The great Orioles winter debate

It is not a surprise to me. In fact, I predicted early in the offseason that the theme this winter would be how the Orioles were fortunate to win last year and how it can’t happen again.

The theory goes that last year everything broke right. The Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning games. What good fortune.

But the Orioles outscored their opponents 33-5 in extra innings in 2012. No one talks about that run differential. Opponent batters hit .189 with a .241 slugging percentage vs. Orioles hurlers after the ninth inning. How fortunate the Birds were that opposing hitters must have just been tired in those long games and they scored just five runs in 18 contests.

Another theory is that Boston had a tough year and the AL East was down from its usual beast mode. Oh really? There were three AL East squads that won 90 or more last year. The AL Central and AL West combined to produce two total. There were four in the entire National League.

Against the division that produced more 90-win teams than the rest of the AL and almost as many as the entire NL, the Orioles played .597 ball. They had a .500 or better record against each AL East team for the the first time since the 1970 World champion Orioles.

The Orioles’ 46 road wins led the AL and they won nine of 12 AL East road series. They hit 214 homers, the second most in team history. How lucky that they swung for the fences and found a few.

Good fortune for their starting pitchers? Not even close. The World Series champion Giants had five pitchers make 31 starts or more and five throw 184 innings or more. The Orioles had one pitcher make more than 20 starts and one throw more than 134 innings.

The 2012 Orioles were a good team, but some feel that because Toronto made all those moves and Boston signed a few players, suddenly this team can’t compete? I don’t agree.

When fans and analysts look back at 2012, the focus is on what can’t happen again or likely won’t. But what about what might happen again? Could Manny Machado and Nate McLouth be keys for this team again? Might Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez throw well again? If you don’t think Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day can pitch this well again, they already have. O’Day in 2010 with Texas and Johnson with the Orioles in 2011. No, he didn’t save 51 then but he didn’t get the chances to.

I get that fans wanted more offseason moves of significance and some can’t keep from worrying about which players will take steps back and which rival teams may be better, but at the same time the 2012 Orioles ended the year as one of baseball’s best teams. This after starting the year with a shaky rotation and terrible defense. They got better and became a good team.

I just think to some it seems like last season never happened or that it was just one good stroke of luck after another.

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