When sifting through the national media's coverage of the Orioles this offseason, it isn't tough to notice a trend.
The pundits love Dylan Bundy, they really like Buck Showalter – but ultimately they're pretty sold that the Orioles are going to have a tough time repeating their success from 2012.
Here's a sample of what some of those national outlets have been writing about the O's in the past week.
--- Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes that history isn't on the Orioles' side when it comes to winning like they did last year, and he has the numbers to back it up:
Teams that make huge jumps in win totals almost always backslide. The 2012 Orioles won 24 more games than the 2011 Orioles. Over the 17 full seasons with the wild card in use (1996-2012), they became the 15th team to improve their win total by at least 22 victories. Among the previous 14 teams with a +22 jump or more, all of them had worse records the next year and none of them made the playoffs.
Verducci also points out that "The Atlantis Casino in Reno put the over/under number of wins for the Orioles this year at 76.5, the lowest number of any team in the AL East and -- gulp! -- lower than those of the Pirates, Royals and Indians."
--- Bill Madden of the New York Daily news also takes a similar view with his check-in from Orioles camp in Sarasota, writing about how Showalter is out to prove critics wrong who say team can't repeat last year's success:
They made absolutely no improvements, either by the trade route or free agency, for a team that finished ninth in the American League in runs scored.
They could never repeat, or even come close to repeating, their 29-9 record in one-run games, in which their relievers had a collective 2.12 ERA.
And they can never expect to go 16-2 (including 16 in a row) in extra-innings games again.
It got to a point where Showalter just didn't want to hear it anymore.
--- Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus takes this line of thinking a step further, writing that there probably won't be any team this season that becomes the 'next Orioles' and has a similar out-of-knowhere season (NOTE: Subscription needed to read the full article):
The Orioles and A's, as everyone knows, made the playoffs last season and won well over 90 games despite not having done either of those things for some time —15 years in Baltimore's case, and six in Oakland's. Someone, somewhere, might have predicted their success, but it wasn't at Baseball Prospectus, and it wasn't Billy Beane. It was a wonderful story, and we're wired to want more wonderful stories. So now we need new Orioles and A's. Some people started looking for them last year; others started looking last week.
But there's a catch: Teams like the 2012 Orioles and A's don't come along often.
--- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote yesterday about how the Orioles' starting rotation is far from settled:
If someone asks you to name the candidates to fill out this team's rotation, the correct response should actually be: "Got an hour?"
His colleague Christina Kahrl takes a similar glance at the crowded pitching picture. You already know all the names involved, so no need to rehash them here.
--- SI.com delivers its final winter grades for each team in the American League. The Orioles, who received a D on Jan. 31 must have been staying after class to do some extra credit, because they've been upgraded – all the way to a D+.
In the comments, they highlight the Russ Canzler addition (perhaps hinting at why the overall grade is so low):
They became the 27th team to pluck Russ Canzler off the waiver wire this winter (okay, only the fourth). The 27-year-old righty has hit .289/.365/.508 in 1,088 PA at Triple-A over the past two years, and could provide an option against lefties either in leftfield or at designated hitter, both areas that needed addressing beyond giving another shot to long-lost Lew Ford.
--- If you're thinking about stacking your fantasy team with Orioles, Andy Behrens of Yahoo's Roto Arcade blog answers some pressing questions about the team's fantasy prospects.
For a sample, here's his take on what to expect from Manny Machado's sophomore season:
How would you feel about a 15/15 season, with a .260-ish average?
You probably wouldn't feel great about it, fantasy-wise, not at a deep position like third base. But that's where I'm at. Of course there's a wide range of possible outcomes for Machado. We're talking about a kid who reached the majors just one month after his 20th birthday, with zero Triple-A plate appearances on his resume and a .266/.352/.438 slash line at Double-A. Machado homered 11 times over 402 Eastern League at-bats last year, and he swiped 13 bags in 17 attempts. With the Os, he hit seven more homers and went 2-for-2 on the bases. He clearly offers the potential for double-digit power and speed totals, though he'll likely hit near the bottom of the order. I'll be moderately surprised if he cracks the top-15 at his position this year, so I'm not targeting him in mixers.
--- And now to the Dylan Bundy portion of the program.
ESPN's Keith Law ranked his Top 20 impact prospects for 2013 last week and puts Bundy at No. 7 (NOTE: Insider account needed for full story):
"The Boy in the Baltimore Bubble" might get all the way up to 140 to 150 innings this year, which was more like a good month's work for him in high school, but the Orioles do seem to be planning for him to have a role in the majors in the second half of the season. The team's rotation is in much better shape today than it was a year ago -- with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and, if healthy, Zach Britton forming a strong quintet, and with a few depth guys in between them and Bundy -- so his chance might not come until midyear and could even be in a bullpen role.
On Monday, Grantland's Jonah Keri published his Super Sweet 16 Prospects Coming to a Pennant Race Near You. He also has the Orioles' top prospect at No. 7 overall:
Will the Orioles contend again this year? Unsurprisingly, Dan Duquette says yes. Also unsurprisingly, given what a 29-9 record in one-run games must look like to a computer, the projection systems say no. The Orioles GM has strongly hinted that Bundy, the teenage phenom who crashed his way onto the big league roster last year, needs more seasoning and might not compete for a starting-rotation job until 2014, or at least deep into this season. Thing is, unless the Orioles can pull off another series of late-inning miracles in 2013, a flashy performance from a wild card like Bundy might be the only way they repeat last year's run, given Toronto's big improvement and the Yankees and Rays remaining viable threats. There's plenty of room in this rotation for a pitcher with all-world stuff who posted a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate and yielded just six homers in 23 minor league starts last year. Hell, there should be room in any rotation for a pitcher like that.
If you're intent on keeping score at home, Law has Arizona Diamondbacks center field prospect Adam Eaton at No. 1, while Keri has the Tampa Bay Rays' Wil Myers atop his list.
And, in case you missed it yesterday, Bundy ranks No. 2 in Baseball America's Top 100 list, and Kevin Gausman is No. 26.
That's it for this week's "What they're saying" links. If you're up for some more Orioles talk, check out our first Google+ hangout featuring Peter Schmuck. You can start submitting your O's questions here and then watch him answer them on the live video at noon.