“It's one of those things you won't truly appreciate until it's not there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I can't make people realize how hard it is to do what these guys do in the ninth inning. ... Jimmy has never wavered in his belief in his team. We'd all love for it to be aesthetically [pleasing] and go out there and throw nine pitches and strike everybody out, and the game's over after the eighth inning. … It's hard to do. When you find someone who can do it, you better realize what you've got. They don't come along very often.

The arbitration process will bring hefty raises to players such as Davis, Johnson and catcher Matt Wieters.

“The point that I would make is that we put as much as we can toward the major league payroll, and by reconnecting with our fans, we can appropriate additional dollars because the team is more popular in the market,” Duquette said. “But having said that, we need to be very judicious about how we spend that money because this is the American League East. I think the best way for us to be competitive is to have a good solid development program. ... I really think the solution to having a good team year in and year out is for us to continue to improve our player development operations, particularly with the pitching.”

While Davis and Wieters remain under team control through the 2015 season, one of the biggest offseason storylines will be whether the club pursues talks with one or both on a long-term deal.

Duquette appears open to talking this offseason; both players are represented by Scott Boras, who is notoriously difficult to negotiate with.

“To me, the biggest thing the Orioles need to know is whether they have a shared future with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters,” said ESPN senior writer Buster Olney. “They need to get a read on whether they can sign one or both to long-term deals, and that will shape everything that follows. If they cannot, they should consider trading one or both; this is what has distinguished the Rays and Athletics — trading their veterans at exactly the right time to maximize value.”



Getting back to the playoffs

Here is a team statistical comparison of this season's team to last year's playoff club. Most offensive categories improved, but most pitching categories declined.

Statistic 2012 2013

Batting avg. .247 .260

On-base percentage .311 .313

Slugging percentage .417 .431

Avg. RISP .256 .266

Home runs 214 212

Runs scored 712 745

Runs allowed 705 709

Home runs allowed 184 202

Staff ERA 3.90 4.20

Rotation ERA 4.42 4.57

Bullpen ERA 3.00 3.52

Saves/Save opps 55/73 57/84

Save opp percentage 75% 68%

Fielding percentage .983 .991