I don't need to tell you the Baltimore Orioles had an incredible season last year. They finished at 93-69 under Buck Showalter, and went 29-9 in one-run games - which just happens to be the top winning percentage (.763) in the modern era. The O's also went 25-14 in two-run games and 16-2 in extra inning contests.
They won with the long ball and an incredible bullpen headed up by Jim Johnson, who saved a club-record 51 games. Still, if you compare the O's starting pitching to the Blue Jays you'd be incredulous that Baltimore finished 20 games ahead of Toronto in the American League East.
First off Baltimore had just one pitcher who won at least 10 games. Wei-Yin Chen went 12-11 and at 192.2 innings pitched, was the only Orioles pitcher to toss over 135 innings. The O's also used 12 starters over the course of the season.
Then look at the Blue Jays. They too only had one 10-game winner, with Brandon Morrow winning his 10th on the final day of the season. The Jays also used 12 starting pitchers over the course of the campaign.
Let's go deeper than that. The Blue Jays had two nine-game winners in their rotation, in Henderson Alvarez and Ricky Romero. The Orioles also had two other nine-game winners in Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman.
The Blue Jays actually, despite all their injuries, outscored the Orioles 716 runs to 712. Remember the O's also had the second highest home run total (214) in the Majors, but were last in stolen bases with 58.
The one big difference in the Blue Jays and Orioles was runs allowed. The Jays gave up 784, 79 more than Baltimore.
So am I saying last year was a fluke for the Orioles? No. Do I think they can duplicate their success of a year ago? Probably not. It's so difficult for a bullpen to perform so consistently well in back-to-back seasons. Just the same, the Orioles have a wealth of young developing starting pitching. Some would say, in the AL East, only Tampa Bay has more.
Steve Johnson was 4-0 as a late season call-up. Dylan Bundy is supposed to be a star in the making. Right-hander Kevin Gausman isn't far behind him. Don't forget that right-hander Jason Hammel was shaping up as the staff ace before an injury disrupted his season.
The Orioles have a great nucleus of young talent, including All-Star centre fielder Adam Jones, catcher Matt Wieters and 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado. Baltimore might slip back a bit in 2013, might even come up short in trying to make it to the post-season for a second year running. But make no mistake, the Orioles have turned a corner as an organization and won't be pushovers this season, no matter where they finish.
Jays of the World
The Blue Jays' presence at the upcoming World Baseball Classic has shrunk by two. Melky Cabrera and Esmil Rogers have both pulled out of the Dominican Republic squad, deciding their time would be better spent getting to know their new Blue Jays team
mates in Dunedin. That leaves five, possibly six Jays to compete in the tournament.
R.A. Dickey and J.P. Arencibia will be with the Americans, Brett Lawrie with Team Canada, and Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and maybe Emilio Bonifacio with the Dominican team.
A couple of names to watch in Spring Training. Former Blue Jays lefty Mark Hendrickson is trying a comeback at age 38 with the Orioles organization with a new side-arm delivery. Though he's much older, the Henderickson story reminds of that of former Blue Jays right-hander Mark Eichhorn. An injury forced him to alter his delivery to side-arm, and "Eich" for a couple of years became one of the most effective relievers in the game.
The other name is 29-year-old lefty Scott Kazmir, who's trying to make it back with the Cleveland organization on a minor league deal. He quit the game at 27 when his velocity and confidence left him. Kazmir claims both are back and he's still got the ability to be one of the better pitchers in the game.
Interesting quote from Mariano Rivera over the weekend. Reflecting on how much pitchers loved the old Yankee Stadium, the returning New York closer said "We want our old stadium back. The other stadium was better".