Baltimore Orioles: 5 Reasons They Can Finish Ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays

Alex SnyderContributor IIApril 26, 2012

Baltimore Orioles: 5 Reasons They Can Finish Ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Baltimore Orioles are off to quite a good start, especially considering the negative view everyone had of them over this offseason, including their fans.

    It may not last, but heck, us O's fans are enjoying it while it's here. And it's here for the longest it has been since 2005, I'd say.

    Yeah, that's pathetic. We know.

    Still, the O's have shown some good signs thus far, and those signs are bringing a glimmer of hope to Charm City.

    Those signs can also help me in the argument that I'm about to make:

    The O's will finish higher in the standings this year than the Toronto Blue Jays.

Growth from Young Players

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    Some key, young players are actually looking like they're growing during the early part of this season.

    Center fielder Adam Jones is hitting the ball with authority, and doing a pretty good job of convincing everyone he belongs in the No. 4 spot of the Orioles' lineup.

    Catcher Matt Wieters leads the team in homers with six. He, too, is batting like everyone thought he was capable of.

    If Jones and Wieters keep this pace up, they're going to be a scary four-five combo, or any other combo should manager Buck Showalter decide to tinker with the batting order throughout the season.

    But one of the most encouraging signs is pitcher Jake Arrieta (pictured).

    Of his four starts this season, only one has been bad, and the other three demonstrate that he could very possibly be taking a step into being the front-line starter the organization thought he could be.

    Pitching wins championships. If the O's are ever going to get there, they're going to need Arrieta to reach his potential.

    So far, so good.

The Bullpen

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    For the first time in God knows how long, the bullpen that the Orioles have is actually one of their strengths.

    Jim Johnson is seven for seven in save opportunities. Pedro Strop has been a beast in the set-up role. Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom, Troy Patton, and Darren O'Day have all done their part.

    The only thing missing is a true long man, but the O's will eventually fill that role, with either a young pitcher such as Jason Berken (who will be with the team for a few days taking Robert Andino's roster spot as Andino spends time with his new baby girl), or Brad Bergesen, or the newly signed veteran Joel Pineiro.

    Yep, for once, the O's bullpen has been reliable for the team. Let's hope it stays that way.

The Season Series

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    The amount of times division rivals meet each other through the course of the season is big in determining how the standings look after game 162 is played.

    Over the past few years, the Jays have owned the O's.

    This year is different. At least, so far it is.

    Headed into the finale of the three-game set today, April 27, the O's have played the Jays five times this year—and beaten them four times.

    That's quite a drastic turn from what's been going on between those two teams for seasons on end, but it's still early. Anything can happen.

    However, if the Orioles keep this pace up against their division rival bird counterparts, it'll sway heavily in their favor as they hope to climb the standings for the first time in five years.

A Young Team Coming Together

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    Early on, the Orioles aren't playing perfect ball, but they seem to be much more of a team than they have been in years past, and that counts for a whole heck of a lot.

    A team can't win if the players are divided amongst themselves. Teamwork is a necessity; teams need to be a family.

    And that is even more important for a young team, such as the Orioles.

    So far, so good. But as I keep saying, there's a long way to go.

    If the Orioles remain a tight unit, they can get some things done. If not, then their season is sure to unravel.

Motivation

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    The Orioles have a lot of players who are in tight spots.

    Many of them are trying to prove they belong—it's either they prove that, or they're gone.

    Guys like Nolan Reimold (pictured) are trying to prove they're big-league players. Robert Andino is trying to prove he's more than he's a utility player.

    And guys like Brian Matusz are trying to prove they should still be considered a prospect.

    More of these guys than not are having early success. And really, they're the future of this team. Either they help build it a winner, or they get cut and the Orioles start over yet again.

    Motivation is a powerful tool. Don't underestimate it.