming: The O’s begin the year with what looks like a solid rotation. And if they get both Kyle Bradish and John Means back and pitching to their form, they could have one of the best starting five in the majors.

Getting those pitchers back and throwing well will be one of the biggest storylines to follow in the 2024 season. Do they return, how effective are they and how much season is left when they do?

Here a few reasons they might not repeat as division winner.

Close games and clutch hits: The O’s scored well in both last year and if there is regression this year, could it cost them enough wins to make a real difference?

The Orioles went 30-16 in one-run games last year for a win percentage of .652 in those games. That was better than their overall season win percentage of .623. You can win a lot of games without a prolific win percentage in the close ones. The Los Angeles Dodgers went 16-15 in 2023 in one-run games yet won 100 for the year.

Meanwhile, the O’s .287 batting average with runners in scoring position and their team OPS of .837 in such situations, both led all AL teams last year. Do they need to do that again to score 800 runs? We’re going to find out if the answer is yes or that they can get there without being so good again in such spots.

Injuries: This is always a factor in how the standings work out. How many injuries teams have, which key players are impacted and how they are ready to overcome them? Having a deep and talented farm could be big here for the Orioles with reinforcements during the year. Also, the Bradish and Means situations and how they resolve themselves loom large of course.

The closer: If we could survey the pulse of the fans, they seem to have some concerns in how the team overcomes the loss of Felix Bautista.

New closer Craig Kimbrel had some issues at times in the 2023 playoffs and it seems that gets more notice than how well he pitched for the Phillies from mid-May on last season.

He’s got plenty of experience and the Orioles are convinced, also has more left in the tank, but how the club can overcome the loss of Bautista will have a lot to say about this year.

If Kimbrel struggles, it could be that the O’s use their deep farm to add someone for the ninth inning at the trade deadline. Another storyline of importance for the 2024 season. 

We could add another reason that should be obvious: This division is very good again. 

While the AL East went 0-7 in the playoffs last year, the division did produce three of the six AL playoff teams and four teams that won 82 games or more. No other division could say that and there were just eight 82-win teams in three AL divisions combined.  



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