Something special is developing in Baltimore baseball and it's time to take notice.
The 2012 Baltimore Orioles 93-69 season was often referred to by the national media as "magical." 29-9 in one run games and 16-2 in extra inning games, including 16 in a row, partially fits the definition of magical. Pundits and critics (and even Orioles "fans") were fervant over the winter: the amount of luck it took in 2012 to achieve in 2012 was not sustainable.
Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter stood firm in the offseason, making the decision that the core group of players on the roster is a winner. No need to spend money on high priced free agents. Buck simply reaffirmed his position in Spring Training. "I like our guys."
On June 20, 2013, the Orioles are 11 games over .500, have possibly the best line up in the American League, and have been able to weather the storm of inconsistent starting pitching over the first month and a half of the season, with stronger outings from starters occurring on a much more frequent basis.
Is this magical?
Magic would imply that the 2013 season has been an illusion, a slight of hand, a deception. It can't possibly keep going this well?
That's what everyone said about the 2012 Orioles, even into the offseason.
Statistically, not that good.
It was one year.
29-9 in one run games has some magic to it, though it also happened because of a tremendous bullpen. The same can be said for the extra inning streak.
That was all well and good for 2012 but the 2013 Orioles are hardly magical -- they are just a flat out good baseball team hitting their stride.
Adam Jones - 27 - prime of his career. Check.
Chris Davis - 27 - prime of his career. Check.
Matt Wieters - 26 - prime of his career. Check.
The Orioles needed a big middle of the order bat? They have it in Chris Davis, who has taken three steps forward from his 2012 season. Most of us, myself included, would have been pretty happy with a repeat of his 2012 season. An .820 OPS and 33 home runs is nothing to sneeze at. But in his age 27 season, Davis has taken his game to an entirely different level, one that should provide the Orioles offense with plenty of production through the end of the 2015 season.
We knew Manny Machado was the real deal at third base defensivly. We also knew he would improve on his above average 2012 offensive numbers. He was another guy where one step forward would have been more than enough for most fans. He's taken two steps forward, coming out of his shell as an offensive force, while maintaining gold glove defense at third.
The Orioles were adament that a full year of healthy Nick Markakis, Nate McLouth, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez were more than enough to stay the course. Like every team, refinements have had to be made on a case by case basis. Role players like Danny Valencia have played extremely well in pure platoon situations. Chris Dickerson has done an admirable job being the fourth outfielder and filling in as the designated hitter. Tommy Hunter has stepped up his game big time in the bullpen, allowing Darren O'Day to handle tight situations prior to the 8th inning. Jim Johnson has been a rock.
And the funny thing? All of this has been done without Wei-Yin Chen for six weeks, who was the best starter when he strained his oblique muscle. The same can be said for Brian Roberts, who played all three games in the season opener against Tampa before his long DL stint. A healthy and productive Brian Roberts would strengthen an already multi-threat line up.
Because of Dan Duquette's stockpiling of talent in AAA in the form of Jason Pridie, Russ Canzler, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Kevin Gausman, reinformcements are available, if needed.
Luck and magic are always welcomed in small doses. Fortunately for the Orioles, the teams overall talent will be able to sustain any luck or magic that doesn't fall their way.