The Baltimore Orioles took me, and the rest of the baseball world by surprise in 2012, winning 93 games and making the postseason. However, I do not believe that the Orioles have a good enough team to seriously contend in 2013. They caught lightning in a bottle in 2012. Their starting pitching was not great, with pitchers going up and down in the system, not to mention the injuries the starting staff had. 2012 was a fluky year for the Orioles, and I don't expect their pitching to hold up this season. They won a record number of one run games and were automatic winners in every extra-inning game (unless it was against the Yankees).
There are also key pieces in the field who can be considered veterans. Adam Jones turned out to be a star, hitting 32 home runs and earning a Gold Glove award in the 2012 season. He is a staple of the Orioles team and a key to their success. Matt Wieters can be even more special than Jones because of his ability to work so well behind the plate with pitchers. Wieters threw out 39% of potential base-stealers, a mark that few players today can match. His defense has earned him two consecutive Gold Glove awards in 2011 and in 2012. Wieters is a power hitting catcher who switch hits. He has the ability to eclipse Jorge Posada's offensive numbers and provide the Orioles with more defense than Posada was able to give the Yankees in his career.
The most important piece of the puzzle for the Orioles in 2012 was their manager. Buck Showalter knew how to communicate with his players, and he was very respected in the clubhouse for his experience and knowledge of the game. Showalter has a knack for taking bad teams and turning them into winners. He proved that with the Yankees after managing them until 1995, and did the same thing with the Arizona Diamondbacks until 2000. Both teams won World Series championships a year after Buck left. That shows how much of a difference a good manager can make.
However, I do not believe that the Orioles did enough in the off-season in order to contend with the other teams in the AL East. I predict the Birds settling within the 80-84 win paradigm. They shocked me last year, and I certainly would not be surprised if they proved me wrong again. I just do not think the chances are as good this season for Baltimore.