But heading into 2013, the Orioles, who have kept their roster mostly intact, can count Vegas oddsmakers, national baseball analysts and sabermetricians among their many doubters.
Historians are likely betting against them, too.
Of the 14 previous teams to improve by 22 wins or more in the wild-card era, all regressed the following season, according to
So when the Orioles' season opens in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, they will try to buck history again.
"It's tough for me to think that something like that would happen to a team like this with guys that have only gotten better," right-hander
Of course, the 14 previous teams entered the next season thinking similar things, only to see their winning percentage dip. Nine of those teams lost at least 13 more games the following season. Collectively, they averaged 13 fewer wins.
Jim Riggleman managed one of those teams. In 1997, his
The following year, the Cubs won 90 games, a 22-win improvement from 1997.
Getting 66 home runs from
After their 1998 season ended with a loss in the
"Anything that could go wrong health-wise or whatever did, and it told us that this is just not going to work," said Riggleman, now the manager of the
Asked to guess why the 13 other teams also took a step back, Riggleman struggled to come up with an answer.
"If guys pitch well for you and play well, you have confidence in them, maybe you're going to stick with them and put them back out there," he said after a long pause. "Maybe those teams did not perform the way they did the previous year. Maybe the wear and tear of the previous year caught up with them. But that's quite a drop-off as [that statistic] said."
Not every drop in the standings for the other teams was a complete collapse.
"We want to be in the playoffs, and we want to play in the
The Orioles feel their roster continuity will be a benefit. Younger players such as
But Orioles manager
"I think people don't realize how hard [making the playoffs] is to do," Showalter said. "It's a challenge. It is always tough to duplicate. And we know that."