Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Alejandro De Aza (12) stands in the outfield during game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Having previously written the past two days about predictions, first for the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff and then for the position players, this third segment of preseason predictions will speak of the overall team and where we might find them at the end of the day on Sunday, October 4th.
At that time, after a season-ending seven-game homestand – with four games against Toronto and the final three with the Yankees – they will have a 93-69 record and five-game divisional championship over the second-place Blue Jays. This will mean that they will be able to capture the AL East title at home at the beginning of that week against that nemesis from Canada – and there will be a sense of justice surrounding it, given all that happened over this past winter. Can somebody give me an “amen?”
There is no doubt that the Orioles benefitted from a down year of baseball during 2014 in the perennially tough AL East. The Birds won by a large margin and were the best team in the division, even if the others did not have a plethora of injuries. And as we well know, the O’s were not immune from such either.
Benefitting from a career year by Nelson Cruz, a breakout season by Steve Pearce and solid play from a handful of others including veterans Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy, it was the pitching staff that really made the difference. The bullpen was among the better relief staffs in all of baseball, but it was the solid pitching of the starting rotation over the final four months that accounted for the largest difference.
Since that entire starting staff is back, and only a two-month rental in the bullpen is missing, this foundation is more than adequate in my view to place the Baltimore Orioles as a definitive favorite in the AL East. Without doubt, the division has strengthened – especially the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Even so, the Orioles’ position players look prepared for a sufficient support of the pitching staff to carry the team to a title, albeit a bit closer than last year.
I will not attempt to identify the other playoff participants from the other five divisions. Seattle looks to be well-positioned, and most everyone likes the Washington Nationals to power their way to the World Series on the strength of their pitching staff. It could well happen.
I will predict the Orioles to make it to the American League Championship Series, but to sadly lose again and fall short of the Fall Classic. If the playoff games were played on a nearly-daily basis as is the regular season, I would pick the O’s and Buck Showalter to fully prevail. But with it stretched out and with multiple travel and off days in the playoffs, this gives an advantage to teams with superstar players over squads with well-rounded lineups. Buck agrees with this assessment.
So here is my AL East prediction …
- Baltimore – 93-69
- Toronto – 88-74
- Boston – 85-77
- New York – 80-82
- Tampa Bay – 70-92
How have I done with predictions in other years? Well, I picked the O’s to have 92 wins in 2014; and we know that they totaled 96. However, I did have them losing to the Rays by three games; and of course, the Rays had tons of injuries and fell apart. The Orioles did a little worse than what I thought in 2013, and just a bit better than my prediction in 2012. I did think that they would do very well in that breakout year, but did not expect they’d actually make the playoffs.
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We’ve all heard a lot about how many baseball pundits have the Orioles predicted for a very mediocre season. The recent winning tradition of three years is simply not long enough to shake off the prior losing tradition. A common story is to think that there is insufficient replacement of Cruz and Markakis for the O’s to repeat – a story espoused even by some Baltimore fans. I have written ad nauseam about how I believe that is a fully wrong-headed analysis.
Here are some predictions for the AL East by other baseball writers (and I’ll add a few more in articles in coming days … also keeping all of these to either gloat over or mock in October!).
Let’s start with mlb.com columnist Richard Justice. Last year, he too had the Rays on top with the Orioles and Red Sox as challengers. Last week he wrote in a great column…
Let’s get out in front of this thing here and now. The Baltimore Orioles aren’t sneaking up on anyone this time. Fooled me once… Are they going to win the American League East for the second year in a row? They just might. In fact, they probably deserve to be the favorite.
It is always good to see converts to wisdom and justice … kinda like his name.
Actually there is some love for the Baltimore Orioles from the CBSSports.com staff of Jon Heyman, Mike Axisa, David Brown, Dayn Perry and Matt Snyder. Two of them have the Orioles winning, two choose the O’s for second place, and one places them third.
Amazingly, 10 out of 15 baseball experts at ESPN have the Orioles winning the AL East, with four choosing the Jays and one taking the Red Sox. But only one of the 10 who picked Baltimore sees them in the World Series, and that would be Jayson Stark; but he predicts them to lose to the Nationals.
Like many of the major sports sites, when talking about the AL East, the USA TODAY gang speaks of it as throwing a dart at a board in order to choose a winner. Others sites call it a horse race with no clear favorite. But the power rankings at USA TODAY go with the Red Sox first, Jays second, Orioles third, Rays fourth, and some other team you’ve never heard of in the basement.
There is not a lot of love at Yahoo.com Sports for the Baltimore Orioles. In what they call a “wide-open division,” two of three writers take the Red Sox, while another picks the Blue Jays. Two have the Orioles finishing third, and one places them fourth. The guy placing them fourth – Mark Townsend – calls for Adam Jones to be the top hitter in the AL East. I love Adam, but I’d never write something like that!
Writing and predicting crazy things before a 162-game season begins is what makes baseball such a great sport. Nobody ever gets it completely right; there are always unanticipated storylines that make for great interest and pundit upsets.